Wednesday, 28 October 2009

This Is Hardcore

I wrote a book review-cum-recollection of my formative years on the fringes of the UK hardcore scene. You can read it on the venerable 3AM Magazine dot com. My band Sour Face ("featuring thirteen year old, future-writer Ben Myers") gets a nice little mention in the book in question.

Other than that I'm about to become an uncle again / writing a new novel / listening to folk music / recovering from flu / reading Cormac MacCarthy / listening to Richard Hawley / waking up tired / being straight edge.

'Cigarettes In Bed' Pt II

Available now. Highly limited.
Highly collectible. Only £5.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Suicidal Leaves: Autumn Is Here

So the clocks go back and winter hits like an sledgehammer. Totalt jävla mörke as they say up in Scandinavia. Total fucking darkness.

I've watched as the creeping ivy that covers our old stone house has gone from cheery British racing green to bleeding heart red in the matter of days. And then this last weekend, full of flu, I watched as they fell en masse. It always brings to mind the 'suicidal leaves' animation in Monty Python's Meaning Of Life. I still maintain that little clip to be one of the saddest things I have ever seen - I've not been able to look at dead leaves the same way.

So now our house is bald; naked. Bereft. But still beautiful as it faces the sharp breeze coming in from the north-east. I try and remind myself of Camus' line:
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf's a flower..."

Because aside from the flu and stabbing bouts of S.A.D., I like autumn and winter. I get to wear all my best hats and coats, eat porridge, grow beards and build big log fires. I also end up writing more than ever. When the sun is out there are fish to catch, vests to wear, hills to climb and more important things to do. But when winter hits, it's time to write and so I find myself currently immersed in a new novel; I'm not sure what it is about but am semi-confident that it will out come out in the wash.

Plus this winter, for the first ever, I am no longer looking over my shoulder in the Dickensian pea-soup streets of darkening South London and am instead in the countryside watching rolls of cloud rumble down the Calder Valley, spotting badger trails and squirrel stores and, given that I tend to get up at about 9am, preparing myself to exist on about seven hours of light per day.

It's enough though - it suits my disposition. Because I'm not Californian or Australian. I'm English and it makes no sense to be happy all the time. It's far easier to adopt a quietly stoical stance and put the kettle on for another round of strong black tea.

Light and shade.

Light and shade.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

"Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.”

~ Guy Debord

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Interview with Dan Fante

I've written a short interview Dan Fante for Flux magazine to run alongside an extract from his new novel 86'd, out now on Harper Perennial.

Friday, 23 October 2009

We'll never be as young
as we are right now.

'Cigarettes In Bed'

Adelle's new poetry collection Cigarettes In Bed - complete with hand-singed (yes singed) cover - is available to order now from Blackheath Books.

(Pic: Publisher Geraint Hughes' children at work)

Great Songs Of The 00s #12 - The Libertines

Ah, 2002....

Forget the crack, the idiocy, the endless spells in 'chokey' and that awful Babyshambles album that came later - say what you like about The Libertines, but for 6 months or so they put a firecracker up London's live scene and made the city exciting again. They romanticised the squalor and found a little bit of poetry in poverty. As was proven, no band can live that hard, fast and lean for long without illness and madness kicking in. And so it did. But for a while The Libertines threw a great party.

'Horrorshow' (live, below) was my favourite song, though for a more coherent version of early single 'Time For Heroes' click here.

I have a great unpublished interview that I did with Pete Doherty and Carl Barat at the 100 Club on Ofxford Street the week their debut album came out that I intend to write up one day. Until then...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #11 - At The Drive-In

Relationship Of Command by At The Drive-In is probably my favourite rock record of the past ten years. Singer Cedric and guitarist Omar - later of The Mars Volta (more of whom...) - are also two of my favourite interviewees ever. And both bands are two of the finest live bands of their time.

And had/have great haircuts.

(This is important).

If you don't enjoy this live clip of album opener 'Arc Arsenal' you probably need to question your entire existence.

Adelle Graduated

Adelle got a First Class Hons degree in Creative Writing at the University of Greenwich - and received the Outstanding Student award to boot. We put on our fineries, went to London and celebrated. Tears were shed. You can read a full account concerning the world of academia over at Adelle's blog.

(You can also read Adelle's new poem 'Quietism' on Everyday Genius now.)

Adelle and Ben at Greenwich University

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #10 - Wyclef Jean

Nas? Jay-Z? Slim Shady?

Nah - 'Clef!

I think I bought a total of two CD singles this decade and 'Perfect Gentleman' by Wyclef Jean was one of them. I played this song for the entire summer that it came out (which, if my weed-addled memory is correct, was 2001) and I don't even care who knows it.

There is absolutely no excuse for calling his album The Ecleftic though.

'Winter Nightfall'

I've been away in London and Manchester, but while on my travels I saw this photo of my new home-town Hebden Bridge in yesterday's The Guardian and felt the need to share it.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

No Point In Not Being Friends

I'm going to be at Chris Killen's No Point In Not Being Friends literary night in Machester tomorrow (Monday 19th October) at Matt and Phred’s Jazz Bar to see Adelle read aside Jacob Polley and Matthew Welton. It's part of the Manchester Literary Festival.

I just thought I'd mention that if anyone was intending on going.

But first: a quick trip to London...

Friday, 16 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #9: The Futureheads

Though I've never met them, The Futureheads come from just down the road from where I grew up in Durham - some of them from Houghton-le-Spring in fact, which is where both of my parents grew up.

So maybe it was the familiarity of their accents that first drew me to them when I heard their 1, 2, 3 - Nul! EP in 2003, or maybe it was the spikiness of the guitars that owed a certain debt to all those great post-punk bands I'm aso fond of.

Or maybe it was just their white shoes.

Whatever. Their first album was great. The second album was not so great and their third album was a bit greater than their second album. But their first was the best - each song a belter. 'Great'.

Here's 'Decent Days & Nights' from it.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Gay For Johnny Depp

My good friend Professor Graubella was recently invited to write some words about the popular American rock band Gay For Johnny Depp, who used to be on my old record label. I very much enjoyed the Prof's considered response so have re-printed it in its entirety below.

Gay For Johnny Depp release career-spanning retrospective
Manthology: A Tireless Exercise in Narcissism
Featuring Gay for Johnny Depp’s Excellent Cadavers

Less a greatest hits set and more a badly-edited VHS clip compilation of your favourite squirt-shots, New York quartet Gay For Johnny Depp return to release career-spanning retrospective Manthology and tour the UK’s tawdry grief-holes.

As I was just saying earlier to Ramone, my Malaysian house boy – he’s mute, but he’s very attentive - Manthology should finally clear up all the great questions once and for all, not just about the shady entity known as Gay For Johnny Depp, but about life itself, for example: who are we? Where are we going? And why are we here? (The answers of course being: humans / to bed to fuck / for endless, unfettered pleasure).

The Bible and the Koran are OK, but Manthology is better.

An utterly indulgent compilation with the sub-title, ‘A Tireless Exercise in Narcissism Featuring Gay for Johnny Depp’s Excellent Cadavers’, Manthology brings together Gay For Johnny Depp’s entire recorded output to date on one bit of plastic so cheap and so culturally devalued – that would be a compact disc - it currently has all the artistic value and credibility of a used jimmy hat resting on the end of your bedstead, in an airless room, in direct sunlight.

Nevertheless: it is still the greatest collection of music ever recorded – of that we are all agreed. This will be confirmed in person during November and December 2009 when Gay For Johnny Depp attempt to keep us all warm in the winter when they tour their second home, the United Kingdom.

So what’s the small print, uncle? Well, this is the skinny my boys and – if we must – girls. Manthology features the band’s two highly-sought after EPs Erotically Charged Dance Songs for the Desperate (2004) and Blood: The Natural Lubricant (2005), their debut album The Politics of Cruelty (2007), brand new EP The Ski Mask Orgy (2009), a remix of their single ‘Shh, Put The Shiv To My Throat’ by Blacksmoke (who have also remixed everyone from A-Ha to Emperor) and tracks from a very rare tour single, of which only 100 copies ever existed. Geek out!

The cover art-work was photographed by Bert Queiroz, whose pictures of bands such as Bad Brains, Fugazi and Dag Nasty are some of punk rock’s most definitive. This one features a portrait of hero of the underground Ian Svenonius at a younger age.

Here’s the less sexy bit: Gay For Johnny Depp formed in New York in 2004 with the sole mission of healing the wounds of a city that had been rocked to its very foundations. Sexual healing was the method deployed and soon their abrasive sound and deeply spiritual songs about fisting went global. They band are Marty Leopard (vocals), Sid Jagger (guitar), Chelsea Piers (bass) and JJ Samanen (drums).

They toured the UK and US many times and made lots of friends and also some enemies. Their music was a machine gun rat-a-tat fire of short, sharp songs with a very well hidden yet deeply intellectual core, and described as “hardcore – in all ways”. Shock! Outrage! And Boys! followed them everywhere. Some people wanted to punch GFJD (which has happened, frequently) others want to love them deeply.

Their live shows soon passed into mythical status – sometimes before they had even happened. Which is weird, but good-weird. Gay For Johnny Depp’s 2007 debut album The Politics Of Cruelty gained almost blanket positive coverage in publications such as NME, Q, The Guardian and Uncut, and also received multiple plays on Radio 1 – a triumph given the abundance of curse words and subject matter (Johnny Depp, mainly).

The band’s approach has been consistently unflinching. Promotional records have come with ‘gay gift hampers’ featuring bottles of amyl nitrate, surgical gloves and visual ‘sauce material’ to aid the listening experience. They have also been known to circulate letters from their most ardent fan, a teenager called Bradley, whose love of the band is matched only by his love of banging sailors in downtown YMCAs, and whose angelic face can be seen in the front row of all their shows.

Gay For Johnny Depp are the perfect symbiotic melding of GG Allin, Marquis De Sade, Quentin Crisp, Jeff Stryker, The Germs and, as Ramon so succinctly just intimated, their music clearly represents that point at which the nihilism and paranoia of the late 90s/early 00s consumer-driven milieau dissipates and gives way to post-recession, pan-international feelings of ‘hope’ and ‘change’, and ‘more sex’ for everyone.

Rare it is that the innovators and pioneers get recognized in their own time, yet Gay For Johnny Depp are changing opinions concerning sexual politics, censorship, public in/decency, international relations, gender and religious divisions and the capacity for the human ear to accept music at deafening volume levels one by one. At this rate the sky it the limit. Maybe not even that.

Yet as we prepare to enter the second decade of the third millennium, one glaring question remains unaddressed: is America ready for its first gay commander- in-chiefs?

Manthology is released 30th November 2009, CD/ Download

The Ski Mask Orgy EP is released 23rd November, Download only

Words by Professor H. R. Graubella, Phd, Bsc. Gender Studies

University of Oxford, October 2009.

Everyday Genius

Writer Lee Rourke is editing US webzine Everyday Genius for a month and has run 6 poems that didn't make the final cut for my Spam Poetry collection (Blackheath Books, 2008). Just click the link if you'd like to read them.

In other news, I'm thinking of changing the colour and feel of this blog. So far the options are:

a) black
b) yellow
c) blue
d) egg-shell grey
e) puce

a) dazed
b) oppressive
c) angry
d) 'spring sun-rise'
e) cold - so very, very cold.

Your thoughts are welcome.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Dark Satanic Mills

Go and read Adelle's new blog.
It is much better than this one.


I was asked to write something for The Guardian about The Simpsons creator Matt Groening curating next year's All Tomorrow's Parties for. So I did.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Great Songs of the 00s #8: The Dillinger Escape Plan

I have seen many, many metal and hardcore bands over the years and the only disturbing thing about a lot of them is how tame and one-dimensional they are. How disappointingly conservative they are. I find Nick Drake's music more intense than many of these nerks.

Not so with New Jersey's The Dillinger Escape Plan though, a band who have removed my face every time I have seen them live and who have always given great interviews. And, call me a prentious wanker, but I've always been attracted to the free-jazz element of their music too.

Here they are doing 'Sugar Coated Sour', a rare instance of a gig in a Megastore of all places actually being quite exciting.

(Disclaimer: although this song was actually first released in September 1999, I didn't 'get into' the band a few months later so I'm qualifying it as the 00s.)

Monday, 12 October 2009

Richard: An Update

So, following Picador's instruction I spent most of last week working on the first edit of Richard. Though I am sure there will be plenty more work to do on it, it was surprisingly enjoyable. I generally hate the editing process - once a book is written I find it very hard to look at it again - but this was a pleasure. The benefits of working with a professional editor...

I have also been informed than the book has gone to the Frankfurt Book Fair this week.

The other update on the book is that the publication date has now been brought forward, so Richard will now be out in late 2010, rather than "sometime" in 2011. I promise not to go on about it all the time between now and then.

In fact, I've started a new project. A new book.

I'm cold / broke / hungry / happy. I'm listening to some gentle music and watching the sun yawn and stretch across the Calder Valley.

I need to find some wood to burn for tonight's fire.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #7: Lil Wayne

It's written into the US constitution that white liberals must like Lil Wayne's 'A Milli' - something to do with the depth of the bass or the raggedness of his flow. It's kind of the law.

Me - I'll always associate this song with running through the snow in Nunhead Cemetary in the winter time. It's funny the connections that we make through music. Anyway, whichever way you look at it, this is - 'IMHO' - one of the best songs of recent years.

All together now: "I'm a venereal disease, like a menstrual bleed..."

That shit's right up there with Mssrs Yeats, Eliot and Dirty Bastard.

'Friday, I'm In Love'

Travis Jeppesen has written a great piece about GG Allin for today's 3:AM.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #6: M.I.A.

Baile funk beats courtesy of Diplo, horns courtesy of the theme tune to Rocky and co-writing credits for members of Elastica and Pulp...'Bucky Done Gun' - in fact M.I.A.'s entire debut, Arular - was my new favourite about 5 minutes after I first heard it sometime in late 2004 / early 2005.

It pissed all over the grotty post-Libertines bands who were getting signed and dropped at the time.

Ms. Maya Arulpragasam's 2007 follow-up, Kala, wasn't too bad either.

Here's a version of the tune on the Jimmy Kimmel show.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Beat The Dust: a Blackheath Books special

I have a new short poem in the latest issue of Beat The Dust, alongside work by Billy Childish, Adelle Stripe, Joseph Ridgwell, Darran Anderson and many other fine people. My poem is called 'The Copper-Bottomed Stream'.

It is part of their Blackheath Books special issue.

Blackheath are great.

(*NB - The above picture was taken by Scarlet Page in 2006 between photos on a shoot for the band Dirty Pretty Things. I think I look like Peter Sutcliffe.)

Great Songs Of The 00s #5: The (International) Noise Conspiracy

From the ashes of hardcore leg-ends Refused they rose in their Beatles/Marx suits espousing their "sexy socialist" rhetoric...

No (International) Noise Conspiracy recording quite matches their live power, which isn't to say they haven't made some of my favourite albums and singles of the past ten years.

They have.

Throughout the decade I saw The (I)NC live on many occasions and interviewed them a few times too - in a cold dressing room in Brixton Academy, down by the docks at an anarchist festival in Genoa, Italy, in Liverpool...Leeds...Sheffield. They were (and still are) one of the smartest bands I've encountered and frontman Dennis Lyxzen the best white dancer in Europe. FACT, as they say.

Ah, the sweet sound of the Bush-era global resistance movement...

I could have chosen a number of videos or live clips but have gone for 'Smash It Up' from 2000. Sharp suits, sloganeering, soul-punk Swedish suss, quasi-communist chic...yes. I'll have a bit of that, thanks.

Where do I sign?

(By 2008 it was all long hair and velvet bad thing, either)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #4: British Sea Power

There is just something about British Sea Power that struck an immediate chord - their peculiar clothes, their faces, their refreshing pastoral depictions of England and beyond.

The last time I took magic mushrooms I listened to their debut album in its entirety, followed by The Mars Volta's and vast celestial beams of light did strike down from the ceiling to bathe my upturned beatific face, and great gushing waterfalls of golden ambrosia of my imagination's own making did rain down. Then I was sick a bit.

But not long before that I first saw British Sea Power do 'Remember Me' on Jools Holland's boogie-infected television programme in (I think), 2003. As British indie bands go, they've been my favourite of the 00s.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Message From The Country #6

My latest country postcard missive for Caught By The River is here.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #3: Weird War (* Updated *)

**Updated: I posted the wrong clip the other day. This one below is the one I was referring to. **

I could put anything by Weird War in here, but have chosen 'Illuminated' so that I could watch this clip again - the audience reaction is a highlight. And also because frontman Ian Svenonius was involved in two of my favourite bands from the 80s and 90s bands too (Nation Of Ulysses and The Make-Up respectively).

This song is from Weird War's 2005 album 'Illuminated By The Light'. All these awful Killers bands need to stop thinking about their sales and watch this and learn.

(Incidentally, Svenonius has also been responsible for one of this decade's finest internet TV series, Soft Focus.)

Friday, 2 October 2009

Great Songs Of The 00s #2: Dizzee Rascal

Grime was a moment in time - and this was the moment it left the pirate stations and starting winning prizes. It's also Dizzee Rascal's finest moment - before he went pop and before he stopped looking embarrassed to be making videos. He was 16 when he wrote and recorded this himself.

It was raw, rough, ragged, lewd and charged.

And it pretty much sums up living (for me) in Kennington, Peckham and Camberwell, South London during the early part of the decade. But it still sounds good anywhere.

Great Songs Of The 00s #1: Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster

As they year - Christ, the decade - draws to a close thoughts inevitably turn back to the recent past. To pre-empt the magazines' inevitable 'Best of...' lists I thought I'd post videos of some of my favourite songs of a decade that I still have not been able to call "the noughties" out loud without cringing.

They're in no order; no one song is better than another. Actually - some are better than others. But I like them all, for various reasons.

First up: 'Celebrate Your Mother' by The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, which was released in 2002 and features the immortal line "I wanna fuck your mother". I still don't understand why it never went Top 10...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A new column for Melville House

I had planned to write a piece about the mountain I climbed last week-end, but life seems to have got in the way. Maybe I'll write it next week and pretend it happened this forthcoming weekend.

(No-one will notice.)

So I'll write this instead: I have been invited to contribute an occasional column for independent US publisher Melville House's MobyLives blog series about all things literary this side of the pond. I'm taking over from Alice Waugh, from the famed Waugh dynasty.

Here is my first one, concerning today's 'Super Thursday' publishing overload.