"Long Live Père Ubu!" is the album of songs that was the genesis of the entire mess. It was to be a great leap forward in our pursuit of hypernaturalistic recording techniques by which we replace microphones in the studio with wooden boxes, junked radio speakers, metal horns, and electrically charged window panes. Using "junk-o-phonics" the acoustic quality of the sound itself was to become the narrative.
One early goal was to approach the space between songs in a new way, using connective dialog and ambient noise as bridges, while remaining true to Jarry's anti-theatrical methods. This led directly to the notion of a live "radio play" that would unify the concert set. The motivation was not so much a "concept" performance but a way to manage the "silence" between songs so that the spoken word is manipulated with a jazz sensibility.
At first I planned to sing all the cast characters myself. With the encouragement of Glenn Max, musical director of London's Southbank Centre, the project evolved into a theatrical production. I was determined that the band itself should not only play the music but also take on all cast roles, all production duties and design/perform all the choreography. Serendipitous meetings modified the plan.
An on-going effort to turn the theatrical production into a film, directed by The Brothers Quay
, prompted me to assemble an audio storyboard. At the same time the script was revised and improved into Version 2 of "Bring Me The Head Of Ubu Roi" and was incorporated into a recording known as The Radio Play, which includes all dialog, songs, and ambient sound, and achieves the original vision for the project.
I've been asked many times over the decades whether I wanted to do something of this sort. My answer has always been, No. I could see no hook into it. I was not interested in doing something just because I could. I was definitely not interested in nostalgia. Two years ago I was asked again by Glenn Max, musical director of London's Southbank Centre. I felt that any further refusal could be seen by myself as cowardice. His parting words to me were, "Bring me the head of Ubu Roi."
So the first issue became, What am I going to bring to the play that's worth the effort? That was relatively simple. The reason I took the name for my band in 1975 was that I saw a connection between Jarry's anti-naturalistic production methods and the role of abstract sound in rock music. That's where I started. Then I read thru the play again after 30 years and noted that really much of it was disposable or nostalgia-inducing. I condensed the story to the parts I thought were interesting and were compliant to what I wanted to accomplish. In a few scenes I expounded on where Jarry was heading and took minor liberties. In at least one case Jarry made an especially prescient point that I expanded. And I concentrated on Mère and Père Ubu. Then I began to work on the music. I was determined that the sound - whether it be musical, audio, dialog, human voice, recording studio acoustic, etc - should be approached and accomplished strictly in line with Jarry's theatrical ideas. I was determined that the play's story be relayed through the narrative qualities of sound itself as much as possible. All sound, every moment, has been carefully crafted for theatrical impact. The whole project has taken 2 solid years to complete - the album, the theatrical production and the radio play. All decisions were only made after first determining what would be most compliant with Jarry's wishes or method.