Skip to main content

Blaine L Reininger - Tuxedomoon

Blaine L Reininger was on a solo tour with former Josef K singer Paul Haig when he was introduced to ex Velvet Underground chanteuse, Nico.

“Nico looked at me,” Reininger remembers, “and says, do I know you? I said no, and Nico said, I didn't think so. That was that, and that's the way it's always been.”

As one third of San Francisco-sired post-punk electronic trio Tuxedomoon, Reininger had helped cause a quiet sensation in 1980 with the release of the band's debut album, Half-Mute. The record's low-slung mix of noirish saxophone and violin pulsed instrumentals combined with abrasive vocal-led tracks were an after-hours cocktail of post-modern cabaret sleaze, avant-garde austerity and multi-media poise.

Given a record that sounded so alien and so studiedly European, moving to Belgium seemed like a natural move. Here Tuxedomoon became part of an international avant-garde based around record labels, Crammed and Les Disques du Crepescule. They released albums of theatre and film soundtracks, some as Tuxedomoon, some solo ventures, and toured with the likes of Cabaret Voltaire, The Pale Fountains and Richard Jobson

Three and a half decades on, Reininger, Steven Brown and Peter Principle, plus trumpeter Luc van Lieshout, have reconvened as Tuxedomoon in a Brussels rehearsal room. The quartet have travelled from their respective homes in Mexico City, Athens and New York to revisit Half-Mute for a tour to coincide with the album's re-release, and which tomorrow night arrives in Edinburgh for the band's first ever Scottish show.

“These songs for me are timeless,” drawls vocalist and violinist Reininger on a break from the final day of rehearsals prior to the tour's opening dates. “They have epic, mythic proportions, and live large in my sense of nostalgia. We didn't really forget this music, and I have to be subjective about it. I don't feel uncomfortable about playing it. These songs still stand up, and it's a lot of fun and pretty rewarding to play them, but we try to avoid revisionism. If a writer goes back to rewrite their poetry and prose, then it becomes something else. We have to honour the people we were and respect our past.”

That past began in mid 1970s San Francisco, when Reininger met Brown while they were both studying electronic music.

“There was a really interesting synthesiser lab,” Reininger deadpans. “It was a really powerful period, with Terry Riley playing across the Bay, where lots of other interesting things were going on, and we plunged ourselves into the emerging punk rock scene.”

With much of Tuxedomoon's early action revolving around Filipino restaurant turned key Bay Area punk venue, the Mahubay Gardens, Reininger, Brown and bass player Principle, who joined in 1979, took advantage of the era's anything goes attitude.

“We played galleries and salons, and were more associated with the performance art and theatre thing. A lot of the styling was in the tradition of Roxy Music. We were very aware of how to manipulate personae.”

Such awareness came in part from Brown's involvement in Angels of Light, a drag-based alternative theatre troupe which had evolved out of another group steeped in underground culture, The Cockettes.

“There were graduates and refugees from Broadway around,” Reininger remembers, “but we'd had this inter-disciplinary thing going on from the foundation of Tuxedomoon. I'd been in bands since I was twelve, so I knew what it was like playing covers in bog-standard bar bands, and I knew I wanted to do something more than that.”

In performance, Tuxedomoon developed a multi-media approach that incorporated work by performance artist Winston Tong and film-maker Bruce Geduldig. The latter sadly died earlier this year, necessitating fellow film-maker David Hanneke to step in for the tour.

As well as revisiting Half-Mute, the current spate of Tuxedomoon activity has seen the release of a ten CD box set, and a soundtrack to a documentary on David Lynch's film, Blue Velvet. All of which suggests that Tuxedomoon have become something more than cult figures, even if Nico didn't know who they were.

“We've managed to survive,” says Reininger, “and are still doing music and culture, and for that alone we have eminence grise status. It's like Genesis P Orridge or the guys in The Fall. One way or another they came through lives of obscurity and poverty and managed to survive, and through that acquire elder statesman status. That's fairly ironic and amusing.”

“It's the same with labels. The scenes they represent in the late seventies and early eighties, they put a gloss on them, so people now think, oh, I wish I was hanging out at the Hacienda, or I wish I was hanging out in Brussels.”

Some of this new wave of admiration for Tuxedomoon can be heard on Give Me New Noise – Half-Mute Reflected, a bonus disc that comes with the Half-Mute re-release, and which sees artists such as Simon Fisher Turner, Jim Thirlwell of Foetus and Georgio 'The Dove' Valentino cover the original album in full.

“These people are like our co-workers,” Reininger says. “They're like our disciples or students, younger guys we've had a lot of involvement with.”

Beyond Half-Mute, Tuxedomoon will continue to operate in the margins.

“We'll finish this tour and see what comes up,” says Reininger. “We have various releases and re-releases happening. After that we'll see. Once we get a spark, we can see what that yields.”

Tuxedomoon, Summerhall, Edinburgh, tomorrow.

The Herald, May 14th 2016



Popular posts from this blog

Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy Four Stars
It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.
Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t…

Michael Rother - Sterntaler at 40

"There's so much to do," says an uncharacteristically flustered Michael Rother. The normally unflappably beatific German guitarist, composer and former member of Neu! and Harmonia, who also had a stint in a nascent Kraftwerk, is packing for live dates in Russia and the UK, including this weekend's show at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.
"It has always been my choice to take care of these things myself and not have a manager," he says. "Somehow for me the independent aspect of doing things is really important, but it has its disadvantages."
As well as playing selections from Neu! and Harmonia, the trio he formed with Dieter Moebius and Hans Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Rother's Glasgow date will see him play a fortieth anniversary rendering of his second solo album, Sterntaler, in full. Rother will be accompanied by guitarist Franz Bargmann and drummer Hans Lampe, the latter of whose musical involvement with Rother dates back to Neu! days, …

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…