planet gong archives

Mother Gong

June 1978 : Gilli Smyth, Jerry Hart, Paul Sanchez, François Bessac, Jean-Paul Vivini, Janno, George Bishop. Formed to promote Mother for a UK tour.
September-December 1978 : Gilli Smyth, Jerry Hart, Paul Sanchez, François Bessac, Jean-Paul Vivini, Patrick Meadows, Ronald and Rodney, Ax Genrich (ex Guru Guru), Jose. Spanish and UK tours.
October 1978 : Gilli Smyth, George Bishop, Bill Laswell, Michael Beinhorn, Chris Cutler, Harry Williamson, Fred Frith. Performed first ever Gong gig in the USA at the invitation of Georgio Gomelsky, organiser of the Zu Manifestival in New York.
Spring 1979 : Gilli Smyth, Harry Williamson, Don E. Davis (New York Gong), Bill Laswell (New York Gong), Michael Beinhorn (New York Gong), Fred Maher (New York Gong), Bill Bacon (New York Gong), Cliff Cultreri (New York Gong), Mark Kramer (New York Gong), Stu Martin. Toured North America in an old school bus, establishing a alternative gig circuit. Performed as Mother Gong with the backing band, Material.
1979 : Gilli Smyth, Harry Williamson, Didier Malherbe, Ermano Ghisio-Erba, Eduardo Niebla, Mo Vicarage (Charmed Life), Trevor Darks (opened a music shop in Totnes, England). Battle of the Birds, Fairy Tales
1980-81 : Gilli Smyth, Harry Williamson, Didier Malherbe, Guy Evans (ex Van der Graaf Generator), Yan Emeric, George Bishop, Dane Cranenberg, Jean-Philippe Rykiel. Played festivals in England (including Glastonbury) and Norway (including Trondheim). Robot Woman
Late 1981 : Gilli smyth, Harry Williamson, Didier Malherbe, Guy Evans (Amon duül II), Dave Sawyer, Dane Cranenberg, Claire Jones (Silver on the Tree). Guests include Hugh Hopper, Giles Perring, Toni and Chris, many more. Gilli and Harry tour the USA, with backing tapes. Words Fail Me, Robot Woman II
1982-91 : Gilli Smyth, Harry Williamson, Rob Calvert (ex Catapilla/John Stevens Away), Rob George, Conrad Henderson, Thom Kelly 'Thom the World Poet' (guesting sporadically).

The History of Mother Gong begins with the Mother(approve sites) album of 1978, recorded and produced by Daevid Allen, which was a distillation of Gilli Smyth's political ideas and music, written after she left the Gong band in 1974. Charly Records, who later brought out the sequel Fairy Tales(approve sites), briefly promoted the band of musicians Gilli gathered around herself as "Mother Gong", and the name continues.

In 1978, Gilli travelled to the USA where she appeared at the New York Manifestival with Chris Cutler and Fred Frith.

The next line-up in the UK was for the 1979 Glastonbury Festival, which included Didier Malherbe, Harry Williamson and Nik Turner, who -with Ermano Ghizio-Herba (drums), Trevor Darks (Bass) and Mo Vickarage (keyboards)- had just finished recording Fairy Tales(approve sites).

Then a band was formed for the 1979 U.S. Manifestival Tour, with Harry Williamson and some of Daevid Allen?'s New York Gong musicians, including Bill Laswell? and Mark Kramer?.

Mother Gong also appeared at Glastonbury and at Trondheim Festival, Norway in 1981, with Didier Malherbe, Jan Emeric (guitar), Jean-Philippe Rykiel? (keyboards), Dane Kranenburg (bass) and Guy Evans, drums (ex Van der Graff Generator). Recordings from Glastonbury and from Harry's North Devon studio, together with a contribution from Hugh Hopper, were used in the first of the Robot Worman LP series. Robot Woman 1 had its roots in a comic/music show Gilli and Harry had performed as a duo in the USA earlier that year.

Gilli Smyth and Harry Williamson had been living and working together since 1978 (when Gilli had broken up with Daevid Allen). In 1982 they left England for Australia, and during the next few years Butt/Shanghai records released the rest of Robot Woman series.

In 1986, Gilli, Harry and Daevid Allen recorded Magenta and Stroking the Tail of the Bird(approve sites) in Harry's Melbourne studio.

In 1987 they began playing extensively with a new all-Australian lineup - Rob Calvert? (sax), Rob George (drums) and Conrad Henderson (bass). It is this band which is generally known as the "classic" Mother Gong. C Ds? from this lineup include Wild Child, Tree in Fish, Magenta/She made the World, Mother Gong Live 1991(approve sites), Radio Sessions and Every Witches Way.

Many of the apparently composed pieces on these recording were culled from 'spontaneous composition' sessions. Gilli would present the group with some poetic ideas and images, and after a short discussion to establish the parameters for the evening, tape would roll. Harry's classical affinity produced structures not often associated with jazz, and 'Wild Child' is perhaps the epitome of this elegant and emotionally moving process, recorded in a few wild full-moon days in a studio in Wales prior to the 1989 UK tour.

This band is well known for its high level of musicianship and intricate musical structures, as well as for the extraordinary voice of Gilli Smyth. She somehow manages to draw together diverse treads of lyric, melody and pure sound into a resonant web that challenges and transforms. The classic Mother Gong really understood Gilli's intentions, and made them part of the process.

Although the band became separated geographically, they still have occasional sessions together despite the various different directions its members have since taken.

In 1991, Gilli, Harry and Rob Calvert? toured the USA and UK as Mother Gong, with Tom the Poet?, and the CD Mother Gong Live 1991(approve sites) was compiled from recordings made during the tour.

In 1992 and 1993, Gilli did solo tours in the USA and UK using backing tapes from Mother Gong sessions, and in 1994 played the first International Goddess Festival in Santa Cruz, California. She was later joined by Rob Calvert? for another tour of the USA and UK.

In 1996, GAS Records released 'even as we GLO', the album of trance dance music recorded in London in 1994 by Gilli Smyth and Steffe Lewry. Using remixes of this music they continued to do many live 'rave' gigs togther.

The Goddesses who inspire much of Gilli's work are to her symbolic of life force energy flowing through the invisible web of being that links all life.

Leave behind your old attitudes and celebrate being. You are always now and tomorrow afternoon. You unfold your life like a fresh newspaper and read whichever page you choose. Surf the far waves of emotion, explore myserious dimensions from the danger of your own head.

In 1996, another ambient trance album Goddess Trance(approve sites) was recorded live on New Years Eve in Byron Bay with Daevid Allen and Taliesin as guests. Goddess Trance is Gilli's North Coast band that she works with when in Australia, and includes Orlando Allen (drums), Tony Wandella (bass), Nick Spacetree (synthesizers), Kavi (percussion and flute) and FX Sonic Bloom (fx). At present (?) she spends about half the year touring with Gong and Glo, the rest of the time writing new material, walking the endless beaches of Rainbow Country and healing dogs.

Gilli and Harry settled down in North Devon and set up Ottersongs, their own tape label. They began the half-completed "Robot Woman" show, described at the time as being '…like a circus show with a huge props box…' this tour included a memorable performance at Glastonbury festival.

Mother Gong has included too many guest musicians to mention them all - Hugh Hopper on Robot Woman 1 and Giles Perring, Toni and Chris on Robot Woman 2 will have to do for now.

Gilli and Harry emigrated to Australia in 1982. Harry got into working as a studio engineer, writing musicals and playing with local Reggae bands, bought a share of a local recording studio and pressing plant which became Richmond Studios. Harry designed and installed a foldback system that greatly facilitated recording live improvisations. This played a major role in many of their subsequent releases.

In 1987, Williamson finally completed Tarka Music with Anthony Phillips, also produced and arranged the music to Milarepa - a two and a half hour epic dramatization of the life and work of the founder of Tibetan Buddhism - for the Bantam Dance Company, with the blessing of the Dalai Lama. He has since recorded and produced many Australian, Indian, Indonesian and South American Artists. Harry now works as a duo with Liz van Dort, world singer extraordinaire.

Gilli and Harry ended their personal and musical relationship in 1991.