Founded in London but now based out of Antwerp, the Entr’acte label is today known for their experimental music editions which come in distinctive shrink-wrapped packaging. The package must be punctured in order for the music to be listened to, staging a conflict between collecting and listening.
But there was a time before shrink-wrap, and the label’s early discography includes a number of now-obscure oddities, including a recording made in an underground car park (Formatt’s Engtevrees), a composition produced in a deliberate stage of half-sleep (Phroq’s Half-Asleep Music), and a collection of field recordings of French cable cars (Simon Whethan’s Ascension_Suspension). Many of these were very limited editions, often released on CDR.
In combing through the early Entr’acte discography, I saw an interesting listing which warranted further investigation:
Live recording of an improvised performance at a public lavatory which took place on Saturday, 29 January 2005 in Kentish Town, London, in front of an invited audience, a bemused attendant and an unsuspecting stranger…
It was a 2005 3″ CDR Sudden Infant and Ze, seemingly the third Entr’acte edition, albeit allotted no catalogue number.
Intrigued, I reached out via email to Joke Lanz, the founding member of the legendary experimental outfit Sudden Infant, which at the time was his solo project.
He tells me that this release came about after he moved to London in April of 2004, as part of an artist residency funded by Switzerland’s cultural department. “I lived for six months in a studio apartment in an old warehouse building on Commercial Road in Whitechapel,” he recalls. “During that time I met Allon Kaye of Entr’acte label who was working as a graphic designer for the Architectural Association. And I also met Joe Caramelo, a.k.a. Ze. We became friends and decided to make some performances together. After my residency I stayed in London on my own expenses until I moved to Berlin in August 2006”
But living in London, he found it was difficult to find opportunities to perform live. “The concert situation in London is quite difficult. There are not enough clubs and live spaces to cover the needs of all those bands and musicians who live in London. That’s how I got the idea of performing in unusual public spaces. Why not performing a Noise show in a public lavatory? Actually, I wanted to tour London exclusively in public toilets/lavatories.
“I joined forces with Ze and we checked out possible spaces until we found out that most lavatories were already refurbished into high-tech pay restrooms with cameras and attendants which made it almost impossible to hijack the space for a live concert.”
After hunting for a suitable W.C., he finally found a suitable venue. “The best I found was in Kentish Town right opposite of a pub called Bull & Gate. I assume that public lavatory does not exist anymore. It was back then already a bit run down.”
Lanz is right. The restroom, originally positioned in an intersection, has since been converted into a trendy cocktail bar called Ladies and Gents, which seems fittingly ironic.
After inviting some confederates/participants via email and text message, Lanz and Joe Caramelo staged their performance. “We had battery amplifiers and went down to the men’s room together with an invited audience of approximately 12 people and started immediately with our sound performance. We didn’t realize that there was an attendant in his tiny small cleaning room in the back of the lavatory. He came out for a second, smiled at us and went back to his room.. I saw him just for a brief moment because I was mostly focusing on my playing and the performance. But friends who were in the audience told me afterwards that the guy was obviously amused about the scenery and had a smile on his face before he returned to his booth.”
At another point, someone else wandered in to use the facility. “He came in and had to pass us to go to a cubicle. Maybe he wanted to use the urinals, but we were standing in front of it, therefore he disappeared inside a cubicle.” After the show, they went to the Bull & Gate for pints.
The WC-D mini-CDR is a document of that restroom performance, during a period of time when the Sudden Infant name was still Lanz’s solo project. “Occasionally I collaborated with other musicians or had guests for my studio recordings and live shows,” he says. “Sudden Infant as a stable group started to operate in 2014, when I transformed the solo project into a trio, with Christian Weber on bass and Alexandre Babel on drums.”
Despite original plans for a public loo tour, this ended up being the only show performed in one. “We did another toilet performance at a transvestite sex club in East London called Stunners,” he explains. “But this was not a public lavatory, it was the official restroom of the club where some guys changed their dresses and their gender. Some other time we performed inside the Arnold Circus pavilion in Shoreditch together with Devotchkas Conundrum, a female noise duo.”
Reminded of the performance by my email, Lanz reflects positively on this unique moment in time — an obscure performance that took place a decade and a half ago, immortalized on miniature CDR of which only 25 copies were produced. “It feels far away, but I still got very positive memories. We were a group of highly creative and interested people sharing ideas and actions. Allon Kaye helped organising and published the recording. Martin Holtkamp, another friend, documented everything with photographs. From today’s point of perspective I can say: We were digging deep into the ground of performance and noise with a shot of Dada and some Punk spirit.”
Thanks to Joke Lanz for the interview. See the Sudden Infant website to catch up on Lanz’s happenings.