Duelling Fanjos


Running Time: 5:46

Released On: "Two Halves Volume 8" - Various Artists (19 tracks)

Label: Charlie Dog Records

Release Date: 28th January 2021

Format: Download

Buy Link: Bandcamp




Last time {AN} Eel did a volume of his "Two Halves" series, we randomly drew French experimental legend M. Nomized as a collaboration partner, a musician and composer Skit and I both respect and admire greatly, so we were always going to be up for another go! Into the hat went our name, who were we going to get? Skit and I were quite excited, I must admit. And the winner is... MJ Wright!

Luckily, MJ loved the idea and began recording a dozen or more pieces of improvisational percussion, surprised us with a few loops, and sent us a big package of sounds to play with. So all we had to do was finish off the concept with a title and accompanying graphic. Annoyingly, I couldn't think of a word that rhymed with banjo, wasn't even sure one actually existed.


"Fanjo." Said Sam.
"Fanjo, my arse! You're making it up!"

"It's Irish slang." She assured me.

"For what?"

"Lady parts."

"Oh, there IS a god!"


For a graphic, I figured we had to try to reproduce the film scene and that the simple one sat on the branch had to be Skit. At first, he was concerned about being photographed in shorts and wellies, it's always mattered to him that he be taken seriously as a musician and composer and wasn't just seen as a sex object. Sam and I did what we could to  allay his fears  and he finally  agreed to pose  for us. That was


"Who? Never 'eard of 'im."

We honestly hadn't a clue who he was. So we said hi and sent him a friend request on Facebook to put that straight. And to be fair, he had no idea who we were either. What planet's he from, eh? I mean; MMATT, M&E, I've been involved in the global underground scene for over 30 years, where's he been?

MJ Wright - ah, so THIS is who he is!


Turns out he was only 23 years old, so he hadn't actually existed for all of it, and the original incarnations of MMATT and M&E were both history by the time he'd finished school. We were from completely different eras, this could be interesting.
"Don't we need a note from his mum?" We asked.

Mr. Eel assured us we didn't, so we started swapping info. Emjay / MJ (he doesn't like any punctuation if you use the initials version) told us he was an improvisational percussionist in Mr. Eel's native Canada, playing with a group called The Side Eye, and here they are (photograph right). He's the one in the middle whose face you can't see. And he sent us a link to a 30 minute live video from Array 2019, through most of which he was hiding behind the bass player. We liked it (the music, kind of avant garde jazz vibe, not because of the hiding, though that was quite good as well), but in terms of common ground, where to start?

The Side Eye: Michael Lynn (double bass) / MJ / Kayla Milmine (soprano sax)


Having first re-established seniority by pointing out that we didn't know who he was before he didn't know who we were, we were ready to discuss some ideas. We were both very leftfield, sure, but MJ has a penchant for improvisation, whereas we like playing with structure and making repetitive patterns. He used real drums and physical objects, we used an assortment of percussive samples that only exist in audio files on a computer. It seemed that the differences between our approaches to creating music (and elsewhere) were the thing we most had in common, but I hadn't kind of picked up on the profound significance of that as yet. First suggestion was a twofold manner of engagement; that MJ does one recording of wild improvisational percussion, then one further piece of coherent and consistent rhythm, then we could add some squirps and squeeps (for the benefit of non electronic musicians, these are technical terms, I promise you) to the first bit and some repetitive synth motifs to the second, a collaboration in two parts. MJ agreed that was a plan, but we said no rush, this was October, we had Digitalis coming out at the end of the month, and this release wasn't due out till January. Then fate intervened; I just happened to watch the movie "Deliverance" one night, and it got to the famous "Duelling Banjos" scene, and eureka! No, I wasn't in the bath, and if you've heard "Mi Casa, Su Casa", you'll know we don't have one. The idea of folk from two worlds playing licks to each other, the gradual development of a mutual musical grammar, but who would be the simple one sat on the branch?

the easy bit; rather obviously, Skit and MJ couldn't be photographed together because of social distancing (about 3,400 miles, I believe), so we'd have to do it as two scenes side by side. When I suggested MJ send us a picture of himself in the woods, he pointed out that he lived in the middle of Toronto, there weren't any woods. He did, however, have a big bush (no pun intended) in his garden. We decided that would do. City boys, huh?


It would be New Year before Skit and I finally got the chance to do our bit and finish the track, and even then it was touch and go thanks to the last minute school closures. As luck would have it, the project came together really intuitively; a snatch (no pun intended) of MJ's percussion, a short response from the Bullet, back and forth for a minute or so, then we come together in glorious Panpanpanavision! Then a bit of back and forth between MJ and ourselves, reduced the running time by about 45 seconds, couple of other tweaks, really quite pleased with the results. MJ wisely chose to use GMPSCKT rather than have his name sullied by association with us old folks, and while it may seem unnecessarily cruel that we have 'outed' him here and used pictures, we feel he still has plausible deniability.



The Side Eye (album) -

Tacetician / DJ Tacet (oh yeah, he does DJing too, these kids, eh?) -

2020 VISION