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CELEBRATING BRION GYSIN AND WILLIAM BURROUGHS


like so many genuinely underground documents the film had disappeared from view


like so many genuinely underground documents the film had disappeared from view

CELEBRATING BRION GYSIN AND WILLIAM BURROUGHS

Back in the early 1990s Outsideleft's resident hipster polymath Joe Ambrose was co-creator on an ambitious and innovative exhibition and celebration of the works of Brion Gysin and William Burroughs and especially of their intersections and influence on and by the original Interzone of Tangier. The Here to Go Show (so named after one of Gysin's maxim that the only purpose of human life on earth is to get ready to leave it - "we are here to go") even brought the legendary Master Musicians of Joujouka to Dublin to take part in the festivities.

Ambrose and Frank Rynne directed a documentary which captured the event and featured exclusive contributions from William Burroughs, Hamri The Painter of Morocco, Ira Cohen, Hakim Bey, Terry Wilson amongst others.

It was rough and ready. What used to be called garage film-making, razor cut film-making. Unfiltered and real. And like so many genuinely underground documents the film had disappeared from view.

But now remastered for the digital age and on official DVD for the first time Screen Edge have re-released it. We fired a few questions at Ambrose to see what he thought of the film after a decade and a half..

JA: "It looks a lot better now that it has for a long time. When it originally came out on video with Visionary it got shown at a lot of public events, at the ICA, unbeknownst to us at guerilla film festivals in Europe, I'd be showing it to interested parties at home. In the end I just got sick of looking at it. When any visitor wanted to see it I'd put it on and head off into the kitchen to prepare some food or something. VHS was a shit medium. I hated VHS. This DVD, like all DVDs, has better colour and sound than the original release. When the new copies arrived from Screen Edge I played it right through about five times, watched it in full for the first time in maybe five or six years. There are things I'd have done differently, of course, bits featuring myself that I might want to edit out now. But it's an artifact from another time and place so.so be it.

OL: How much did Destroy cost to make?
JA: "Virtually nothing. It was mainly filmed by domestic camcorders by Daragh McCarthy and Mark Siung, both of whom did film at art school. This background made it possible, later, for the film to be edited - they'd shot it correctly. I think we all just wanted a record of what was going on, and weren't thinking about making a film. Then later we realised that we had a lot of remarkable documentation, especially to do with Hamri the Painter of Morocco and The Master Musicians of Joujouka. When myself and Frank got back to London after the Show we were contacted by Stuart McClean, a musician and media expert who got us access to some top-of-the-range editing facilities.

Nowadays anybody with a laptop and a camera can make a movie; it was more of a Herculean task in 1993. We already knew Ian Gilchrist who worked at Visionary with John Bentham. Ian put us in touch with John, who'd done videos on Visionary by the likes of Warhol, The Gun Club, and Burroughs. John expressed an interest in releasing our putative film about the Show. We knew before the film was finished that it was going to be coming out as a sell-through video."

OL: What is your favourite moment in the film?
JA: "There is a scene in the loft apartment where we had one of many late night parties and you see Larachi, one of the Master Musicians, smoking a joint and then leaning forward to pass that joint to somebody else. It has a very warm air to it and captures the spirit of an aspect of the Show."

OL: Your performance of Hassan in the City features ragga star Shabba Ranks. I can't see Shabba as big Burroughs/Gysin fan?
JOE: "I'm sure Shabba would find Burroughs and Gysin a bit too batty for his taste. He did the vocal on a Bill Laswell/Material track, Reality, and I thought that was a hip track though I'm not such a big Shabba fan, more of a Buju Banton man. We were working a lot with Bill Laswell at that time and he was enormously generous with his catalogue so that's how we came to have access to Shabba. Most of the other music on Destroy, other than the Laswell music, is Moroccan trance by Joujouka or punk by The Baby Snakes. Both of these disciplines were core ones as far as the Burroughs universe was concerned but, during the actual Here To Go Show in Dublin, we were playing a lot of Def Jam hip-hop. Def Jam were in their first pomp right then, with LL Cool J being the main sound that I was hearing all the time inside my head.so Shabba and the other Laswell stuff brought that sensibility to bear on the film."

OL: To what extent was Burroughs involved in the Show?
JOE: "He was in his late seventies by then and his doctor had banned him for any further flying so we knew from the start that he wouldn't be joining us in the flesh. He was kept informed about it step-by-step and put his weight behind it. His pal James Grauerholz, who ran his affairs, was behind the event 100%. Burroughs wrote an introduction for Man from Nowhere - the book which went with the Show - and he filmed a message concerning Gysin which was shown in Dublin at the time. The bones of that message are in Destroy."

OL: How is the next book coming along?
JA: "My next book is Chelsea Hotel Manhattan, sort of extreme travel writing based on notes and scrapbooks I kept while staying at the iconic NYC hotel. It also features previously unpublished interviews with William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Frank Rynnne's essay on Herbert Huncke, and loads of other nice bits and pieces. In many ways it marks, for me, the end of a journey which began with the Here to Go Show, so it's appropriate that it should some out soon after this DVD."

Lake

the first journalism Lake ever had published was a history of Johnny Thunders for Record Collector magazine, since then he has written for publications including the Guardian, Dazed and Confused, the Idler and more recently, outsideleft.com as you have just seen.


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