Thursday, 18 December 2008
Strange then that it took until last week, when More4 screened a series of films and documentaries by the Newcastle-based Amber Film Collective, that it became apparent that some of the greatest British films of recent times had been made right on my door-step. Not just made in the north-east, but also starring people and concerning matters relevant to the area: the collapse of the mining industry, heroin problems in the ex-pit villages, rural communities etc.
Seeing the Amber films which, to my mind, are as powerful as anything by Mike Leigh, Ken Loach or Shane Meadows, was an eye-opener. It was also slightly depressing to know that these films have been made in spite of the establishment, rather than because of. In other words: they have been made on the tightest of budgets, and with little in the way of acknowledgement from the ruling cinematic bodies. Like most creative projects of worth, they were made the old way - collectively, with little concern for profits, and with the assistance of local people who wanted to get involved. A million miles from the money showers of Soho Square, and the inane Hollywood blockbusters foisted upon us year after year by the hype machine. I mean, I loved 'Batman' growing up - I still have hundreds of old Batman comics - but you'd think that that was the only type of film being made these days.
Anyway. In 100 years time, I suspect the Amber films will be of more historical worth than Batman. They are a reminder of how life is.
Interested parties can visit the Amber website here.
Below is a clip from the 1994 film 'Eden Valley', shot just a few miles down the road from whence I came. This is county Durham.
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Albums of 2008
1. British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade)
2. The King Blues – Save The World, Get The Girl (Field / Universal)
3. One More Grain – Isle Of Grain (White Heat)
4. Thistletown – Thistletown (Big Bertha)
5. The Mars Volta – Bedlam In Goliath (Universal/GSL)
6. Foals – Antidotes (Transgressive)
7. The Owl Service – A Garland Of Song (Midwich Cuckoos)
8. Glasvegas – Glasvegas (Mercury)
9. The Bronx – The Bronx (Witchita)
10. Lil Wayne - That Carter III (Cash Money / Universal)
British Sea Power
Do You Like Rock Music? (Rough Trade)
From the Saturday afternoon wrestling halls of England to feral cats in abandoned forts in Cornwall; from Sodom to Canvey Island; from Johnny Kingdom deerstalking on Exmoor and Joe Meek in his bathroom, to splitting a pill and sharing a smile with our new Eastern European neighbours; with their third album British Sea Power embarked upon a rich psychogeographical journey through a thoroughly modern age Britain. That it took a preoccupation with a past age to get there – a Boy’s Own wanderlust world of camouflage and kerosene lamps and lashings of real ale - made it somehow all the more spectacular.
Dragging rock ‘n’ roll from the rural and out into the true folk heartland where it belongs, this was plugged-in rock music at its most literate. When future historians want to dig deep into British life at the dawn of a new age, the answers will be found here in songs like A Trip Out, No Lucifer, Waving Flags and Atom, soaring anthems one and all - songs to leave you dizzy and ruddy-cheeked like a skinny dip in a moon-lit fresh water stream, songs that blow away the cobwebs of ennui and cynicism like a blast of fresh air at the summit of Helvellyn.
From up here the view was spectacular.
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
Caught By The River
An Anthology of Writings on British Rivers.
Featuring contributions from Jarvis Cocker, Bill Drummond, Jon Savage, Edwyn Collins & Irvine Welsh.
In an age of blackberrys, mobiles, and time is money, fishing is an increasingly eccentric sport. We often sit for hours and nothing happens. There really is no point to it. Coarse fisherman don't even ever eat their catch. However, if you fish, you have the time to think again, to appreciate and savour the moment. Fishing enables you to take stock, gain perspective, remember great books, hum a tune you haven't thought of in years. It makes you human again. Sitting with your own thoughts is good for the soul, and you never know, a float might go under, an alarm sound and there'll be a flurry of activity. Then again, maybe not. It doesn't matter, you've taken time out of the rat race. That's the key.
- Caught By The River 2007.
Caught By The River currently flourishing since its launch as a fully-fledged website in June 2008, have announced the publication of their first book through Cassell Illustrated.
Caught By The River; An Anthology of Writings on British Rivers, will be published in June 2009, symbolically to coincide with the start of the new coarse fishing season. The book will be a 400 page, fully illustrated hardbook made up of a collection of the musings of a disparate bunch of writers on their favourite British rivers.
With no agenda, all writers were simply let loose to eulogise in any way they choose about their favourite rivers and the special place they held in their hearts. The result is an amazingly heartfelt, informative, funny, passionate and esoteric collection of writings; without doubt a collection in keeping with the all-inclusive, diverse spirit of Caught By The River.
Drawing together a wide-ranging bunch the book will include contributions from the likes of Irvine Welsh, celebrated angling writer Chris Yates, Jarvis Cocker, author of the renowned Cloudspotters Guide Gavin Preator Pinney, The Guardian’s Laura Barton, Roger Deakin, Alice Oswold, Bill Drummond, journalist & author Jon Savage, chef Mark Hix, artist Kurt Jackson, wildlife sound-recordist Chris Watson and singer Edwyn Collins.
It will bound in a beautiful cover by Paul Kelly, renowned for his artwork for Heavenly Records and his collection of evocative films, ranging from a series on lost London cafes to one on the romance of the FA Cup. The book launch will be supported by Caught By The River presence at next year’s Port Elliot literary festival and a number of, yet to be finalized, events that will take the form of readings and exhibitions.
Caught By The River initially began life as a ‘blog’ in 2007 to document days out by the bank of its creators Jeff Barrett, Robin Turner & Andrew Walsh of Heavenly Records.
Making the leap to ‘website’ earlier this year it has built a reputation thanks to its all-inclusive remit and passionate content which is equally at home celebrating great pieces of music, fine bottles of ale, the beauty of the great British countryside, books that take you far-away from the hum-drum and everyday & even delightful slices of cake as it is documenting tales from the riverbank.
The website has recently opened an online shop selling varied angling ephemera and books. The Caught By The River shop currently is the sole stockist of a limited leather bound and signed copy of Chris Yates’ latest book, Out Of The Blue.
For further information please contact: Steve Phillips at Coalition: email@example.com
Saturday, 13 December 2008
Friday, 12 December 2008
Click here to read it in full, or here is the first section of it...
Disillusioned by contemporary literature, the Brutalist group took up arms and brought punk to the written word.
WORDS: JEAN HANNAH EDELSTEIN
Independent bookshops are shuttered. Book review editors are made redundant. Books by glamour model Jordan are outselling all of the titles on the Man Booker Prize shortlist. It’s not, it seems, a good time for traditional book publishing; it’s not been, if you follow the headlines in the trade press, for some time.
And with the young and hip who ostensibly serve as our cultural trendsetters more likely to be storing an iPhone in the back pockets of their skinny jeans than a paperback novel, many are inclined to place the blame for the long-anticipated demise of the book publishing on the inversely proportional rise of new media.
But could Web 2.0, in fact, be literature’s saving grace?
Three writers from the north of England were amongst the first to see the potential for this in 2006 when they decided to consolidate their work under the moniker ‘The Brutalists’. While member of previous literary movements have formed their identities through publishing their statements of intent on paper, Ben Myers, Tony O’Neill and Adelle Stripe picked a medium more appropriate for the particular cultural moment in which they were living and working: MySpace.
The group posted their manifesto to the website in the autumn of 2006: “Brutalism calls for writing that touches upon levels of raw honesty that is lacking from most mainstream fiction. We cannot simply sit around waiting to be discovered — we would rather do it ourselves. Total control, total creativity. The Brutalists see ourselves as a band who have put down their instruments and picked up their pens and scalpels instead.
“The only maxim we adhere to is an old punk belief, which we have bastardised for our own means: ‘Here’s a laptop. Here’s a spell-check. Now write a book.’”
In the two years since they set up their literary shingle, the movement has expanded both in terms of output and followers. “We chose the word ‘Brutalism' to present a united front against the more conservatively-minded writing establishment,” Myers says. O’Neill is even more blunt: “I felt totally disenfranchised from literature, and I had the feeling that a lot of other people probably did too. If we didn’t give it a name, and make an attempt to push this kind of writing collectively, nobody would have done it for us.”
[Ben Myers and Adelle Stripe]
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Shadows & Reflections - Ben Myers 10 Dec 2008
In 2003 I wrote a communiqué outlining a 5 Year Plan for a record label I was launching called Captains Of Industry. I sent it to everyone I knew. Exactly five years later I closed the label having resolutely failed to change – I think ‘destroy’ was actually the word I used at the time – the music industry. We didn’t even dent the rusty hull.
With hindsight, we launched at a terrible time (with a start-up of £500 during the most tumultuous time the business has known), but who needs hindsight when you have enthusiasm, a mission and a great music? Nevertheless Captains Of Industry ended in 2008 as it began, on an upbeat note and in credit. More importantly we made many new friends and left behind some future obscure cult classics from never-to-be-repeated groups such as Gay For Johnny Depp and Marmaduke Duke.
The other highlights of the year have been found in the smaller moments, most of them tethered in some way to nature or literature: staying in a vardo – a traditional gypsy caravan - in the Black Mountains, wandering Offa’s Dyke and visiting Hay-on-Wye (though thankfully not when the festival was on). Sitting in perfect silence next to the obscure mirror-like Birkbeck tarn high upon on the Yorkshire moors at the height of summer watching the travellers coming from all directions to converge on Appleby horse fair. Fishing and swimming in the Swale then sleeping in a caravan without water, heating or a toilet. Ignoring the warning signs and submerging myself in a lake in Kent. The rise of the blood-orange sun over Ullswater in the earliest minutes of 2008.
After numerous near-misses, I also finally reached Iceland and it was every bit as majestic as I had hoped. Gullfoss, the geysers, long walks beneath a multitude of rainbows, lost in the mountains on a gravel track – it didn’t disappoint. A month later the Icelandic banking system collapsed and the UK government flouted some bullshit terrorism laws at this most peaceful and deep-thinking country I have ever visited.
I also had my first collection of poetry published, co-wrote another with The Brutalists, gave up smoking, bought a bike, wrote a novel about fishing in which no fish are caught, started writing another one and have enjoyed reads by Roger Deakin, David Peace, John Niven, Ross Raisin, Chris Yates, Tony O’Neill, Richard Benson, Willy Vlautin, Lee Rourke, Hardeep Phull, Mark E Smith, Joe Ridgwell, Stevie Chick and Sebastian Horsley.
My gig of the year combined two personal passions - British Sea Power and the Lake District – with some max strength codeine tablets. I don’t remember much of it, but I know it was fun.
Then there was night I fell off the wagon and stayed up drinking beer all night, watching as America pulled itself back from the brink of almost certain destruction.
Yes, Axl Rose finally released his new album.
Oh, and a man of integrity, intelligence and good intentions defied the odds, won an election and my faith in humanity was restored.
My head hurt the next day, but it was more than worth it.
A vintage year.
Monday, 8 December 2008
Friday, 5 December 2008
Top Rock Stars With Facial Hair That I've Interviewed For Magazines In 2008
(The rock stars, I mean. The moustaches just sat there 'decoratively').
6. Lemmy aka I'm Not Right Wing, I Just Collect The Memorabilia
6. Daron Malakian aka The One Bong Too Many
5. Jesse 'Boots Electric' Hughes aka The Bugger Grips
4. Serj Tankian aka The Zappa
3. Simon Neil aka The Tea-Strainer
2. Krummi Bjorgvins aka The Jesus Christ Superstar
1. Eugene Hutz aka My Wife Will Read Your Palm Now
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
In the best possible way, of course. Watch out for the album, or listen to some tunes here.
(Little known fact: I once stood in for an absent band member during a photo shoot. Since Marmaduke Duke wear masks, no-one was any the wiser.)