Don't quaestion everything…


Lime Lizard – Apr 1992


Tribalism, androgyny and a career in root canal work - when it comes to quotability, talk and the whole world talks with you. Andy O'Reilly spends some time with Levitation, the band that likes to say 'yes!'

'What a gift. This page is briefly stained by my tears of gratitude. Writers don't usually have it so good, do they, when something real happens (something unified, dramatic and pretty saleable), and they just write it down?' (Martin Amis - London Fields)

Maybe I just caught them on a good day. Perhaps I caught them in a good lifetime. Whatever, over the course of two hours, four of the five members of Levitation (it was enough, I can tell you...) managed to talk this journalist out of a job. Instead, armed with this tape, I intend to tutor today's crap young pop stars in the art of saying something interesting. At £20 an hour. Actually, that's probably the whole of Chapterhouse at my front door now. I'll leave you in the capable hands of Terry Bickers.
Oh, and the question? There wasn't one. It was just like that.

“It's all about believing that you've got an important voice and a message, because everyone's got to take part in shaping how we're going to exist in 200 years’ time when the oil runs out. I personally, having meditated on this for three or four years, realise that, as a race, we're really fucked at the moment. We live in an age that's just as barbaric as Medieval times. Most videos you see in video shops are pulp, either about Vietnam, or being attacked and chased by some marauder. That's what's causing so much violence; people's minds have been polluted by Terminator and The Silence of the Lambs. Americans have to see ultraviolence in a film in order to make the Bronx seem normal. The whole nuclear policy is a fantasy too, because they're not deterrents, It's tribal intimidation, and we need to get people talking about it. Music is just a vehicle for venerating frustration and putting your own point of view across. We all spend more time philosophising than we do making music. I mean, Bic says that everyday life frightens him more that any horror movie, just your total insignificance.'

Got all that? That was, I swear, one continuous monologue, delivered in a mesmerising monotone, with the eyes sparkling with madness, or sanity, or something equally freakish and enthralling. Try analysing it and marvel at the half digested platitudes, the unaccountable leaps of logic, but above all, the flashes of genius: 'Music is just a vehicle for venerating frustration.' Sheer poetry or what? It is as though his daily injection of media babble, far from tranquilising him, instead stimulates him into a state of amphetamine super-consciousness, an info-trance. Speak and he snaps out of it.

Bic: 'Reality is far weirder than fantasy...'

Terry: 'It's how we live…,but this is going off into an avenue.'

Laurence: 'This is what we always go into…'

Bic: 'I'm going off to get another beer.'

Brief pause. The journalist mumbles something about the Grateful Dead.

Terry: 'Our music is more like Bill Laswell or Brian Eno or Michael Gira. You have to really question yourself about why you're doing it. Sometimes I think, 'I'm going deaf in one ear and I'm usually drinking too much after a gig and this is really bad for my whole self; I'm battering myself.' But then I think, 'Yes, I will carry on.' We're battered with dance music, it's getting blander and blander; that's pulp, but everyone's experience of a gig is unique. It might provoke them to write something, or paint something, or dream about it. They'll have experienced other people's souls without words at a given place at a given time, it's creating a force of energy.'

But surely the rave is now the ultimate musical happening?

“The Shamen's Brixton Academy Progeny gig was a great event. It felt brilliant, the people were brilliant, and there was very little trouble. At the end of the night people were clear, fresh and relaxed and the bouncers couldn't figure it out; no brawling or fighting. That shows that change is going on, like Anthrax and Public Enemy...'

Bic knocks his beer onto the journalist's tape recorder and near chaos breaks out. Satisfied that Terry's words of wisdom have not been drowned, Laurence offers that 'it probably wanted a drink.'

Dave, for some reason lost to the mists of time says 'I was in the boy scouts, can you tell?' Terry, astonishingly, keeps on talking.

“... I'm into bringing all types of music together. White kids getting into grooves, black kids getting into headbanging...'

Would Levitation play to a rave audience?

Bic; 'Yeah, you've got more people together in a different atmosphere so, in that way, it would be an ideal audience rather than people just coming in to watch a band.'

Terry: 'It was good while it was underground...'

Bic: '... anything's good while it's underground...'

Terry: '... but now you've got people charging £20 for a rave in Milton Keynes...'

Bic: '... and all the hamburger stalls turn up. The entrepreneurs see a lot of people together and think 'there's money to be made'. It's like the Free Festivals thing. That got crushed just because more and more people were getting into it.'

Terry: 'Anything that's outside the law, out in a field, is pure tribalism.'

Dave: 'And there ain't no VAT at a Free festival.'

Terry: 'Basically we want space for people to create, right up to the very top. We're, like the Beatles, into touching all people from six to sixty...'

Dave: 'Terry, be careful what you say!'

Terry: 'In the jacuzzi next door, no questions asked...'

Laurence: 'In the pool in our Rolls Royces...'

Terry: 'No, definitely not. No cars! We want to do a tour up a canal in a barge, just using batteries. Play at a few pubs, take a few fire eaters, a few jugglers.'
At this point the journalist makes the crucial mistake of Laughing in the Wrong Place. Unforgiveable really.

'No really, we're going to do it. This Summer.'

Dave: 'A lot of bands talk about pursuing different avenues. We want to explore canals.'

Laurence: 'We're canally retentive.'

Terry: 'I mean, I can't breath in London now. When I said I was moving to Amsterdam, it's because they've got more air there.'

Bic: 'We call ourselves civilised but the pubs close at 11 o'clock.'

Terry: 'That was because of the war effort. Our whole society is geared towards waiting for the next war.'

Pardon? Yeah, looking back on it I can't believe I let some of this bullshit pass unchallenged. But I somehow doubt the practicality of arguing with Terry Bickers. His whole being seems based on a constant accumulation rather than negation; everybody, everything, every type of music, every snippet of hair-brained conspiracy theory is sucked into a brain in a state of perpetual meltdown. At one point, he leaves to do a phone interview in which, asked one question, he babbles for 20 minutes and then puts the phone down. He's too much but that's so much better than too little.

In his absence though, the conversation flows just as freely. Laurence moans that 'we go on about the same things in every single interview. Leave it to Phil Collins and Sting; they do it much better.' Bic, unforgivably, launches into a viscious tirade of abuse at New Order. All and sundry discuss the influence of Kraftwerk and Can. Clearly this lot are ballast for Bickers hot air balloon, but they are also intelligent individuals; Laurence's cynicism, Bic's touchiness and Dave's occasional belligerence (and flu) are tolerated along with Terry's, erm, eccentricity. Bickers is the mix for this potential blend of chemicals which always seems set to go BOOM! before going into a nice pastoral passage, improvising a bit and returning to the chorus. Should you want to try this at home, you will need the following ingredients:


Terry: 'Do you like Swans? I'm not so keen on the noise terror stuff, but...'

Bic: 'Have you seen a film called 'Harold and Maude'?

Terry: 'It's a really good film. You'd like it a lot. Actually I don't know.'

Bic: 'It's got wit, pathos, existentialism...'

Laurence: 'And it's got absolutely nothing to do with Swans…'


Dave: 'A friend of mine gave me two really strong sleeping tablets and I went to The Venue with one on a Saturday night. This guy searches me, picks it out, looks at it, smirks and gives me a knowing look. I couldn't wait until he got home with his girlfriend, cut it in half and said 'Come on baby, let’s do half an E and fuck' and fell asleep.'

Actually Levitation don't talk much about drugs. Let’s just say that drugs were their midwife, but nicotine is their night nurse. Actually, let’s not...


Bic: 'Just doing it is enough.'

Dave: 'Idealists are as dangerous as realists. Concentrate on the subject matter, not the shock value.'


Terry: 'Men grow up to be aspiring heroes, aspiring Iron Johns and they get fucked up because they don't allow the sensitive side of their nature to emerge. I'm totally into my feminine side, I acknowledge that fully and accept that. Androgyny, I think, is part of that answer, just to accept that you have male and female hormones in your body. Most men miss out on that side of their nature, they're afraid of the depth of women's sexuality, sensuality and spirituality.'

each other

Dave: 'Now we've found some really good friends who we want to make music with. We've become really good friends and we're making music that we really, really enjoy making. We're trying to do a million things musically at once.'

Levitation are all the bands you ever wished for. Is it too much to wish for more of them?

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