Thursday, December 11, 2008
I nearly died today, by about two inches. The car brushed past my leg. I could have been grafitti on the wall on Brook Road. Real St. Paul's grafitti, representing the real St. Paul's. Not a cultural melting pot with a yearly festival of drums and juggling and bass bins and Carribean food, but a very poor and undernourished shit hole where fatherless fifteen year old kids car jack and kill people on joy rides.
My friend Jess said this may be a sign. If I had a watch i would have looked at it repeatedly, waiting for significance. I found none in the skies, nor on my phone. I went home, bought beer and watched Pan's Labrynth, for the third time. Today I nearly died. But I didn't. A few inches of random spacetime spared me. "I'll kill the little bastard" said Mike, a local I've known on and off over the years, a Montpelier figure. Mad Mike. Good bloke Mad Mike. He saw all of it. He was controlling the crowd, he was in his element. I left it to him, went home, I looked at my wrist, my still-functioning wrist where a watch will never be, because watches don't suit me, but I am still waiting for a sign. I am still alive. I'm not a victim of the Parish of St. Paul. What else do I want.
I hope they catch the little bastard. That's what I want.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Max Webertron has just informed me that Saturday November 29th is "Buy Nothing Day"
"Saturday November 29h 2008 is Buy Nothing Day, It's a day where you challenge yourself to switch off from shopping and tune into life. The rules are simple, for 24 hours you will detox from consumerism and live without shopping. Anyone can take part provided they spend a day without spending! Buy Nothing Day is the biggest 24-hour moratorium against consumerism. People around the world will make a pact to take a break from shopping as a personal experiment or public statement and the best thing is - IT'S FREE!!!"
Right on! Punish an already wheelchair-bound economy and put more people out of work! Great job! This is the smug face of the ideologically decadent, economically and historically ignorant gentrification of the Left. They should try selling this shit to the coal miners in the 70's who couldn't afford to buy their kids a half-decent Christmas present.
We can quite comfortably leave buying nothing to the billions of people suffering in abject poverty the world over, thanks.
Anyone with some spare cash should spend it to help poor working families keep their jobs. This, 'Buy Nothing Day" people, is real 21st Century Socialism in action. Every Middle Class Lefty should put their money where their mouth is.
I personally know a few families who would benefit greatly from other people splashing out, not on them, but on themselves. If you are not too badly off, spend a bit at Christmas, help the retailers stay afloat and help people keep their jobs. There has never been an easier and more personally rewarding way to help the poor! All you have to do is buy yourselves stuff.
I am quite serious. These kind of simplistic 'Anti-Capitalist' ideas come from people who have never considered the other side of the argument because they don't know what that argument is. They don't know what Capitalism is. You could never accuse Marx of not knowing his enemy. Capitalists learned plenty from his acute analysis.
The best thing these 'anti-capitalists' can do is go back to the classroom, read Marx, read Weber's 'Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism', familiarise themselves with the basic tenets of Keynesian and Monetarist theory, read up on the history of the labour movement, which in the UK was born not of Communist theory but of the workforce of the industrial revolution taking it upon themselves, through solidarity, strong leadership (sorry Anarchists) and force of numbers, to get a better deal. Anti-capitalists need to understand the history of peasant's revolts, the Diggers, worker's co-operatives, trade unionism and the importance of visionary philanthropists and Christian groups such as the Fabian Society in sermonising the moral necessity of of non-revolutionary, non-violent social reform.
Then, when they've all done their homework to a reasonable standard they can re-think their facile stance and see me after class.
Wes, editor of Attack!!! magazine pointed "I usually buy nothing several days of the week." Same here. Didn't even think of that. Do these Anti-Capitalists harbour guilty secrets? Spiralling credit card debts and cupboards full of designer shoes they never wear? Doth the lady protest too much?
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Regarding Mark Ronson’s cover of “Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before” by the Smiths.
Well, I was blind-sided.
In my gentle naiveté, I just took it for granted that anyone who 'got' The Smiths, and in particular appreciated this song as an example of Morrisey and Marr at the top of their game wouldn’t be capable of such arrogant, howling horseshit.
Which lead me to some thoughts about Johnny Marr and his pilloried post-Smiths career.
Even by the point of “Stop me…” Morrissey and Marr were still not functioning in the manner of a traditional song writing duo. They never did. Johnny was still sending guitar lines of verses and choruses over which Morrissey would sing his own vocal melodies with lyrics he had been working with, often before hearing any particular music. Sometimes it was the other way around, with Morrissey's lyrics inspiring Johnny's increasingly virtuoso multi-tasking. An early and particularly bewildering example is “How Soon Is Now”. This song would have been, purely technically speaking, a slightly simpler affair these days. But this was a world of pre-MIDI effects and click track software, so the song's syncopated juddering tremolo guitar and drum rhythm was spliced together from multiple takes. Johnny used at least one Boss Tremelo Panning pedal running through several amps. With this pedal, you set the rate of the tremolo effect, and the waveform (in this case a square wave) and depth (in this case as low as possible), hit the guitar and out comes the magickal "judder-du-du-du-du-du-du...." that throws your heart around the room. You try to strum along in the same timing and this can be done with practice, but you must change chords at the right time; that is, to the rhythm of the device, ignoring any natural rhythm you are building up. You can’t listen to yourself. You listen to the pedal’s output, and as an analogue device, the Boss Tremelo/Panning pedal itself goes out of time; it is not a stable mechanism. Mike Joyce, poor sod, had to play along to this and stay completely in sync not with Johnny but with the pedal. Thus, after about 20 or so seconds, they would understandably lose the syncopation and do more takes. Eventually they pretty much got all the parts they needed down on tape. Johnny painstakingly spliced these together, adding countless guitar overlays and effects (I've counted at least seven). Andy Rourke overlaid bass, then they asked Morrissey in to sing. Morrissey was rarely in the studio. He would rarely do more than one vocal take.
The point of this rather technical anecdote is not specifically to demonstrate Marr's genius, though it indeed does. The point lies in the punch line, which I learned from Simon Reynolds' illuminating and importantly revised 2nd edition of 'Songs That Saved Your Life'.
Halfway through this particular session Johnny got a phone call from the van hire company they had been using for their recent shows. They wanted their van back. Now. Johnny drove it back, (for some reason I think it was to Rotherham), then returned to Manchester by coach or train and continued recording. This was completely normal. Marr is and always was a Stoic. Marr managed the band at this point, because Morrissey's instant, arbitrary dismissal of numerous contenders made it impossible to hire a professional. He would express his displeasure not in words but by sulking off, simply disappearing, incommunicado, for days at a time.
People wonder why Johnny never did much of note after the Smiths, whilst Morrissey created some great work, with Steven Street, Vinni Reilly, and especially, since 1992, his Rockabilly gang of Boz Boorer, Alain Whyte et al, who co-wrote the crowning achievement of his post-Smiths career, 'Vauxhall & I'. I say this to these people: Marr wrote nearly 100 songs before he was 24 years of age. He wrote countless masterpieces before he was 21. He ran the band. He managed the band. Morrissey did nothing at all but be Morrissey. We love him; that's what he does. But Johnny Marr did what Johnny Marr did, and what many people fail to consider is that doing Johnny Marr meant managing Morrissey. His work is done. Give the man a break.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Breaching Police Diver's Notebook regulations, I'm going to write about my job. I've recently returned to playing solo shows, for financial, health and creative reasons. For the last five years touring has been planned according to the nebulous industry standard notion: loads of live shows = best method of album promotion. This logic leads to the idea of playing as many shows in a row as humanly possible for as long as possible in as many places as possible. As a result, any coherent memories of great performances in great company were ultimately beaten senseless by inhumanly long journeys in cramped vans, dragging my larynx around
Seasoned fans finally at ease with Gravenhurst manifesting itself as a band, arrive once more, to a guitar, and one man.
I debuted my new solo set to fifty people in
I finished with Black Holes In The Sand, and a descent into a squealing wall of sound, highly pleasurable for me and of tolerable duration for the uninitiated –yes, I pretty much always finish like this, it’s just something I have to do. "You looked like you were really enjoying it" said Michelle, my masterly manager, without whom I would have lost my way years ago. She was right. I was. I have to focus hard to not forget lyrics; eyes closed from the distractions of things written on t-shirts, and occasionally wading through synaesthesia from simple partial seizures that churn sound into spores of colour, the kind of thing people spend good money on drugs for, but that day at Latitude, for a rare moment there I did indeed hit The Zone. The Zone is a different place for different people. For me it is the full realization that being alone on a stage with my songs is the only thing I will ever have complete control of.
It’s not only rare, it’s a fleeting thing too, and it has no qualms about turning on you. I stumbled out of the dark marquee into lunchtime on a hot sunny day. A clanging emotional dissonance, like listening to Radio 3 in an abattoir. I slept it off for three hours in the back of the car.
That really is why I keep my eyes closed, it’s not an act.
“Is Gravenhurst a band or is it just you?” This question crops up regularly. My answers may have sounded unsatisfying, pretentious or plain drivel, but by breaking the journalistic chain of Chinese Whispers and telling you myself, perhaps it will settle the matter.
I am not Gravenhurst, and never have been. Gravenhurst is the name I give to the music that I compose, perform and record. I aim to create, musically and lyrically, something more powerful than the sum of its parts, and ultimately, something more powerful than myself and thereby achieve a kind of transcendence. But it makes addressing an audience bloody confusing. After several years of quiet study I found the solution. Whether solo or performing as a band, I now wait until after the first song to say “Good evening. You are listening to Gravenhurst”. Intentionally exploiting a declarative sentence of extensional ambiguity! Sweet.
(I clearly care about this more than anyone else does.)
But equally, Guy Bartell is not Bronnt Industries Kapital, the musical outfit of which he is the principle composer, and myself a long-time collaborator. And, if you will allow me further metaphysical postulation, (you’ve come this far) neither Gravenhurst nor Bronnt Industries Kapital will cease to exist when we are gone. For our purposes at least, they are ideas, evolving webs of ideas, sometimes frustratingly static, sometimes moving in a way seemingly beyond our control. The ideas spawn music. Music is an irreducibly mysterious, non-corporeal entity. Music cannot die. Nobody I know would care to disagree with this idea, but then everyone I know is either a music lover or a musician.
Not convinced? Pour a drink and sit down. Right, basically, when bands form they choose a name. This vital ritual can be performed without much self-awareness, but the name has to be good, everyone knows that. Everyone present has at least some kind of understanding that choosing a good name and saying it with confidence is to tell the world that you are more than the sum of your members; you are a band; like a gang; a force to be reckoned with. Fortified with a unique typeface, and consolidated with the sigilistic, binding power of a cool logo, the right band name will practically carve itself onto toilet doors in the venues all over the British Isles from which it will never escape, and within a short time be covered by another name, pissed on, painted over. It's like it never happened.
A band must aim to be more than the sum of its influences, not its members. Some great bands only have one songwriter. Sometimes bands only have one member. When Bruce Wayne says he's not Batman, he is lying. When I say I'm not Gravenhurst, I’m telling the truth.
I’ve recently discovered some other musicians covering my songs. There is no greater praise than this. It is a touching experience, and all the more poignant in that they aren’t established or famous, but just sticking a Gravenhurst cover in amongst their own songs, playing small pub gigs or at home with their mates. It reaffirms my aim of achieving artistic Gestalt. I have written songs and they have taken on a life of their own. They are out of my hands now, and may become more powerful, in any chosen sense, than me. Late 1999, I had just written the ‘The Diver’ and showcased it tentatively in front of a few friends round someone’s house. Around the same time, at The Louisiana,
If a famous person covered a song of mine, it might be thrilling but it would not be touching. Judgement is notably absent in the circle above, it has no seat, no relevance. A famous cover version could bring me money and attention, and where there is money and attention there is judgement. What if I didn’t like it? What if I had to lie and say I did? Did they even mean it? Was it suggested to them by a dunder-headed major label marketing slag? Take the melody and make it more.. Street Soul? Did Mark Ronson really think Morrissey & Marr would like his emetic, crashingly ill-judged cover of “Stop Me..”? Did he even care?
A kid jamming out one of my songs in his bedroom and uploading it to You Tube- only one thing matters: he really means it.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Dear Mr. Lee,
It would please me greatly if you were to perform your current routine in my home city of Bristol, and I write in anticipation of facilitating such a venture. I will however be touring my broadly non-comedic Warp Records-signed musical act Gravenhurst over the next few months and it goes without saying that encouraging you to book a show on a date when I am not here is not in my interests.
Now, you will likely have just noticed that after breezily asserting that something 'goes without saying', I then immediately proceeded -prima facie redundantly- to say it anyway! What was that all about?! Well, I did it intentionally, in order to emphasise that my presence at your anticipated Bristol show is absolutely crucial. I wanted to ensure that this is fully understood.
The provision of an Excel spreadsheet detailing my forthcoming itinerary would greatly increase the chances of our arranging a mutually convenient date for your performance. I appreciate that this will involve time and planning, but I am sure, indeed convinced,.....to be quite open with you Mr. Lee, of an impregnable faith, a staunch, unwavering faith; always intense and quite profound, sometimes transcendent, overwhelming even, I struggle to contain this famished, untameable beast of raw, indiscriminate belief, deliriously craving divine punishment, writhing in a demented state of near-masochistic arousal at the prospect of God's pitiless faith-tests, abandoned naked, powerless and hopelessly burdened by the pathetic, pleading fate of all humanity, laden with the wretched weight of infinite lost souls screaming impotently for His deaf mercy, and yet, and yet- I stand proud, erect and sure of foot upon the unshakeable foundations of my own blind credulity, nourished -nay! consumed by a searing, pistological madness --deeply troubling to my friends, family and work colleagues and unspeakably mind-shredding to even myself in its corporeal manifestations of increasing frequency and no prior sign or warning; patternless prolapses of spittle-spraying, tongue-chewing, lunatic ravings and self-mutilation; tenebrous dread-dances of demented contortions and jeering, mocking, cackling laughter, head and limbs jerking and flailing wildly in a spastic rictus of unbearable pain emanating from the deep, deep, deathlessly deep soul-drowning sea of myopic conviction that the gig will probably sell out in advance and it'll be totally worth it.
Or I could just come to one of your London shows.
Monday, April 21, 2008
Godfrey Mason, an Englishman with a very Flemish walrus moustache, runs the English Bookshop at Ajuinlei 15,
Here’s some of the results of Mr. Mason’s decisions:
-I couldn’t get past her face on the cover to tell you what this one was about. (One feels obliged to talk in the past tense about something so anachronistic and downright vulgar)
Survivor – A Tribute to Cliff – Tony Jasper
-This is a book about Cliff Richard.
The Secret Life Of Sooty – Geoff Tibballs with foreword by George Harrison
-Sooty was a hand puppet bear operated by Harry Corbett, and later, his son Matthew Corbett, on the British children’s television programme The Sooty Show. The irrelevance of this volume cannot be overstated.
-This book was published in 1907. The illustrations are hand-drawn. I grew up in
Advanced Microwave Cooking For All Occasions – Harriet Anderson
-Variations on this delusory theme are available everywhere.
Inside the shop the shelves bulge in elegance and order with sections on the paranormal (“In Search of Lake Monsters” by Peter Costello stands out as a sober and scholarly work among countless manifestly incorrect prophecies of Armageddon for the year 2000); killing people on the sly (“Ninja Secrets Of Invisibility – An Illustrated Manual” by Ashida Shim; contains loads of photos of men not knowing there are ninjas standing behind them); the age of steam, deep sea diving, prison camps, fiction, gambling, geography and economics (“Who Owns London” by Shirley Green – answer: the Queen, the City Corporation, some Aristocracy and a bunch of oligarch ex-Soviet double agents, but she stretched it out a bit). In short, Mr. Mason runs a very well-stocked and charming English book shop in
Friday, April 11, 2008
Saturday, February 09, 2008
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Today I had another unsettling encounter with a small portable colour television. Clearing out my room, I uncovered what initially appeared to be the same villain that haunted my sleep one month back. But it was a different one. I was leant it half a year ago. I never got round to plugging it in. It was under the laundry basket, hemmed in by three empty gin bottles (time-lined, entropic: at first Tanqueray, then Gordon's, then Asda's) and countless Amazon packing cases. Moving house is stressful; according to some statistic of unfathomable origin it comes fourth after bereavement, unwanted pregnancy and divorce. My flatmate put it simply, "well, it's just change isn't it". It really is. According to animal experts of verifiable authority, changing the location of a dog or cat causes them more stress than changing their owner. For cats this seems obvious; everyone knows the Janus-faced little bastards don't give a shit about you. But dogs really do. They love you. They just get confused. When they wake up on a sink estate in Plymouth after five years in Royal Tonbridge Wells they will be bewildered. No more line-caught Yellow Fin Tuna steak for you, Muggins, it's mechanically-recovered lips 'n' flaps now. But that flesh-coloured shape on a stick that calls it by a new name is basically the same, as long it gives them plenty of attention.
We had five cats at one point. The smart ones died, leaving only Shitbox, and his mother, Mrs. Minkles. Were Shitbox to be transmogrified into human form he would quickly be recognised as a nasty right-wing thug. He still lives with his wretched, neurotic mum and he beats her up. He can't use the cat-flap. He sits there waiting for you to hold it open for him. Rather like Nick Griffin, he wears a suit and a mask and we're not fooled.
Someone took a shit on the front steps of my new flat. Exactly halfway down; it seemed planned; it seemed human. There is a porch beneath the steps with an electricity meter. They could have gone in there. I found an empty Benson and Hedges packet (underclass cigarettes according to my friend in marketing), fried chicken boxes and a syringe. A van goes round the area. 'Sex and Drugs Litter Rapid Clean Up Team' rather too proudly on the side; bubble lettering, graffito styles, community-friendly 'Hey Everyone!' (why not cameras and a documentary? Been done already), so I'll make a call and leave it to them. St. Paul's has its unfair share of problems, yet the rents are as extortionate as everywhere else on this island. The only people who benefit are the property developers and the debt traders. Switch everything for one day and then one night, just briefly, for Karl Marx's sake, for old times, go on. Some simple old-fashioned class war. Pimp their sorry smack-sick arses at 3 a.m. in the maddening cold then send them out again the next morning to clean up the mess.
"When, in a city of 100,000, only one man is unemployed, that is his personal trouble, and for its relief we properly look to the character of the man, his skills, and his immediate opportunities. But when in a nation of 50 million employees, 15 million men are unemployed, that is an issue, and we may not hope to find its solution within the range of opportunities open to any one individual. " C. Wright Mills
"He responded to others' claims that his behaviour was boorish by behaving even more outlandishly. Critics were disarmed when he admitted to even worse character faults than he in fact possessed.. " On the character of C. Wright Mills