BASEBALL/Bio & Review (2004)
review.1 Bobby Pavarotti Chats with Cameron Potts about Ancient Assyria
Boasting members of Love of Diagrams and Ninetynine, Baseball's beginning stems back to 1993, but the present arrangement manifested itself in 2001, when Cameron Potts (violin/drum set/voice) and Monika Fikerle (piano accordion/drum set/voice) combined talents, before recruiting Yoshinobu Araki (bass/keyboard/guitar) from Japan in 2003.
Partially driven by the trio's multi-instrumental capacities, Baseball's unconventional sound is also inspired by the period that Cameron Potts spent as a breakdancer in his adolescence, along with his passion for Arabic culture. The result is a searing din that blends distorted Arabian violin with Eastern European accordion and classic rap beats to form the foundation for a soundspace that is as evocative as it is challenging.
"I've been to the Middle East five times now. I have a lot of friends over there, and I speak Arabic also, and I have a passion for the music and the architecture and the desert; and in the 80s I was also a breakdancer," says Potts. "So it was an attempt to mix those two passions, so far as the violin being played in Persian tones, and old rap music battle beats in the background. It's worked in my head for years, but I suppose I figured it was time to actually do it."
In keeping with Potts' passion for Middle Eastern culture, the booklet on the band's debut CD, Gods and Stars, Priests and Kings, is a poignant insight into the political notions that stimulate the band too.
"It was taken from various places around ancient Assyria, which was one of the first empires in the world, and some of the songs on the album are concerned with warfare and empire in so far as nothing has changed in four thousand years. We still have an empire now with the US, and it was just a connection between the ancient and the modern and how people still have to use suppression and fear to gain power," says Potts.
In light of the album's coarse emotive power, Potts highlights the importance of the thematic content to the outcome of the songs.
"A lot of the songs are rooted in these themes. For instance, one song was inspired by a traveller in the 1300s who trekked from Morocco to Siberia by foot, and he wrote a 2,000-page diary; when I play that song I try to get into his shoes and think about the words that he wrote. It's not so much the music that I concentrate on when I play; it's more the basic, fundamental inspiration that brought me to put those lyrics of his into the music."
review.2 LOADED BASSES /Baseball Change The Score (VICE p56)
A lot of bands at the moment seem to share a similar formula. Sure, they mix in their own unique ingredients, but the recipe remains pretty much the same.
Well Baseball doesn't go down like any of them. They play an intense mish mash of electro Bambatta, Arabian violin and mix it up with causal political lyrics.
Born in 1993, the band was a side project for Melbourne musician and historian Cameron Potts(who is also a member of Melbourne indie band Ninetynie). During a stint in Scotland he met Monika Fikerle (who is also a member of the brilliant Love of Diagrams) and after touring Europe, Scandinavia and Japan, the band officially became a full time job. Baseball was rounded out early last year with the addition of bassist Yoshinobu Araki.
VICE: I have noticed that there are a lot of shit bands out there who are able to afford really cutting edge equipment, websites and glossy posters because the majority of the members work full time.
As a musician and an artist, do you think that not working full time, and being on the dole, is a lifestyle choice necessary to allow your creativity and musical expression to manifest and flourish?
Cameron: Let's not forget how important age is here. And I don't think you can directly associate shit with either working or not working. Some people I know work a lot and make great music, others I know don't work at all and write dribble.
At age 23 I worked around 12-14 hours a day but I had a lot of inspiration and was in seven bands at the time. I don't think I could do that now though. At 33, it makes no difference how much I work. I'm still going to be inspired by history, culture and colours. Money however, is a different thing!
VICEFBaseball's music is primarily concerned with Middle Eastern politics, what's up with that?
CameronFI've been to the Near East five times. It began with a still ongoing love affair with the open desert. I went to Egypt in 1996 to see the Sahara, and the rest quickly followed.
I love the music, the food, the language, the architecture, the people and their history, both ancient and modern. I haven't looked back since. Each year that passes I am more and more passionate about it.
Baseball are a band formed from the members of Ninetynine(Cameron Potts), Love of Diagrams(Monika Fikerle) and a Japanese guy called Yoshi Araki.
The group officially formed in Scotland, in November of 2002, while in preperation for their first tour of Europe and Japan with their old bass player, Steve Begovich.
Their first gig was at the Bongo Club, Edinburgh on Cameron's Birthday.
After returning from overseas, via shows in Tokyo, the group began recording their first album, "Gods and Stars, Priests and Kings" with new bassist and keyboardist, Yoshi Araki in the winter of 2003.
In November of that year, Baseball returned to Europe with Love of Diagrams, playing 28 shows across 11 countries, finishing in Osaka, Japan on new years eve.
The groups style is heavily influenced from old school breakdance beats,(as Cameron was a Breakdancer in the 80's) with an attempt to mix Arabian violin sounds with Eastern European Accordion(Monika's family is half Czech) with heavy bass sounds.
Influences range from Big Black to Joy Division, Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force, Egyptian singer Om Koulsom, The Dirty Three, Romanian Village music, the Sea Scouts and poets of the Ancient world, from Assyria to Aztecia.
The group are about to embark on a new tour to Japan, Vietnam and Taiwan (with shows with Catpower) in August.
Hope you enjoy the record!
Baseball's debut album, God and Stars, Priests and Kings, is available through Thirsty Arab Records.