UK-based Alasdair Willis, who makes music under the name The Vitamin B12. Active since the mid ’80s, Willis is primarily known for A legendary 4xLP box set that compiled selections from various free improvisational sessions from his Brighton loft in 1986. In the intervening years, The Vitamin B12 has proven to be an elusive figure in the European free improvisation scene, which also includes acts like Nurse With Wound and H.N.A.S.
The Vitamin B12 was formed with the same ease as his childhood projects. “It was three unemployed art graduates who shared a house and a Tandberg 4-track tape recorder in Brighton,” Willis says. “We all liked messing around with musical instruments and making a noise, and sometimes this was recorded. Sometimes, we’d figure something out—a set of rules, a process—and record that. We found the name on a jar of Marmite and then performed as The Vitamin B12 at the Zap Club in Brighton. The name ‘The Vitamin B12’ was subsequently typed onto a cassette tape I recorded that same week. Each week, we performed under a different name, but all the cassettes had ‘The Vitamin B12’ typed on them.”
Since then, members have come and gone, and Willis has remained the central guiding force (not unlike Mark E. Smith in The Fall, or Captain Beefheart). Willis is less authoritarian Svengali than extremely chill facilitator of jams, often times recorded in his Brighton loft (there are literally dozens of hours of improvisational loft sessions on Bandcamp).
The free, casual approach results in a lot of material that can be inconsequential, but that’s part of the charm, and the joy and ease with which Willis and his rotating band plunge headlong into a dizzying array of genres and experiments is intoxicating. It also accentuates the jolt when one comes across a truly brilliant, stunning track, a track that gives one pause over how something as vital and effortlessly original as Brian Eno, or Simon Fischer Turner, or Can could remain so obscured or even unheard. Here are some of Vitamin B12’s Bandcamp highlights.