Why are we excited about this U2 Machine thing?

Anyone who’s been confused or annoyed by my obsessive chatter over the last few days about recently released 12-part radio-play Functioning As A Machine That Hates U2 deserves some kind of explanation. It’s a messy, rambling 86 minute journey through a set of found texts, commentary on the band and Eamon Dunphy’s stunningly bad biography UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: THE STORY OF U2, with side jaunts into the world of crowd-sourced script lifted from Facebook and a subplot based on why Rachel Roberts deserved to win the Cardinal Pell Award for her Theology 101 course (she didn’t, by the way). I don’t think any of the participants would consider it among their best work*, and the most common response to the work from listeners has been the word ‘confused’ in different forms. SO: why am I (and a lot of the other contributors) so excited about the piece?

The reason has to do with the way this piece came together. This is a truly international collaboration – five different ensembles came together to record the different strands of the script, based in four different cities on three different continents. From the Sipat Lawin Ensemble in the Philippines, to Lloyd Allison-Young in the USA, to Applespiel, Nickamc, Max Barker and The Landlords in Australia, and then there’s me currently in the UK (owing to crimes); we pulled this thing together from all over. And that’s exciting.

See, as theatre-makers, we have one of the most infrastructure heavy artforms. I mean, at its simplest theatre is just a person performing and people watching, but that’s a nice abstraction that virtually never plays out well in real life. In practice, theatre demands a huge amount of money, time and physical structures to make possible. Which is prohibitive when (a) you’re poor as fuck, (b) the kind of art you want to make is not always appealing to funding bodies or large groups of paying audiences and (c) when your creative networks are scattered throughout the world working their asses off on a million other projects. If I want to plan a project with someone, we need to be looking at our diaries a year in advance. Which sort of puts the knife in doing things spontaneously and for the fuck of it.

So the FunctioningAsAMachineThatHatesU2 model:
1. Write a script.
2. Split it up creatively between your different comrades.
3. Each of them records their section as a radio play and uploads it to the internet.
4. Combine, mix together and go.

Now, this is clearly nothing new – you could point to a thousand precedents for this kind of project, and so could I. From what I understand, it’s weird for musical collaborators to even meet each other in person these days, just to fileshare and get the fuck on with it. I’m not trying to turn into an exhibition of hubris and claim we’ve invented anything new here. The reason it’s exciting is that this is the first time it’s happened to me. This is really happening, and it’s happening here and now, and it’s happening to us.

So even if no-one ever listened to this thing, I’d be pretty fucking psyched. As a kind of crazy bonus, there have in fact been more than 300 downloads of the piece over the last 48 hours, and we’ve heard anecdotal reports that some people have even listened to the thing. You guys rule, just quietly. But the thing itself is not the main thing.

And it’ll never be the main thing. I remember once at a Q&A after a Hadleyplay, someone made the inevitable suggestion that Hadley’s script would work better as a film, and Hadley flipped right back and said ‘No. I write for live performance.’ Well, me too. A radio-play is never going to be able to do for an audience what a sophisticated and coherent combination of design, direction and acting can. But as an alternative means of getting work out there, tested, extending collaborations, building networks, engaging with new audiences, providing a lasting record of a work and enabling a right of reply to awful books like Eamon Dunphy’s UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: THE STORY OF U2, it’s better than nothing.

Now you know (and knowing’s half the battle), so feel free to do something useful with your time, like listening to Nickamc’s mash-up of Katy Perry and the Ghostbusters Theme.

Read more about/download the Functioning As A Machine That Hates U2 radio-play here.

*weirdest, on the other hand…

Functioning As A Machine That Hates U2

Sometimes good people do bad things.

In 2010, David Finig obtained a copy of Eamon Dunphy’s UNFORGETTABLE FIRE: THE STORY OF U2 and was so consumed by fury that he was unable to laugh, think or truly know peace for many months thereafter. Reduced to functioning more or less as a machine that hates U2, Finig vented his vitriol by churning out pages and pages of an unperformable script – script with no characters, plot or action – a meditation, if you will – an experiment, perhaps, in what you can get away with. Interpolating huge gluts of found text and crowd-sourced commentary (via Facebook), as well as an entire subplot about the Cardinal Pell Award for students who excel in undergraduate Theology, Functioning As A Machine That Hates U2 is less a playscript than it is a critical mass of fever dreams circa autumn 2011.

Rather than letting this travesty sink like a stone into the depths of his hard drive, however, Finig contacted five very special young groups of theatre-makers. Dividing up the script (if you can call it that) into five parts, each group was given the task of performing it – somehow – as a radio play. The five sections, when completed, were returned and reassembled (by Nickamc’s magic hands) into a 12-part audio miniseries, available for free download. Free! (Yes, free – do you remember when that was a good thing? When you used to get excited at the thought of things being free?)

If you would like to download and read Functioning As A Machine That Hates U2, that is possible. If you’d like to stage it, that too can be done – truth be known, all things are possible – and done without charge. All I ask is that if you use any of this material, you contact me first to let me know.

Download the script.

The Audio Miniseries

86 minutes in 12 parts! No more living in fear! Each episode is roughly 8 minutes long and is an mp3 (you know what one of them is), recorded by the folk as listed and produced by Nickamc.

Episode 1
Intro (Lloyd Allison-Young)
Be U2 telling us who you are (Sipat Lawin Ensemble)
Facebook: I doubt you hate U2 as much as I do (Applespiel)

Episode 2
Who is Rachel Roberts and what is the Cardinal Pell Award? (Jordan and Sam)
Facebook: Dark Welsh Soul (Applespiel)
The Ethics of Belief (Jordan and Sam)

Episode 3
Facebook: Shy Passionate Man-child (Applespiel)
Forming in the Shadow of Punk (Sipat Lawin Ensemble)
Facebook: Wolfmother (Applespiel)

Episode 4
Facebook: Bono is the frontman (Applespiel)
Who are you to critique U2 (Lloyd Allison-Young)
Facebook: Bono attacks Larry (Applespiel)

Episode 5
Interview with Finig (Jordan and Sam)
Facebook: All the U2 songs I know (Applespiel)

Episode 6
Facebook: Better than their radio play (Applespiel)

Episode 7
Facebook: English Music Critics (Applespiel)
Simon Binns defends U2 as a ‘Best Of Band’ (Applespiel)

Episode 8
Facebook: Band Names (Applespiel)
FULL NATURAL BUSH PART 1 (Max Barker, Nickamc and Finig)

Episode 9
The Shalom Group (Jordan and Sam)
American Psycho and the Ledge (Applespiel)

Episode 10
Facebook: Fucuferrymush (Applespiel)
FULL NATURAL BUSH PART 2 (Max Barker, Nickamc and Finig)

Episode 11
Simon Binns defends U2’s cover of Helter Skelter (Applespiel)
God, Sex and Bono (Jordan and Sam)
Hymn of the Big Wheel (Sipat Lawin Ensemble)

Episode 12
Simon Binns defends Bono’s ‘revolution’ speech (Applespiel)
Political Spokesman (Lloyd Allison-Young)

Or for the truly dedicated (or if you get stuck at christmas and you’re slightly drunk and feeling a little unhinged), download THE WHOLE THING as a zip file. As Simon Binns would say, get amongst it:

Functioning As A Machine That Hates U2.zip

And as a bonus for those of you who’re lovers not fighters (some of you I hope), you may also download Nickamc’s remix of U2’s Pride (In The Name Of Love) under his Girlcrush alias. For me, this track sounds like Bono roaring orgasmically through a ketamine-induced haze. What do you make of it?

U2 – Pride (In The Name Of Love) (Girlcrush’s One Man mix).mp3

image via ms fizz

The Contributing Parties

The five parts of this monstrosity went out to five very different groups of malingerers and deviants, all of whom deserve your attention. Take a moment to familiarise yourself with each of them because, life is very long and you never know what you’re going to need and when.

Applespiel (Sydney) aka TEAM NORTH WIND
A pack of young performers out of the University of Wollongong known for their highly responsive work and prodigious output, Applespiel received the Power of Air. As well as taking on the material derived from Facebook, Applespiel’s Simon Binns also contributed a spirited Defense Of Bono; spirited the way a wild horse is spirited.

The Landlords (Melbourne) aka TEAM EAST WIND
The duo of Jordan Prosser and Sam Burns-Warr have been responsible for a series of bitterly comic films and theatre productions, including Bringing Some Gum To A Knife Fight and their self-titled production. The Landlords were entrusted with the Power of Earth, and with the spirit-infused subplot entitled Reasons Why Rachel Roberts Deserves To Win The Cardinal Pell Award.

The Sipat Lawin Ensemble (Manila) aka TEAM SOUTH WIND
A collective of performers and theatre-artists creating new, site-specific works in non-traditional spaces throughout Manila. Setting a blistering pace and generating an extraordinary lineup of original work in the last 2 years, Sipat Lawin have developed a reputation as one of the Philippines’ most exciting young ensembles. Sipat Lawin received the Power of Fire and the responsibility for telling The Story of U2, from their beginnings in the Dublin punk scene, to around the mid-80s when they more or less got everything that they ever wanted.

Lloyd Allison-Young (New York) aka TEAM NORTH WIND
Musician and theatre-maker Lloyd Allison-Young works across a diverse range of artforms, from film and TV acting to physical theatre to cabaret to beats-making. Lloyd and his companions were given the Power of Air (again) and the task of constructively Critiquing U2.

Nickamc, Max Barker and David Finig (Melb/Canberra) aka TEAM HEART
At the core of this messy elaborate web, sound designer and theatre-maker Nickamc sits pulling the strings, assembling the disparate fragments, and slowing everything down a little until it becomes fun. Along with inveterate director-poet-performer Max Barker and Finig, Nickamc was given the Power of Heart and the story of hypothetical alternative-U2 band FULL NATURAL BUSH.