Whilst Blowback was launching, Dan Jones from Channel 4 Ideasfactory came to see us. We struck a co-promotional deal: when it was deemed suitable, we would run a Blowback article and an alternative Ideasfactory version. The criteria for Ideasfactory was different to Blowback, the features needed to be made more midlands focussed, more about ‘access’ and traditional in style.
Whereas Blowback took stylistic flights of fancy, Ideasfactory was more a pragmatic, practical sister. Actually some of the IF articles are longer lasting than the BB equivalents. I may put their Blowback equivalents on-line for contrast.
Dan Davies meets Ben and Phil AKA ‘Juneau Projects’, who first formed through doing casual work at the Ikon Galley, Birmingham. United through their love of music and art they joined art rockers ‘The Only Men’. At one performance for the ‘Grizedale Projects’ in the Lake District they learned about a series of residences and applied as Juneau Projects.
“The reason why we used that name was because we wanted something that wasn’t just our names. I loose track of the duos that are just artists names, they sort of all merge into one,” points out Phil.
Though they didn’t get the residency, they were accepted for several projects. The first performance was part of a show called “The Great Escape,” based around a camping theme, with various Army Camp wardens, drills and axe throwing. Urban dance classics were strummed out on acoustic guitar around the campfire, sung by Ben and Phil and the local scouts group. Among the cover versions were Groovjet’s ‘Spiller’, Alice DJ’s ‘Better Off Alone’, The Fugees’ ‘Killing Me Softly’ and Massive Attack’s ‘Unfinished Sympathy’.
“It makes you feel quite old because we choose tracks we thought everyone knew. But particularly with Massive Attack and The Fugees they’d never really heard it. With the Alice DJ track as well, obviously you were just repeating it so actually it was kind of mournful.”
Often what was intended to be funny in JP’s work comes across quite tragic.
“I suppose we like the pathos of that situation and also the amateurish edge,” admits Phil “Especially with the more technical work. A lot of the things we do are based on our ambivalence to technology. A lot of our early work was to do with breaking an element of technology. Like putting a walkman in a lake and recording its own demise.”
After a couple of minutes rowing out into the lake, the walkman is dropped into the water and then brought back to shore. The walkman refuses to die, popping and screaming scrambled Strauss strings all the way to the close of the film.
A Jubilee Piece they did featured a copy of The Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’ being set alight whilst playing ‘God Save The Queen’. The needle jumps off the buckling record and swings back scraping against the side like a warped heart beat. The sound keeps playing for an eerily long time with the arm still burning. It’s the struggle of the needle, to return and keep playing which is almost sad.
This can prove more difficult with digital technology that just blacks out if you take out a main line. The piece they did using CD players (firstly drilling through the CDs then through the players themselves) had to be rehearsed. Not because of the danger element Phil explains, “It’s only 3 Volts! We had to make sure we drilled it in the right place so that we missed all the vital organs!”
Appliances Not Accessories
Although the electrical appliances are always as cheap as possible their destruction makes you think about how you view your own possessions. What they represent isn’t as precious as we think. So would Juneau Projects destroy anything that was dear to them?
“In a piece we did recently, two mobile phones are set up facing each other on two stands and played through a lap top and various effects. Because of their closeness they feedback and we kind of made them talk to each other.” Phil’s eyes light up, “Then we took a blowtorch to one of them! One of the phones we used was my girlfriends and even though it hadn’t worked properly for a while, we were sad to see it go.”
Another recent project involved touring a road show round the country with a few tracks they’d made themselves. Fanzines and personal CD players were laid out and kids were given the opportunity to write their own lyrics, then record them in the caravan. Each song was videoed and each kid got a CD.
“There is a weird kind of Karmic balance to the stuff we do. On the one hand we’re taking things out of the world, like Fax Machines and TVs and on the other we’re putting things back like kids on CDs!”
It didn’t stop there though, as the resulting vocals were lifted, remixed and played out live by the boys themselves at The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham. In this age of high technology Juneau Project lower the tone but they also find something beautiful in that. Kids that innocently and effortlessly create something new, or electrical items that come to life as they’re about to break. There is something to be said about Lo-Fi.
“People are very sophisticated with how music and films are made. It’s the immediacy of the moment which gives it a genuine appeal. We’re not against that per se but it’s certainly an antidote to for example of the anodyne nature of the pop business or
Which is why the Juneau Projects’ projects are so special.