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(no subject) [Jul. 23rd, 2011|08:56 am]

It’s been a long time…


I went to see Chuck Prophet and Spanish Bombs playing the whole of London Calling last night. Apparently, the deal was a Spanish promoter contacted him and said they’d like him to cover someone else’s album for a show and he chose London Calling. The promoter also called Johnny Green, the Clash’s road manager who you can see in scenes in Rude Boy and who wrote the book ‘A Riot of our Own’ with Ray Lowry, who illustrated London Calling providing illustrations. Johnny Green has performed some spoken word sets mainly elaborating on excerpts from the book so the performer asked him to open the shows and after a Spanish tour, the band are doing four UK shows. It’s interesting because this is kind of an interlude, it’s not what Chuck Prophet is ‘doing’ now as he has his own shows booked either side of the dates which gives an insight into the project.


I Think it was about 12 years ago, I wrote to Johnny Green about his book saying how I’d loved it and how it really gave a feel for the time around the recording of London calling.  I sent it via the publisher but I got a lovely reply a few weeks later written in Green Pen. Johnny Green was great last night.  He read a few excerpts from his book but gave funny and interesting sides and is clearly happy on stage like an uncle with some great stories to tell crossed with a guy in the pub telling tales.


I got to speak with him afterwards and he didn’t remember writing back but signed my book (green pen again, he also had a green suit on, I’m here to tell you, if my surname was Green, I’m pretty sure I’d go the same). He did say that he was currently writing a book with Topper Headon about Topper’s life, that Topper had been clean for 15 years and that he had a kit but didn’t drum much. He seemed to have a massive admiration for Topper as a musician and a drummer which isn’t surprising after the music we’d just heard. I’m sure a lot of the directions on London Calling were made possible by Topper’s versatility and influences, in fact right up until Rock the Casbah, which he wrote, I’m not sure that we would have the post ‘Give Em Enough Rope’ Clash in any way like the way we do. London Calling is a whistle stop tour through popular music since the fifties but it was only really made possible by a drummer who could get the feels for such an eclectic set of musical styles. 


It was a real treat meeting Johnny Green, he seemed like a nice happy guy and my 16 year old self was pretty pleased.


The show opened with Chris Von Sneidern, who would later become Mick Jones, which was pretty cool because he looked pretty similar and I’m sure he sneakily copped some of Mick Jones’s moves. Not too much, but just a touch. I found his set frustrating because I was distracted by the octaver/eq pedal that he had on his 12 string that brought in bass frequencies.  He mentioned his ‘ bass player’ but throughout the set I wanted to say ‘can you do one without the pedal?’.  He had a £900 Takamine 12 string, essentially a guitar and a half in terms of sonic range, a beautifully made instrument that would have shimmered with the slightly off- tuned string pairs and he’d been greedy with those frequencies by adding fake bass frequencies. There’s a gulf of difference between a fat piece of metal wire creating a thud and getting a machine to copy a thinner piece of metal and making it an octave lower. It rattles the right bit of the speaker but the whole sound then gets shaped around it and EQed as a whole and you’re left with a muddy compromise rather than a shimmering cymbol of a guitar. Also, he’s a guy so a lot of that nonsense trampled on his vocals when it could have highlighted them by contrast. This was my whole musical experience, try as I might to get into the songs, that fucking pedal was like the Jug Guy from 13th floor elevators. The real surprise is that he came on later with a TV Yellow Les Paul Junior, THE most basic guitar that has ONLY a treble pickup.


On the whole the band’s run through London calling was just a load of fun. They seemed to have absorbed the songs as their own while learning not only the backbones to them but a lot of the tiny details that kept anchoring us in the record which let them also do the things they were great at as musicians.  The band were more than equal to the task and ploughed through a formidable song list stopping pretty much at the end of ‘sides’ for chat unless a song needed a specific intro.


They split the vocals roughly so that Chuck Prophet sung the strummer songs and Chris Von Sneidern the Mick Jones songs. Chuck Prophet is a true rock n roll musician, he didn’t seem to be intimidated or approach the songs gingerly but could play them like the record or played them as he’d play his own songs. I was waiting for some military hacking in London calling but he seemed to be playing that really old Epihone telecaster pretty gently and still getting the same effect.


They seemed to balk at the outright Reggae songs and while keeping some off-beat feel to Guns of Brixton and Revolution Rock, there were no Jamaican inflections and the songs sat in a more traditionally rock skin. This was no bad thing, in fact every time they did re-interpret the songs, the choices were always good, the encore Bankrobber was a Ramones-style zip through which worked perfectly. They seemed to have no anxiety to change the arrangements and did this with confidence and care so that you never felt they were a cop-out.


Chuck Prophet is a 100% entertainer, someone you look at and can see that he’s spent his working life playing the guitar in bands.  He did this magnificent over-milked hammering of the Stagger Lee intro to Wrong em Boyo, made some spirited political points about the state of economies weaving them into the songs without getting obvious or pointed and the band were just great!  Chris Von Sneidern had a great vocal and especially guitar Mick Jones thing going on and splitting the vocals was perfect. I loved it when the Keyboard player hit the piano chords for the Card Cheat and he, the bass player and the drummer were note-perfect and exciting musicians who couldn’t have treated those songs better.


I don’t know, the Clash are my favourite band and London Calling my second favourite album. I was telling Johnny Green how I really don’t understand the people who don’t get the Clash, and there are a lot of people. They’re not a hard band to get, the music drags you in and is directly wired into everything that’s good that came before it. I’ve met Clash fans in that Strummerville stage at Glastonbury and everyone seems affected by the band in some way. I’ve wrung everything I can out of that album. 16-19 I bet I played part of it three or four out of seven days a week.  When the reissue with the Vanilla tapes came out a few years ago I tanked it again and found some things my more analytical mind might have missed before but I said that I’d love to become amnesiac about the album so I could get it again and start afresh.


Seeing it played by a different band with singers emphasising specific lines or just anticipating killer lines ‘You grow up and you calm down, you start wearing blue and brown’, ‘So you rock around and think that You're the toughest In the world, the whole wide world’ is probably the only way, at this point to get the excitement of those songs again and it was a truly inspirational thing to see and was probably the first music I’ve seen in a long time that made me want to go home and pick up my guitar.


I don’t often play covers as I don’t learn songs well but I think maybe I should just to get different types of muscles working. I’m currently sandwiched between listening to two songwriters Greg Cartwright (Oblivions and a million other bands)

 and Eleanor Friedberger

who has made the no fucking around Fiery Furnaces album I’ve always wanted to hear, as a solo album. Both write songs that make you think ‘Damn! I wish I could write like that’ not because they seem to have a gift from God but because they’ve found the song building blocks that are all around and put these simple elements together to make these bits of magic. Then along comes Chuck Prophet and Spanish Bombs doing a great ‘remake’ of a batch of my favourite songs and I get the urge to stay in.


One other interesting thing I noticed.  Chuck Prophet is in his late forties and the audience were largely late thirties to early fifties. When I looked around the audience I saw weight.  There was a lot of physical weight.  I have physical weight and physical weight is part of a variety of weights that I could see. Age isn’t just age, weight and the effects of gravity are kind of the graphic representations of the weight of life. People look old because of gravity but some people seem to resist it more than others and I suppose some people have more than gravity (harder lives, children, long working hours) than others but these factors seem to add weight and gravity.  I don’t know Chuck Prophet’s situation, I’m realistic about the economics of music and who knows what’s going on with a person but playing rock n roll music looks like it’s kept weight and gravity at bay for him and for the room full of people, everyone found those songs before weight and gravity really exerted itself and I can’t help thinking that somewhere in all of the tools of resisting those forces, and in the world you see so many people who just give in to them, that those songs are a help and an night like last night was a reminder of that.

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Big Audio Dynamite [Apr. 8th, 2011|06:38 pm]

I always had a problem with Big Audio Dynamite in that they really lacked the songs.  For the second album there was that exciting time when you had the Strummer/Jones songwriting team together and songs like V thirteen and especially Sightsee MC are by far the strongest and come from that songwriting period.

I always liked the idea of the band and at that time the fact that Mick Jones was doing ANYTHING was cool, but there seemed to be too many rap/singing songs where Jones sung in the low register but without the pure singing of lost in the supermarket, more a kind of hybrid talking/singing with a three semitone range, with often a tagged on big chorus (the worst example being BAD, a truly terrible song, hardly saved by the ‘These are the things that drive me Craaaaaayzeeeee’ chorus (that last night’s audience loved). 


Don Letts, is of course completely cool and could sell potato peelings for a living and dine out on his past achievements and it’s been interesting/exciting to think about the prospect of the reformation.


Mick Jones now is this great guy.  He looks sharp in a simple suit, grins most of the time as though he’s revelling in playing to an audience, he’s a truly warm and funny guy who drops comments with a big grin like sharing a joke while getting something across. He sings ‘Robin hood, Robin hood riding through the glen’ before joking that Robin hood was an original Gangster/Terrorist, big smile, he knows there’s a kind of joke in Mick Jones saying anything political because it’s so expected from his past but is kind of gently making the point anyway.  On a few songs he gets to play guitar for the last section and again he seems to love that and it sounds great. I spent too much time thinking about him playing telecasters and what that might mean.  I remember that ultra-modern graphite neck guitar he had in BAD before and of course there were the Les Pauls/juniors while Strummer played Teles in the clash.  It sounded like Mick Jones anyway, there was even some of that delay action going on that decimates the Clash live album from the Who show where you wish you could turn it off, but it was used sparingly last  night and again sounded great.


I pretty much spent the night staring at this guy who meant so much to me 16-19 and there was nothing there not to like or be disappointed in.  When you’re 43, you live in this world where you have these visual youth conceptsand the reality around you, because everyone, audience and bands, have aged but look the same, it’s kind of like Buffy the Vampire slayer where you have distorted versions of something familiar. 


The audience is full of ME (with a liberal sprinkling of characters from Chris Ware comics), when there’s jumping around at the end, I steer clear because this isn’t 11 stone teenagers, it’s 16 stone men who think they’re teenagers and up on the stage, Mick is perfect as a Mick Jones of his age and Don Letts finally looks a little older and again comes up with the goods when his bigger parts come on.  One day these shows will feel like being in cocoon, but for now it’s Buffy.


What I love about The Clash and by extension, Mick Jones is that  there’s a kind of misconception refuted by antagonists that they were innovators when that was never really the point. Most of The Clash’s first album is what they heard the Ramones do plus a few other things but they’re not derivative in the same way that UK Subs were but did the more exciting thing of seeing something they like and having a go at it in their own way, like an actor they didn’t copy the Ramones, they said ‘what would it be like if I were the Ramones, so you do get the speed but it’s totally London and then there’s Police and thieves, that’s not a bad copy of Murvin/Perry it’s them approaching the song with their skills and seeing what they could get out of it.


London Calling is a whole album of that role playing and even things like The Magnificent Seven, which were only innovative in that a lot of Clash fans and even the journalists covering them hadn’t been exposed to those influences, were not bandwagon jumping but more a need to try to play something they like to see what happens. The results always fail in that I’m sure the dub scene found Police and thieves funny and ‘You lot, ‘What’, don’t stop, give it all you’ve got’ was probably seen as hokey from that emerging hip hop scene but that’s not the point, missing those songs meant that what they did land on was something different that no one else could do and if you’re not a wilfully irritating purist about it, an exciting musical twist.


So, Big Audio Dynamite seemed derivative even at the time but I think it’s the same game and whenever they deviate from their influences, I think they’re the most successful.  When the songs stray to a more conventional structure and less of a hip hop structure, it’s more satisfying.  I just think that the texture came before the songs too much.  The audience last night didn’t think that at all.  Totally into the big choruses and there was a lot of singing all of the complicated lines, a whole night of London versions of Subterranean Homesick Blueses.


I loved it! I don’t think a BAD show could have been better, I even waited for a bit outside to get The Last Testement signed but abandoned ship because it felt weird.  The bootleg shirts were hilarious.  Someone woke up today with a striped Denis the Mennis Big Audio Dynamite T-shirt that they will never ever wear.

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Lord of the Dance [Mar. 18th, 2011|01:16 am]

Last night I went with Alyssa (who’s birthday it was) to see Lord of the Dance 3D at cineworld.


I have always wanted to see a riverdance show for some inexplicable reason and having seen interviews with Michael Flatley, my impression is that like, say Stallone circa Rocky 4, he was a guy who has lost his mind in terms of how far to go in big entertainment and expected the show to be a hilarious spectacle. 


It began exactly how I wanted it to to with these animated flaming titles complete with tap-shoe noise cues as they emerged.  There’s some background from Flatley for about ten minutes but from then on it’s pretty much a show-film.


What was interesting, and is interesting about people in this position, is that they are a datum, a measuring point of what to do and be but more importantly of what not to do and be. 


Flatley’s job, that he works incredibly hard at and is incredibly good at, isn’t to make 27 people in a bar raise an eyebrow, it’s not to make 1400 people in a club be on-board with what he’s doing, his job is to find the common denominator between ten thousand people and then ten thousand more in tens of venuses across the whole world to blow their minds and make them happy.  It’s really easy to bring cynicism and irony to the table when looking at work this broad, and in some ways it’s appropriate to do so but in the same way that the raw energy of a half formed musical performance overturns the professional notion of rehearsal-perfection, there’s something in looking at someone at the top of the game and thinking about how and why they think, even if it’s to crawl back to our cynical self-righteous bunkers afterwards knowing that that’s not how to do it.


The other interesting thing is that behind the notion of ‘I’m not interested in broad entertainment on a massive scale’ lurks a veiled notion of ‘I choose not to do that but I could do it and be successful if I weren’t being so fucking cool and doing smaller-scale cool shit for cool people in the cool club’.


I’m not saying we need more Michael Flatleys but I think there’s a lot to learn from him even if you don’t use it.


One of the things I was struck by, that I kept yapping at with my internal naysayers jabs, was that he is a complete perfectionist.  Everything he does, the choices he makes, is to make that show immaculate.  Examples:


-He has two glamorous fiddle players who trade riffs but I’m pretty sure were miming but were the original players of the pieces and were playing the music along to the recording.

- I don’t think there was any live music, the drum kit took one second to remove because it wasn’t mic-ed up

- I’m pretty sure that for the most part the clog/tap feet noises were pre-recorded and mixed into the music played on the night.


These things seem silly to me on first glance, I’d rather hear the energy of the fiddle players playing live and see a real band but with that comes risk and lack of control. A radio mic going down, some sleepy-headed soundguy forgetting to turn a mic on, mixing errors, all of the complications of a live show.


In a seamless, perfect show, where the audience is really too far away to see fiddle fingering but can see the broad shapes of those women dancing as they play, you can remove the risk of instrument/PA channel/PA engineer problems by taking a full soundtrack eq-d for arenas that works perfectly for the whole time with no chance of hitches (barring complete break down).


The fiddle players, like the dancers are incredibly well rehearsed, rehearsed enough to hit all of the musical cues perfectly, there’s no risk there and the soundtrack is HUGE.  The Cinema had it pretty racked up so that the ridiculous hyper-compressed advert jingles sounded like Armageddon before it started and it was pretty much full-on throughout.


The show itself was kind of conservative at one end and hyper-surreal at the other (Rocky 4 territory), massive pyro, an army of rollerball/warriors/terminator inspired ‘baddies’ who beat him up and steal his ‘Lord of the Dance belt’ before he kicks some dance-move ass.  The baddies have weird skull helmets and there’s Dan Toporowski style skull faces projected on the background.


Intermingled with this narrative was a selection of group and solo pieces which are all glamour and not really about sexuality.  There’s a scene where a stage full of female dancers rip off their dresses and dance in their underwear (I think that’s where the wolf whistle appeared on the soundtrack – I imagined a soundboard with a channel labelled ‘wolf-wistle’.) and on the one hand it was a ropey idea but it was all about glamour and not about titillation as the dancework they were doing wasn’t attempting to be sexy.


It’s an interesting aspect that in it’s way, most of the show is as chaste as the ballet I saw earlier in the year. I’m always interested in the purpose of dance, as it is communication. Hybrid Irish/contemporary dancing is so steeped in tradition that all of those little movement cues that were probably incredibly hot when they were put together to represent femininity at the time and allusions to folk images like fertility, squash any notion of sexuality to a contemporary audience as it is so traditionally steeped. 


Tellingly, when the solo dancers were allowed to be sultry, most of the dancing eschewed the most traditional  movements. The purpose of lord of the Dance, crazy narratives aside is purely celebratory.  The thing that Flatley is capturing that will appeal to ten thousand/millions of people is a joyous celebration of life enacted without too much metaphorical camouflage by incredibly skilled and hard working performers.  


The point here is that this is ‘what people want’ and a lot of art is about ‘what can I do when I don’t do ‘what people want’, striving to be ‘interesting’ or ‘challenging’.  When you look at ‘people’ as the bulk of people, when your audience isn’t necessarily specialised (going to 40 shows a year) you need the basic glamorous spectacles presented by performers doing things that the audience could NEVER do to impress that many people.


You have to be an actual genius to find these things and make them work without cynicism (the audience will smell that) or condescension.  I think Flatley gets to go over the edge because his intentions are absolutely pure.


I also see it as a metaphor for right wing rather than left wing politics. In the same way that right wingers GET THINGS DONE because there is no internal debates or side-views or compromises.   The Right wing dystopia is to see a goal and make it happen, get on board for a greater good, be part of something big and powerful.  It is a dystopia but it has a lot to teach the left with it’s constant watering down and intellectual asides, democracy and ideas of fair play and the way things ‘should be’.  Lord of the dance doesn’t flounder on the debate about whether the fiddle players should play live, Flatley has heard the tape, it sounds amazing and he makes the decision.  He even admits, ‘a great army needs a great general and a great general needs a great army’. 


Flatley is a phenomenon in itself and really the icing on the cake.  The guy is in his fifties and while he’s in great shape he has spent a few years with a kind of post-viral debilitating illness. I’d liken him to a famous Spanish dancer, past their prime with an amazing past but where affection and history bring the audience to them more than half way.  My guess is he used to give himself more to do but physically limits himself, costume and flash give him an edge over the other dancers as well as his place as the star but he’s a funny guy as a performer.  He mixes matador-style proud masculine movements with the most merrie melodies flicks and quick movements that make me laugh like Chaplin does.  I’m sure these are not meant to be funny but I think it’s another side to him and reduces a sense of arrogance.  I suspect that he’s aware of how much ridicule what he does comes under from all quarters (quarters not worth £600million pounds) and tries to be gracious about it while probably being annoyed.


He’s also larger than his skin.  He looks so normal but his roles are so heroic that for me, that’s where the biggest human humour lay in the show.  There was a lingering bit where the jester’s penny whistle had been broken by the baddies (I know, I know) and Michael does a bit of business about not being able to fix it before producing a new one. It’s too long and he just looks like a dad acting badly in front of his kids but he’s projecting a heroic warrior in their calmer moments.


I loved it for the same reasons I love Hollywood. It takes a very special person to take the reins of a project THAT huge, inject style and content that goes over the edge enough to create a FUCKING SHOW, OK that person is likely to be a megalomaniac but maybe they need to be to have the self belief to take all of that on.


Anyway, Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, I salute you!






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(no subject) [Dec. 3rd, 2010|12:05 am]

Last night was pretty amazing.


I had a circular email saying that the Contemporary were giving away sets of tickets for a Paul Smith lecture and couldn’t remember it being advertised.  I’m not sure of the set up but I think it was a semi-corporate event to attract sponsors with some public availability so I joined the reserve list and on the day there was an email saying that demand was so great that they were showing the lecture in the bar on screen simultaneously.


I found this funny and thought that I’d go down and see if the weather that put people off and left some spaces and if not get some dinner while watching a live broadcast from FIFTY FEET AWAY (I’m not really mocking, I was into the hyper-reality of it).


Anyway, the telecast wasn’t necessary as me and about twelve others were allowed in as they had spare places.


All I knew about Paul Smith:


  1. Anton likes him
  2. He makes clothes
  3. He’s from Nottingham
  4. Theresa had a nice retail experience in his shop


The talk was really entertaining, exciting and inspiring.  He came across as a genuinely nice guy who was really committed to making pockets of special things and as a lecture on business practice it wasn’t a million miles from some of the heavyweights in the film DIY or Die.


He said that he’d once been to see Edward De Bono (My thought process-Wow! That’s exciting, Paul Smith went to see Edward De Bono and THIS is exciting because I get to see paul Smith speaking).  De Bono had said that you don’t change the job, the job changes you and he set out to make sure that his job didn’t change him.


After working in a shop he opened his own and spent Monday to Thursday making money with design jobs where he learned all about business and commerce and kept two days (Friday and Saturday) pure to make the shop how he’d wanted without the need for it to make money (the job changing him).  The business model of things that make money and things to keep pure was reiterated throughout and he talked about keeping expenses down, that the company had grown within it’s means, never borrowing money but keeping some in the bank and expanding carefully and really emphasised that you needed an aspect of business that had personality and individuality that could be protected and kept pure from needing to be commercially driven or driven by external pressures.  Even the concept of catwalk clothing developed this idea for him, a red suit for the catwalk  where he would sell five more red ones plus 50 of the same suit in black.


The other side of the lecture was about finding inspiration and individuality and personality.  He showed us countless slides of buildings, people, clothing from other cultures; all kinds of images and then showed how elements of those images from a pallete from a stripe scheme to a photo of a backpack from Daphne’s Handback that appeared almost full size on the back of a shirt with smaller backpack prints as well. He showed us a photo of a fabric pattern book from the 19th century (he has a room FULL of books, so much so that I almost gave him the two 110 year old Robin Hood books I had in my bag just for being inspirational).  It was amazing as he showed us how these elements were pulled from anywhere and fearlessly used to produce beautiful things.


In terms of shops he showed us some photos of street traders with suitcases on their heads or cardboard boxes saying ‘That’s his shop’ and explained how he hated cloned rolled out chains and how every Paul Smith shop was very individual from this one in LA


That has what looks like a Hollywood film-set inside, which is really wood panelling from a chateau that had been shipped in, to a small dilapidated shop in Paris that he was so into that when he bought it, he didn’t even put his name on the front and it only sells a few things to people who know that it’s there. 

He showed us an airport shop with imported wooden and stone flooring, saying that he hated airport shops and insisted that his would be different.


The talk took up most of the time and during the short Q&A he gave away scarves to people who asked questions. I didn’t get picked and wanted to ask him about fearlessness but on reflection, he’d kind of told us about that in saying that he always took care of the money in order to take the risks.


He was really funny and personable and has a great Nottingham accent which reminds you all the time that he’s from the City.


I asked him to sign something foolish for me while he was having photos taken with fans and he was happy to oblige saying ‘you might want to let that dry for a minute’.  I politely said ‘Thank you, that was really exciting’ as he got back to the photos, expecting him to have finished with me but wanting still to say it and he broke away again for a second and said ‘ah, thank you’.


It was a really inspiring hour of seeing someone who had become really successful against the grain of modern commerce (there must have been moments when he was so hot that borrowing a ton of cash to create a rash of shops to pull in the bacon would have been advisable to not let that buzz go to waste but the consequence of his business model is that he hasn’t had to watch those shops close as the economic tide goes out. It also goes a long way for me that he was also a genuinely nice guy, almost validation that all of the cynicism of commerce isn’t as necessary as it’s often painted.


So successful that when you put the word ‘Paul’ into google*, it autofills to ‘Smith’


It didn’t hurt that the last image he showed was a photo of him with Patti Smith. 





* Once again, it makes me laugh that Microsoft word does not recognise the word ‘Google’ ‘what’s that mate – never heard of it? Is it a wobbly eye used in craft?’ but DOES recognise the double-word combo of Robin Hood and corrects the capitols when you right click on it.


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(no subject) [Nov. 16th, 2010|07:28 pm]

Last night I was like a TV rummy. I did plan to watch a film and maybe do something more constructive but for some stupid reason found the Oz season FOUR box set and watched three of those, which unless it’s part of a whole thing run through is pretty sad as it had already started turning a bit ripe at that point (it took three years, so Sons of Anarchy’s substituting surrealism for ideas in the storylines is a year ahead in the shark jumping stakes).


I read an interview the other day with the guy who wrote the jumping the shark episode of Happy Days that led to ‘Jumping the shark’ becoming a phrase / website about when TV starts to go down hill.  He seemed to be annoyed at the idea saying that it was a really popular episode and Happy days ran for three more years after that, which I thought was hilarious.  It’s like Francis ford Copolla showing you a picture of a vineyard saying ‘Fuck You! Godfather III was MASSIVE, I bought this with the money!


The only other thing I really did was get sidetracked again by WFMU.  I found an interview they did with Roky Erickson where they say ‘…so were you influenced by the Buddy Holly apartment tapes…’ which made me go WOOOOOOAH! What are THEY?


I found them and they are recordings that were found on a tape recorder in Buddy Hollly’s apartment after he died. There are about five songs including a very Buddy Holly ‘Wait till the sun shines Nellie’ plus Peggy Sue got married and a few others,  The site that I found them on also had a song that he wrote in 30 minutes as a radio station challenge (a bit like the Jack White one on It might get Loud) .  They’re really nice and there is some putting away of dishes and larking sounds in the background.  Apparently the songs have been released with a load of session players filling out the recordings because this was pre the cult of the singer-songwriter unplugged idea.  What I really like is that they sound like they were recorded yesterday rather than 50 years ago.


I’ll say it again, when will they EVER get it together to put out an official Buddy Holly box set of all of the treasure that curators on the internet have been able to collect. I know it’s there to have for free but do they not like money? Does no one important enough care enough?


There is also a THREE HOUR Elvis programme which I skimmed and will listen to one afternoon that starts with the space odessy theme and runs into ‘Aint that lovin you baby’ perhaps my favourite Elvis recording.  The show has an exhaustive collection of clips including the ‘are you lonesome tonight’ where Elvis giggles for about five minutes and can’t stop to get it together to sing live.


In other news the TELLY WATCH is back!

(and it’s a suicidal maniac). Since I have been a ‘grown up’ I have had 2 Casio watches that are also TV REMOTE CONTROLS. I knackered the first one trying to change the battery and have left the other one for five years because it ran out and I didn’t want to ruin that one.  There’s a ‘watch batteries while U wait’ place on Hartley Road opposite the Gun shop, where two people struggled to fit a new battery but it’s now working!


The TELLY WATCH has loads of TV manufacturers settings in it but can also LEARN signals from other remotes that you point into the infa-red bit at the front (This is pre-21st Century technology).  Back in the day I’d stand outside a telly shop and find the right setting before turning tellys in the window to a non-channel and crank up the fizzing sound! Me and Anton went to RKO once (before he named it the Rescue Rooms – who’d a thunk!) and turned the sports bar tellys off which probably had some kind of head-kicking-in risk attached to the caper.

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(no subject) [Nov. 15th, 2010|06:56 pm]

Cool and busy weekend!


Friday night I went to see Steve (I can’t call him Steven) Severin provide live accompaniment to Cocteau’s Blood of a poet (it’s ART 24/7 for me).  The film was very beautiful.  Of course if you went down the giggle-at-the-surrealist route (a noble pursuit) it did have a man who woke up with a woman’s mouth on his hand and after some dubious self-rubbing made it kiss a statue awake.  The same guy later cheated at cards by pulling the card he needed from the jacket of the body of a child lying next to the card table, the child having been killed in a snowball fight etc etc. 

All of the actors looked amazing and the main guy had amazing hair and all of the gravity shifts were really interesting (either a revolving stage or walls glued to the floor etc so that the actors were battling gravity in an odd way or walking on walls etc. 

The soundtrack was pretty cool from interpreted score to electronica.  I’m not sure how much was live. Steve Severin had a laptop by the side of the screen and I think he was triggering some samples but on the whole it seemed mainly there.  There was a cool sense of drama in him arriving, being there and leaving the room immediately and he stayed to sign stuff.


I didn’t have any badge circles so asked Steve Severin from Siouxsie and the Banshees to sign a Zimbabwe 50,000,000,000 note (what? I’d just watched a man kissing the lips on his hand and this is the same week I heard about cows brains in engines – the world’s a weird place!).  He was nice and I said ‘you wrote the bass line to pulled to bits?’ and he said ‘of course’ and I told him it’s one of my favourite riffs ever, which it is, I can’t pick up a bass without playing it.


On Saturday I lost my mind a bit. The contemporary were having a birthday party and I’d arranged with Sarah and Caitlin to go because they had the photo booth up again and had encouraged people to take their teddys to have photos taken. Chi Chi is my 40 year old Panda who I rescued from the back of a cupboard about 4 years ago at home and who is knackered apart from a lovely scarf that Alysa made him. He looks so damaged that Jaynie once wasn’t happy that I left him at her house.


I haven’t seen him for a while but wanted to find him and after sinkin hours into looking, got annoyed with myself for not being more organised.  He’s a TEDDY, not a watch or something small, it should be hard to lose him. I had a projected view of the future that wouldn’t not include taking him fighting the reality that it wasn’t going to happen which made me too grumpy to go out to the Corner store’s last club night in the evening.


Instead I saw an altercation in Aldi where a guy was being prevented from leaving by a huge member of the public (I don’t know the backstory).  The security guard was phoning the details through to the police and the guy wanting to leave eventually picked up a bottle of spirits and threatened to bludgeon the big guy and the guard in order to leave.  The manager also stepped in saying that the guy couldn’t just leave with the weapon as it belonged to the shop.  This stand off complete with the guard saying ‘I’m just a bloke with a wife and two kids who wants to get through this’. Eventually the police came and took the protagonists away, the punchline being when they asked the manager to value the bottle of spirits it came up at about £3.50. Only in Aldi!


I watched a dodgy film called Chloe, a remake of a French sexy-drama with Juliette Lewis and Liam Neeson which wasn’t sexy or dramatic, maybe because it was a remake and not French and the continuing escalation of Sons of Anarchy into surrealism that would make Cocteau blush (American Bikers fly to Belfast, all get to borrow big bikes and fight renegades from the IRA who are in a fight with the real IRA  and the police/army are ignoring the lot etc). 

I also immersed myself in a new obsession – Roky Erickson.


MFMU have a link to a Halloween mix-tape, by the Onion which has the amazing song Bloody Hammer by Roky Erickson. Now, I knew he was in 13th floor elevators and knew the name because people like Frank Black and Violent Femmes and loads of other people like him but Psychadelia is a hard sell for me, it ticks a load of indulgent 60s boxes the need to empathise with the druggy elements of the music is boring to me.


Roky Erickson is different though. I’ve read about his history of serious psychiatric illness and in the same way that Daniel Johnston sings about the Devil and supernatural things as though they were groceries and people he knows, Roky Erickson does the same but is totally immersed in the world of horror films so imagine Jack Black doing his Tenacious D thing but MEANING every word.


He has an incredibly ringing and clear voice and you’d think that when he was singing about vampires and the Bermuda triangle that he was preaching about bringing the government down or preparing for battle with no sense of theatricality or irony.  I’m sure that a lot of the appeal is the same as with Daniel Johnston but instead of lo-fi fragile music, you get crashing slabs of garage rock without the affectations of horror-tinged metal, which is, of course a load of bullshit because it pretends to be so outrageous and powerful but also needs to let you know that it’s only fooling but still wants credit for the power.


I found a great radio show with demos from his first album interspersed with interview where he characteristically answers very shortly as in ‘what do like about that song Roky?’ ‘ I just like it’.  The guy has been through heavy medication, ECT and varying amounts of looking after and exploitation from the people around him but seems in stable shape and is musically in amazing shape at 60.




I was telling Theresa, at practice, that Roky Erickson is mad but then realised that I didnt’ go out on Saturday night because I couldn’t find my teddy.


On Sunday I FOUND CHI CHI just before I left to go to town, went around some shops with Sarah and Caitlin before going to the Contemporary where I got told off for letting Caitlin touch the ropes on the BIG TEDDY at the contemporary and taking photos (both fair cops). We did photos in the booth which were OK but out of synch

(you’d be the last one on someone else’s set of four) and they had phone-style software putting party hats on you on the photo. Caitlin had a go of the big craft teddy she was allowed to touch – they have a craft materials budget that makes me envious from a Jumpers perspective. I really like the contemporary’s family activities.


Then I went to see Troll 2 at the Screen Room at Kneel Before Zod, a new film club that Rich and his friends have started showing good-bad films on Sunday afternoons each month at.


The set up was really nice, a table full of cakes, you can buy actual mugs of tea to drink in the cinema and they had sequenced the trailors and video certificate warning from that Radio 1 DJ from the VHS, had created a flash animation logo for Kneel before Zod and put a trailer up for the next film (silent night, Deadly night 2). You also got a cute little membership card (mine was number 2 as I got a ticket then came back to avoid disappointment, left my bag as a seat saver and ended up sitting next to Jaynie).  Rich did an intro to the film in the Picardgan (A cardigan that Martha knitted based on a star trek uniform) and there was also the trailer to the Troll 2 documentary ‘Worst Best Film’.

 Troll 2 definitely isn't the worst film ever, by far. In many ways it's a good film. If a grown-up had tidied the script up - funnied up the sillier devices or toned them down it would have been a better script than that glut of post-gremlins copycats of the 80s.


It also proves that finding the textural rules of a genre are more precarious than you'd think. There is a bit of lo-rent bullet time (everything stops) that has been used in other films to fair effect but looked ridiculous, an overly theatrical character that would have been Helena Bonham carter in a modern film and some tricksy camera work that in other, more subtle hands would have totally worked. The bad acting is a problem because bad acting always yanks us out of the movie and if bad acting isn't a rule of the film (like it would be with Shane Meadows or John Waters) it's a constant clunk that keeps clunking. At it's heart, it's not a bad yarn which is why people have embraced it, seemingly in spite of themselves, but really because the fundamentals are more solid than the details.


I loved the club feel of the afternoon and really hope that there is a sustained interest.  Next month it’s silent night deadly night 2 which also looks amazing!


After a stop off at home, I then went for Burly Nagasaki practice with Theresa for our show at Jumpers on Thursday where we made our short set a bit more Alley Café friendly (quieter) with some re-arranging including a radical strip-down of one of the songs. It was a cool practice with lots of gassing and I’m looking forward to the show.


In other news, we have a date for the Twenty Year Hurricane live album recording show, 28th January, which seems like a long way away but will probably feel like day after tomorrow.

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(no subject) [Nov. 13th, 2010|12:19 pm]

What a night!  Thursday is the new weekend!  If I hadn’t been floor-dippingly tired from not sleeping well, I’d have risked the suicidal Thursday latey but by then we’d had three nights of fun already for one night.


Me and scot went to lecture club / art school / the building where we are studying fine art/whatever hilarious title we’re giving it to see Roger Hiorns give a talk.  The blurb for him was kind of vague but I’d sent he bench on fire at the contemporary and thought that was cool.


We sit at the side/back mainly because Scot gets there late and there are seats but there were some naughty kids there last night.  My guess is they were doing some FE art course and went were told to go and decided it would be muck about central but left ten minutes in, which was a shame because it would probably have been interesting seeing how long they mucked about for.


Roger Hiorns looks about 25 and is really 35, was selected for the turner prize and this is what he’s done:


He has a bench on fire at the Contemporary that sometimes has a man-nudie sitting on the non-firey end.

He has jizzed on lightbulbs and displayed those


He has jizzed on lightbulbs and pointed them at the acropolis in Greece (more popular with younger Greeks than older ones apparently)


He’s put the brain of a calf into an engine and exhibited that


The calf had seen him and hence the brain had a memory of the artist before the calf ‘died’


Ground down a plane engine and displayed the dust in the Tate (10 minutes set-up, four and a half hours clean up)


Poured 750,000 litre  of copper sulphate solution into a condemed flat so that it encrusted the walls/bath with blue crystals – and was nominated for the Turner prize for it.


Covered engines and model cathedrals in copper sulphate which slowly ate the engines.  He sold one to the Tate who asked him how to

look after it when he explained the point was that it was destroying/eating itself. Probably not good from their investment point of view.


Has mixed brain matter with plastic to sculpt copulating homosexual figures (not for Franklin Mint to sell in the back of Sunday supplements alas)


Has worked with Heathcoat ‘Whale Nation’ Williams (which impressed me)


He was kind of nervous and kept playing with his nose but very friendly and warm with the audience and totally up for questions and interruptions. He talked about not wanting to become a ‘personality artist’ known for one thing (Being cow-brain in an engine guy is going to stop you being jizzy light-bulb guy).  He said some interesting things about being interested in materials first and foremost and if I get it properly (it was pleasantly disjointed) interested in new materials in the sense of discovering material for the first time (any material) and using it for the first time with new or repurposed materials.


What was fascinating, in a world where concept of the project is so prominent, was that he wasn’t interested in interpretation, labelling etc of the project as a whole, as the material itself was interesting. Which spun your mind into ‘am I doing it right if I don’t try to find meaning in the resulting object outside itself?’, which is, of course, as rigid a definition/interpretation as saying it’s about ‘the sea engulfing the land’ or some such nonsense, so it was confusing in terms of what we were supposed to do with it but probably because it wasn’t the point, it was all in the behaviour of the materials and you got a sense not that he didn’t care how it was interpreted or that flakey ‘any way you want to’ line but it was actually none of his concern what happened to it once his work was finished (and the work of the piece carried on on it’s own).


There were some ideas in the materials, the cow had a sense of him (had seen him) before it died so there was a sense of him in the work, his films had him in it as had the photo that the nudie on the burny bench that the contemporary piece is based on and jizzing on the lightbulbs cast a sense of him in the light projected.  He said that he didn’t think semen sexualised the object, which was the only real point that I didn’t believe as it is inescapable, given the choices of human element that he could have picked.


I kind of took all of the points on board and didn’t raise too much of an eyebrow (fine art is bullshit central so you can’t get too upset when you hear things that seem off-kilter) but it was a pretty even experience until we left.


The minute the doors closed two pennies dropped:


  1. He.Is.INSANE. Good insane but one day could be JOKER insane (‘My next project involves blue crystals growing ON YOUR LUNGS) *room fills with blue chemicals drowning everyone in the room.
  2. He blew my mind! This gathered momentum to the point that by the time we saw Theresa a few hours later, it was like we’d just seen Rocket from the Crypt.  In fact this morning was a morning after the gig you weren’t sure you loved but you definitely DO.


He seems like a pretty exciting guy who had a realistic understanding of the world (referenced how funding can keep a studio working for x amount of time), was having fun while exploring, philosophically the nature of the fundamentals of material, had some cool funny shock-aspects that were ‘OK’ outrageous rather than feeling like he was bucking for shock value.  The Jizz lights seemed interesting to him rather than HEY AUDIENCE, PRESS AND CONSERVATIVES I JIZZED ON A LIGHTBULB – CHECK ME OUT BIIIIIIIIITCHEEEEEES!

He said the word semen very quietly the first few times so that it only sunk in later and the giggles grew.


Then me and scot went for a Party’s on curry ath the Balti house which was tasty and cool as we shot the shit with the owner, who is a lovely guy, but later the amount of fat gave me weird stomach spasms because I’m not used to armaGheedon any more.


Then we went to the Chameleon for the Kogumaza show that the band had pulled all the stops/facebook favours out to get people to and it worked.  Dusty Bible’s guitar sounded amazing and I always like the songs, Gareth Hardwick sent me off thinking about cool things and Kogumaza were AMAZING.  I kind of remember what I thought about them at Spanky Van Dykes show earlier in the year but they seem so much more like three musicians totally locked into each other and making a single giant tribal noise.  It’s as though they’ve all grown around/into each other as musicians which has transformed the overall sound and while parts of it can be riffy and even, there were changes and parts that were really exciting. I’ll never understand how you play songs that have more than about 32 bars in a piece (I need lyric cues to split the fours up) unless someone counts but maybe you need to be a perfectionist as a musician to work that out.


Me and Scot evangelised about our new favourite Jizz and brains artist, we ate well but badly and new  ‘A’s torn by Chris Neil and Katie. I pity the weekend that has to follow that.


The weekend of Steve(n) Severin, Teddys at the Contemporary, Art lecture at the Broadway, TROLL 2 and Burly Nagasaki practice.


I pity the week that has to follow that.


A week with Jumpe…..( it never ends)

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(no subject) [Nov. 13th, 2010|11:32 am]

Last night was cool. Marek Kukula http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marek_Kukula from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich gave a talk entitled ‘Cosmos and Culture’ at the Contemporary.


His job is to engage the public in Astronomy  (I wonder if he gets asked whether a Capricorn should invest money today very often) so he produced a telly-quality talk about the relationship between art and astronomy which went back on itself when he explained that some of what we see as photographically ‘true’, images such as spikes in modern pictures of stars and transcribed colour in images that are outside the visible spectrum are artifacts of the process of creating that image and are a stylisation in themselves that gets lodged in the public consciousness of what something is.


 The diagonal lines in the stars are an artefact from the mirror configuration of the telescope mimicking a dodgy cokin filter from the 1980s

On the flip side he showed us some very affected-looking illustrations made by astronomers pre- photography that were painstakingly drawn or painted and revealed how accurate they were when compared with images created by modern technology.  As astrology is half about communicating information to people who don’t have an eye to the telescope, he explained that astronomers had traditionally had to be artists as well.


What I found interesting was that the public face of Astronomy was full of mind-blowing images when the internal world is made up of complex, often mathematical debates and images that are probably far from inspiring in that way (don’t get me wrong, scientific images can be amazing in their own way) and a couple of times he’d say ‘for a variety of reasons I won’t go into…’ not to be condescending or evasive but because going into them would be another hour when ‘tell us about art and astronomy’ in an hour to someone who knows so much about astronomy would be like asking me ‘what cultural nonsense do you like?’ 


And the language of the public images as with some of the descriptive language, words ‘like miraculous’ seemed to be derived from images produced by theologically motivated artists, massive massive pieces of space filled with bright lights and stunning colours, some of which had been chosen for the images as the feature shown would be part of the invisible spectrum but not garish artificial ‘highlighted in red’ colours to emphasise the highlighting but the palate you would want to see if you wanted to be awed rather than informed.  I formed a kind of tired-headed question about this that almost made me long-question guy, where it kind of lost it’s way and found a ‘are you expressing the same enormity’ way instead of a ‘are you using the theological signifiers to present the up to the minute science of astronomy as beyond truth, or something.  He gave a cool answer, about subjectivity and wanting to draw the public into astronomy, even talking about interest and funding but kind of evaded the theological element of the question, I think, saying only that people do have their own personal interpretations and motivations.  On reflection, it was a good answer to a clumsy question.


The other thing that was interesting was that this was a discussion about astronomy and art commissioned to coincide with the works upstairs but never including them.  I’m struggling with taking disparate groups of artists and displaying them together and ALSO imposing a theme of astrology on something so varied and often already laden with concept in the pieces and I’m not sure why the ‘Theme’ of this kind of show has been set and also worry that with a group of people that can lend themselves to finding significance and meaning wherever they can get it (‘I find indifference to my work interesting’) that they will extrapolate embarrassingly contrived connections between the theme and their work. It kept the night clean and self-contained to not mention the subject of the talk as the subject of the show.


There were also some ‘boys adventures’ child-like bits of excitement to the talk.  On 6th June 2012 I want to get up early/stay up late to watch the Transit of Venus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transit_of_Venus,_2012 where Venus will move visibly in front of the sun. It will be more than 100 years until the next one and it’s the method by which, for centuries, the size of the universe was calculated.  The other thing that blew my mind was where he showed a slide of The Royal Observatory and said, ‘my office is just around that corner’ because, even though I KNEW he worked there, it hadn’t sunk in that he worked IN there and that he spent his working day a minute away from the Prima Meridian, the point in the world that dictates how the whole world measures it’s time. Greenwich always seems like a pain to get to and back from when I have down-time on a London day trip but I NEED to see those clocks!  Maybe I’ll get a cheap train to London, look at original Russian Criminal Tattoo pictures and some old clocks and not go and look at guitars in Denmark Street.



In other news, I’m excited about seeing Steve “Steven” Severin at the Broadway this weekend. If this was 1987, I would probably be playing-up with excitement as I found Siouxsie and the Banshees before I really found the Clash (all roads lead from Adam and the Ants).  They were a massive band for me as a kid, and also headed loads of music paper polls year after year but I think they’re probably a harder sell now than the Cure to younger people.  I’m not sure if the music is so much dated as a ride you had to jump on when things were kind of simple that you didn’t notice getting less accessible. I got on at Juju, which was a commercial spike with Spellbound and Arabian Knights but I’m sure fans are all about Nightshift on that album, a song which would definitely be a hard-sell now. 


Who knows what he’ll come up with.  In the Banshees, he was songwriter and bass player and while I remember bitchy comments about him ‘not being good’ as a bass player  (in the same way some people say Lars Ulrich is ‘not very good’ and when you question them they come up with some mumbling nonsense about not being as tight as other drummers at that speed, which is where it’s my job to start walking away) but for me, he was GREAT because he wrote great parts. That turnaround thing in ‘Pulled to bits’ is one of my all-time favorite musical phrases and they were a bass/drums heavy band so I loved him as  musician and of course, he’s in one million cool punk pictures.


The other thing I’m excited about is Nina Nastasia playing at GLEE (of all places) next month.  The new album rules, it’s got some woodwind harmonies I don’t like on it but the songs stretch all over the place and there are some beautiful arrangements that haven’t got woodwind harmonies I don’t like on them, sometimes jazzy, sometimes eastern European in influence and sometimes cinematic (a dodgy word but there is a tradition of scores).


I need to jump into the brackets at the end of the last sentence.  One of the advantages of upgrading to a SUPERPHONE INFINITY INTERNET (xperia X10) with all the crazy other ‘advantages’ (white noise machine, on board CPU video) is that there is an app to listen to WMFU radio, something I’ve never really done as I don’t listen to the radio a lot and never on my computer but I can lie in bed listening to relentless collages of audio clips and people having interesting but going nowhere chats when I want to.  I was reminded of it while reading Evan Dorkin’s  livejournal and have found, in the archive there this INCREDIBLE 70 minute podcast Halloween mix, which is just a tragedy that the horse has bolted for this year for.  It’s not Halloween songs but a collection of non-obvious film score extracts from different horror styles that fit together perfectly and create a perfect Halloween soundtrack.  There’s only one metal track on there and that says sorry by having a perfect Vincent Price sample over the top. I urge anyone to download this, have a bit of a listen and have it ready for next year.``


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Catch up and Art Rant [Nov. 9th, 2010|10:33 pm]

I don’t really know how I’ve got out of the habit of updating, it’s not as though I don’t want to or cool things haven’t happened in fact the following have:


Me and Teej had a meeting with 20 year hurricane about doing a live album at  the Chameleon:


  1. We had contracts with $50 trillion buy on fees
  2. Gareth snorted kettle chips through his note
  3. We larked HARD
  4. We did a load of planning
  5. We found out what we wanted to do recording, art, show wise or at least were on our way
  6. It’s going to RULE


Me and Teej played at Spanky Van Dykes with four or five Magicians and Ace Bushey Striptease (band names but in an alternative dimension….) which ruled.  The High Society guys Stephen and Sai are super nice, elvis questions went well, we sold even more albums, I liked Ace bushey Striptease who did a bit of an X Ray Spex cover, I thought the guitarist from four or five magicians had some great sounds and got sonic youth sounds out of a Blues Junior. The sound guy struggled with the set up and no lighting and Spankys seems an odd set up.


Hello Gore II was the Greatest, marred only by my not eating before hand and not wanting to go to Tescos as Frankenstein. Me and Teej broke the seal with the Buffy Theme which was the MOST fun to rehearse and play and made us realise that if you were in a band that had a one 44 second song, it would be the funnest thing to rehearse in the world.  Me and Alyssa did Science Fiction Double Feature, which whe sacked ‘Country Death Song’ for.  I had to do REAL SINGING and rein everything in, Alyssa can do REAL SINGING standing on hr head.  It sounded excellent in rehearsal and we did well on the night despite prioritising our costumes over a soundcheck.  Hello Gore was the even of the year so far, everyone looked incredible, the bands rulled the earth, Hot Horizons dedicated Skull by The Misfits to me and Black Powder played They live by Night. The Hang out was top notch although I have noticed that there is a strange upset in people engaging with you when you have a mask on. It ended at three am in the Turf Tavern with Matt and Kate where we pondered the value of the Gibson Les Paul Junior (again!)


Hockley Hustle was also very cool.  I’d had a six am-er with James the night before which, while being the best way to temporally move Sunday morning to Saturday night meant that I had only enough energy to camp in the Jam Café and watch the Hello Thor show, some sonic Youth covers from Fresh Eyes for the Dead Guy in the social.


Mayhem was also cool. Alien Vs ninjas was trashy fun with a super hottie, Frenzy, which I have but have never watched (from where I bought two Hitchcock box sets) is AMAZING. Clunkily written like a 120 minute episode of The Sweeny (complete with wincingly our of date political incorrectness like ‘I hear he rapes them first’, ‘Yes every cloud has a silver lining’ but with Hitchcock magic in spades, close to the knuckle violence, clever but not ‘clever’ camera work and I fancied billie Whitelaw while still being a tiny bit terrified of her. Amer, was a really long Italian advert for a nut-job (what’s the market for them?) with rich cinematography, three lines of dialogue and every story-smashing piece of disrupted cinema language subversion that was so extreme that I found it kind of compelling but don’t want to see another film in that genre. Altitude was a great example of where ideas meets megashark-low low budget and apart from over reaching themselves a couple of times with effects (we can do this with the computer so we should do it) a force of creativity in it’s way and ‘we are what we are’ was very ‘worthy’ as an indie Mexican zombie film but didn’t quite have enough meat for me on 5 hours sleep and being 5th film of the day.  Once again I salute Mayhem!


Me and Scot have been going to what we call Lecture Club, where artists from the British Art Show exhibition give lectures to Trent art students as part of their curriculum and members of the public are invited .  There have been three so far.  Last week was Matthew Darbyshire who collects contemporary objects, who I expected to be a chancer but who had sunk a lot of thought (some a little academic) into his work so that it was interesting on balance despite his speaking so quietly it was a struggle.  Olivia Pinder’s was kind of interesting, she spoke very very eloquently but I had faint concerns about the amount of substance especially as she had gone away for six weeks with actors and non actors and ‘wasn’t sure’ what they were going to do with the footage and she showed footage of actors improvisation exercises, which looked wacky and out-there but having slapped around in a dance studio in my bare feet for a term myself, I recognised as improvisation exercises with a point that looked funny from the outside.


The red mist came down two weeks ago, though, when we went to see Edgar Shmitz tell us that he was the LAZIEST CHANCER ON EARTH.  I have to paraphrase here because this community can spin such a line of  bullshit and make so much out of so much nothing that it makes me want to take them by the heels and tip them upside down until the public funding falls out of their pockets and Shmitz was the most anger-inducing example I’ve seen since the Otolith Group who I ranted about after the Star City Symposium, who have almost sent me on a killing spree by being nominated for the Turner prize but still being so HEROICALLY LAZY that their website is still ‘under construction’. Edgar Smitz had brought along a clip of a Japanese man tap dancing ineptly to an orchestra on Japanese telly, that he had found on youtube and gave us the insight that the dancer was a comedian/director really hence the clunkiness and that this was ‘interesting’.  Lets break this down:


-The orchestra was made up of professional musicians who had given YEARS of effort and study to their skills as musicians

-The guy dancing was something other than a dancer and KNEW THIS but realised that his performance would be INTERESTING and had spent hours and hours tap dancing to the best of his ability.

-The director of the piece KNEW that this was interesting and cut the film to accentuate this in the course of his professional work.

-The Studio bought/scheduled the piece because THEY saw all of these interesting characteristics when they commissioned and paid for it

- The guy who found the film and uploaded it to Youtube also saw all of these ‘interesting’ characteristics, which is WHY he uploaded it.


Then our hero comes in and presents the efforts of all of these people, stating what they have ALL already implied as some kind of artistic statement and is being bankrolled for a year’s work with the British Art Show.

Somewhere in Japan an 'artist' is bein paid for showing art students youtube footage of Wild thing by Oliver Reed


He also told us about a show he was flying to where he planned to watch 7 hours of Korean films but ended up just watching the trailers ‘The trailer is interesting because it shows the best bits of a film in a highly intense wa….WE KNOW!’. When he got to where he was going his ‘anti preparation’ [not doing any work – honestly, he REALLY used that phrase] had left him ‘wrong footed’ [fucked] so he had to REALLY watch the films. His ‘Practice’ (Jesus Christ –that elevates larking around to the status of the work of a DOCTOR) is often to split a film’s soundtrack and visual components and put them in different places in a gallery and he has noticed that often, people will completely miss them and he is INTERESTED IN THEIR INDIFERENCE! Who else would try to squeeze some kind of merit and credit from the painfully obvious reality that no one cares about what you are doing? I can’t imagine that M Knight is ‘interested’ in people not-showing up to his films in droves, he’s probably thinking about what he could DO BETTER.


By the time I left, I was thankful for not being able to stay for the Q&A because I would have made a dick of myself by asking about all of this nonsense in front of the fine artists of the future and a guy from the New Art Exchange who sat NODDING at this rubbish throughout like it wasn’t a man saying ‘I do hardly any work and no one looks at my stuff’. I was SO ANGRY, mainly because this sheer amount of inactivity is funded publically.  King John is looting every aspect of public expenditure and this is happening with the nodding of approval from the infrastructure that is supposed to police it, surely it’s time to CLEAN HOUSE before Torygeddon does it.


There’s also a disproportionate amount of art in the show that is ABOUT how art is displayed. Edgar Shmitz himself talked about having place a film of soldiers ransacking bookshelves because that’s not what you are supposed to do in a gallery space (how THIN is that? Not a piece where HE threw a load of books across a gallery but a bit of a film where soldiers did that and it’s meant o be jarring because you don’t do that in a gallery (of the infinite things you don’t do in a gallery – the film would be equally valid in the at concept if it had been James bond shooting a room up or Ben Dover…) .  How can so much art be about how art is displayed? We live in incredibly interesting times and those artists can't LEAVE THE GALLERY for subjects for their work. Incredible!


So picture the scene, I’m walking out seething and head shaking (‘but but isn’t your violent disapproval ‘interesting’,  NO IT’S LITERAL!)  and heading for ART TALK number 2 feeling like the Grand Wizard of the Daily Express Readers club.


So I get to the Broadway where Anders has tipped me off that a digital artist called Raphael Rozendaal was giving a talk.  I’d checked out his pieces on line (he describes them as websites but they are somewhere between games and animation) and they had all been interesting, very vectory graphics that behave very playfully and organically with you so that you can spend a lot of time with something very simple and it not lose it’s charm.  I vented on Anders and Ali about my experience at Trent but calmed down and settled in to the talk.


There were only about 10 people in  the small room in the Broadway and Raphael talked us through his websites while demonstrating how they worked. He calls them websites because essentially he uploads the digital pieces to a domain and then sells the domain with a contract that the content must stay there and continue to be available to the public. Boom! It’s 2010, debate rages internationally about how 1s and 0s have made all kinds of media virally stealable and how and if this needs to be curbed and how people who produce content can be paid for what they do. Here is someone who has created an infinitely copyable piece that doesn’t need to be copied because it’s available all the time but he’s managed to anchor the uniqueness that makes it one of a kind in the web domain that can’t be duplicated.  The buyer has a sense of ownership that someone who lends a piece to a gallery or museum but who owns it legally and there are facets of old fashioned art patronage in the idea. In one aspect of his business practice, there is more to think about and talk about than in the hour of waffle I’d escaped from and that wasn’t even about his work.


What was refreshing was the lack of front in the discussion. If he was asked about his fears for digital art he answered that his pieces are mouse-driven and the mouse is dying and would not be self deprecating about, say the thought process but would be realistic and not take credit for something he didn’t think was something he strove to do in contrast to a guy who wants a clap for no one caring about his work. It was like talking to a film-maker or someone who is truly accountable to himself and the world outside to a lesser extent to be able to continue to work. I asked him about gallery plaques that say what the piece should say and he was transparent, he said he displays at galleries and sometimes they want that plaque, sometimes they don’t and it’s a thing you do as part of being exhibited in that space.


At one point he was being a little disparaging about big-room art when one of the audience members jumped on this as though he was disparaging all artists and there was a weirdness in the air for such a small group, but he was cool and tried to smooth it over while not really backtracking.


It was the perfect antidote and restored a kind of balance in the visual art world for me (I had thought he had been there as part of Game City but it was a one off).


He was very generous with his time and stayed over the time and then as he was leaving he said ‘we’re going next door to have some Indian food, would you like to join us….I’m not paying!’ and we went for a curry with him at Kayal and shot the shit about a variety of things all night.  It was a really cool encounter with someone making interesting work.


Anyway his stuff is here and you could easily kill an hour or so playing with the websites.




 I’m sure I’ve missed loads of other cool things that have happened. Me and Theresa are preparing for a Burly Nagasaki show where it all began at Jumpers for Goalposts in a couple of weeks and I’m looking foreword to seeing Troll 2 at the screen room, that Rich is putting on on Sunday, having seen the documentary about it ‘Best Worst Movie’ last night.  Troll 2 is a low-budget movie, originally called Goblins (it has no trolls in it) that has nothing to do with Troll 1 other than the name, that died in the 80s when it was made but has recently had a cult revival, partly because it looks pretty ropey but I suspect because it was made as though they were making a great movie and good people are suckers for that energy.  The Documentary is great, you see this cast of characters overjoyed at the attention and then almost feeling that they deserved it all along as the phenomenon builds momentum.


Finally, I saw a documentary last week at Sarah’s about William Castle, the guy who I’d always heard of as the guy who had electrified cinema seats as a gimmick. The documentary was amazing, what a guy! And his daughter painted him as someone everyone loved, who was a nice guy with cool-crazy ideas.  The REAL story of the seats (which coincidentally I also heard about this week listening to John Waters’ commentary to Polyester) is that in THE TINGLER the story goes that when you get frightened an creature growns on your spine that you kill off by screaming (I think). Some of these are extracted (by VINCENT PRICE) and, of course runamok.


Now, the cool bit is that there is a cinema scene that they run to to try to catch it (incidentally watching The Tolable David, a silent film I went to see with Alyssa a couple of years ago) and then Vincent Price announces that the Tingler is loose in THIS THEATRE! There is fake film-breaking and a silhouette of the creature at which point buzzers in the chairs go off and the audience, who have been pre-warned in an intro are told that to combat this, they should SCREAM for their lives. 

Castle set all of this up complete with Nurses in the foyer and I am SO EXCITED about it that I want to see if I can make it a reality in Nottingham by finding out how to make a cheap buzzer for the seats and then seeing where it could be played next Halloween. The screen room is the obvious choice – maybe two shows a night for a three day run 150 people in all – but I’m getting my thinking cap on to see if it would be doable.

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Even better.. [Oct. 24th, 2010|01:26 pm]

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