Monday, December 31, 2007


Well, this year there was no need to board up all the windows - and that's not to say that some constructive stuff didn't get done over the holidays. The latest incarnation of the afro noise sound has got me really fucking excited, so look out for plenty of that in 2008. And once again many thanks for reading this blog, and for all your comments and messages which are always most appreciated. I wish everyone a new year full of both gratifyingly pleasing surprises and surprisingly gratifying pleasures. Have a great time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Best present this year has been finally cracking the terrible insomnia of the last couple of months without recourse to medication.

Monday, December 24, 2007


The Flock is the new flashily edited (too flashily) English language film by Chinese director Andrew Lau (Infernal Affairs) - it stars Richard Gere in one of his more memorable roles (and there's a cute slutty bit part for Avril Lavigne).

I mention it because it's a thriller with a ridiculous underlying message about sex offenders - and inevitably ends up saying a lot more about the stark irreconcilable contradictions and internal conflicts that US society, as represented by its administration, has with regards to sexuality in general. All that is stirred into the mix for us with a generous dollop of wholesome paranoia and fear which pretends to add weight to what is effectively just a bit of trashy light entertainment.

The thing is, who is really getting off on this stuff? And for what purpose?

Saturday, December 22, 2007


News in today which confirms to those that were still in some kind of doubt. Tony Blair is, in fact, a nutter.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


2007 has been a strange year on a personal level - lots of highs and a few lingering lows. Rather than dwell on all that, here are some reflections on the year's favourite things that I personally enjoyed, and for the same reason wouldn't necessarily recommend.

The concert in Prato (Italy) seems like ages ago now - it was one of those trips where everything seems to fall into place at just the right moment in your life, and I mean that in more ways than one. Playing in Edinburgh for the first time ever was really fun too, much more than I had any right to expect.

This is pathetic, what the fuck am I doing talking about restaurants? It's desperation. Even worse, I can't even remember its name, but the place in Kitakyushu where we had the fish was a true heaven of the gustatory senses.

A goodly harvest this year, and that despite doggedly sitting through some turkeys of anthological magnitude. I loved A Bridge To Terabithia and The Notebook (but both of these only for the discerning fan of the romantic genre), Saw IV (expect the same tedious verdict from me next October), The Bridge (months on, still haunted), Sherrybaby (Cassavetes reborn), Loose Change - Final Cut (definitive work now that David Ray Griffin is on board - cue some abuse from the anti-'conspiracy theory' brigade), and lastly, The Boss Of It All (another LVT classic).

A year of consolidation. At one stage books were arriving so frequently from Amazon that I could barely keep up, and it's been rewarding to have the chance to fill in some of the gaps I still had in the classics, as with certain works by Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare, and Dostoevsky. Notable mentions too for Pirandello's plays and the final part of Stanislavski's great trilogy.

Mostly a diet of African origin percussion music at loud volume (big thanks to Brian Conniffe for providing much of that rare material) - all part of an unconscious learning process whereby through repeated listening I'm hoping for a big osmotic jackpot pay-off, and in fact that's happening already. In between times, lots of Magma, Albert Ayler, Coltrane, or else exploring Mezzo's more obscure offerings. Truth is, I'm shamefully out of the loop as far as popular music is concerned, and my nomination of year's best to Christian Scott's album Anthem is clear testament to that.

A few contemporary exhibitions were OK, yet nothing as moving as the Angkor Wat exhibition in Bonn earlier in the year, and it's another reminder of how important opportunities to travel are for seeing the good stuff.

The magical August night of the meteor shower. No contest.

Friday, December 14, 2007


The smell of fresh ink on a page is a favourite, and it was especially exciting to finally receive a copy of the Substantials #03 book in the mail this morning - a lovely way to remember what was a big highlight of 2007 for me. As expected, Akiko Miyake and the CCA in Kitakyushu have done an exceptional job with the project, applying maximum care to the lay-out, photography, and quality of transcripts.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Another day, another Pravda fix.

Bad Girls Go To Egypt
I'd known plenty of stuff about where the men go, what's news to me is contained in a throwaway line about women going to Egypt for 'violent and non-committal love affairs'.

Hollywood Not Nice With The Make-up Off
Call me totally fucking superficial but several of these pictures are a stark reminder of how much I now realise I need a woman's glamour touches; the transformative magic is simply essential.

The Forum
Quite simply the liveliest, most opinionated, most addictive forum on the internet.


Saturday, December 08, 2007


Many of you will be rightly suspicious that this is just another transparent attempt to use the plural form of the word automaton again. So here is a nice gallery of antique automata - the more anthropomorphous ones are both fascinating and creepy in equal measure, somewhat like a ventriloquist's dummy.

Friday, December 07, 2007


In 1769, at the behest of Maria Theresa, the Holy Roman empress, there was designed a chess-playing robot called The Turk that was perhaps the most famous in a long line of automata (gratuitous uses of irregular plural form alert) of the 18th and 19th centuries. It quickly became a sensation around the courts of Europe as it seemed capable of rational thought - through not only moving the pieces with the use of its mechanical arm but gestures like shaking its head when faced with human blunders.

In fact, there was of course a certain William Lewis cunningly hidden inside its workings. The Turk was eventually destroyed by fire in 1854, but not after having achieved an impressive success rate, even taking the scalp of Napoleon Bonaparte along the way (checkmated in 24 moves), and devotees can now even play over the annotated games themselves. The fascinating story is in greater detail here, not forgetting its being the basis for the marvellous 1927 movie The Chess Player.

Nowadays, we look to Japan for the latest hi-tech automata or 'karakuri' - the remarkable factory robots, cyber pets, massage chairs, and many more. Surprisingly however, it was way back during the Edo period in the early 17th century that the interest there began.

Here is a beautiful almost awe-inspiring example of a Japanese automaton playing some Elgar on the violin.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Earlier this summer there was the devastating realisation that Plaisir Du Chocolat in the Royal Mile had, without warning, closed its doors. Suddenly, life became hardly worth living.

This week, I'm overjoyed to report good tidings. Birds are once again singing, church bells are ringing, and Edinburgh's dogs are vigorously wagging their tails: the dying sungod has risen to reappear in the shiny new premises in Thistle Street. Number 48.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


#12: promise

Parents really exploit, if not abuse, the power of promise with their children as a form of coercion, sometimes (unpleasantly) appended with 'cross your heart and hope to die' or 'on your father's grave' and so on. (By the way, no prizes for guessing the origin of those phrases.) Children, in turn, pick up on this versatile linguistic pattern and use it to devastatingly manipulative effect themselves.

The reason it's such a potent weapon is that an explicit continued commitment to something is such an important way for us to demonstrate our sanity to the world. That's why politicians are constantly accusing each other of 'flip-flopping' or 'doing u-turns', as if changing your mind was A Bad Thing; and it's why we find it so hard to alter our acquired beliefs and behaviours. A consistent belief in anything is perceived better than one that is always switching.

In adulthood, although promise seems on the face of it a pretty harmless word, in actual fact, owing to its very strong subtext, we rarely or reluctantly use it - test that out by asking for some promises.

And that's why I like it so much - it's a word that can touch a person intimately, it really means something, really affects on a deep emotional and behavioural level. So, rather than 'will you?' or 'I will...', it's 'do you promise?' and 'I promise...'. Feel the difference.


Atheism indeed. I knew those guys were smart.

Friday, November 30, 2007


After the praise lavished on Join Hands last week, felt compelled to lay my hands on The Scream. This really brought back pleasant memories. I even recall once being inspired to learn every guitar note of this album - and indeed, whatever happened to those brilliant original members?

Most times, nostalgia is best left for the memory as the reality can disappoint. Not here though - this is a perfect timeless album with inspired production, performances, compositions, and presentation. If only The Velvet Underground had been this good.

Also, returning to the original theme, it's clear the musically inferior Joy Division (to name but one band) snatched a great many ideas from The Scream.

And lastly, that rarest of things, a cover version that blows the original out of the fucking water, or out of the fairground in the case of Helter Skelter. The other best example of that which occurs to me was The Residents' Satisfaction.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Continuing the love affair with Pravda.

USA Officially Becomes Police State
Melodramatic headline it undeniably is, the truth is that the US does now seem to model itself on a South American fascist state like, say, Peronist Argentina, and we turn to Russia to learn about it.

Anorexic And Hairy Prostitutes
Great story - you've got to love its complete lack of prurience, there's even a cheery upbeat feelgood tone; contrast this to how western media would report related subject matter. Also, note the juxtaposition of the girl in the 'sea turtle' picture below it.

North Korea Resumes Public Executions

When did they in fact stop? As the UK kleptocracy blunders onwards down the path towards the North Korean model, surely it won't be long before public hangings will be introduced in the Queen's Speech.



Fear is such a widespread and versatile commodity; one that is commonly and effortlessly exploited as there is always a steady and willing stream of buyers and rebuyers. One reason for that is that any counter-argument allows the accusation that somehow the terrible thing in question is being defended. Even when that thing doesn't really exist in the way described, or if in fact at all.

A few years ago Daniel Radosh did a fine job deconstructing an example of this which focused on the world of 'internet sex-slave trafficking'. And lo and behold, the real exploiters have duly arrived, inevitably in the guise of Hollywood, and made a film entitled Trade about the original subject matter as if it did really happen. Even if you pick out a negative review, its essential criticism is that this undeniably exploitative movie isn't real enough. That the movie "does little justice to the young girls who are prey to these bands of international slime".

In other words false presuppositions (original article) loaded onto false presuppositions (the movie) loaded onto false presuppositions (the movie reviews) that become almost impossible to challenge without (in this case) taking a pro child internet sex-trade stance.

I would suggest that it's this fearmongering cycle that causes much real collateral damage. But when's someone going to challenge the fear itself - and its mongers? I don't see a queue forming.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Stuff like this happens and these muppets want to inflict ID cards on us, not mentioning the 53 pieces of information before you undertake any overseas travel. What's funny is the sheer incompetence of repression. While making momentously short-sighted and self-serving decisions that involve staggering amounts of public money, these cheap suited n00bs with their fourth rate law degrees wouldn't truthfully know how to plug a fucking USB mouse in the right way.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Surprisingly, amidst a reasonably extensive music collection here, there are only two punk/new wave albums remaining: The Banshees' Join Hands and Joy Division's Closer. The tremendous Join Hands has aged amazingly well, while most music from that era, albeit exciting at the time, has not. Closer is no exception: a production style that once sounded spacious and original, is now, to these ears, rather weedy and hollow.

That notwithstanding, it's still a moving collection of dark mournful songs, a vast improvement over their first album, and I recall it forming the personal soundtrack to several chapters of Juliette.

So, having never seen even a reasonable music biopic, I was prepared to really hate Anton Corbijn's Control. Even more so because I can't stand the whole stupidly overrated Anthony Wilson/Factory/Madchester/Hacienda scene. But no, totally and utterly wrong. Go see it for yourself.

Ironically, the music in it is neither here nor there, because what's special for me is the moving tale of a vulnerable human being; the kind of candid working-class portrait Mike Leigh has often unsuccessfully attempted. It may well be Deborah, Curtis' widow, who is co-writer here, that should get the credit.

Yet more ironically, lead actor Sam Riley is so extraordinary in his role that he effortlessly outdoes Curtis in almost every way: for mystery, for charisma, for looks, for singing ability, you name it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Funny to see the art direction of the poster for this new movie September Dawn, I just wish it was a good film (it isn't).

Saturday, November 17, 2007


After a comment in the original post a couple of emails came in asking how one is not an atheist while disbelieving the existence of any god. It's because atheism I see as essentially a construct that wouldn't have existed without the fundamentalist intolerance of post-gnostic Christianity; historically, people were, and to a certain extent still are, forced to make a choice to accept or reject.

However, I think there's a cuter way to articulate this.

A chimpanzee doesn't recognise any deity, nor is he or she an atheist. There is no god, and you can't prove that which doesn't exist; it's not a belief, it's a state. I'm with the chimp.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Who needs boring western media? You find some of the best stories at Pravda these days - just go and check this one out about some alien-looking creatures recently discovered and photographed. It might not now be what it once was, yet - since the fall of the USSR - Pravda was taken over by its erstwhile journalists and after much confrontation and drama with the authorities they now look after this online version. It's stylistically quite tabloid and yet there's still a really unusual, slightly edgy perspective on world affairs in its reporting that makes for a really nice change.

Some other recent stories I enjoyed there:

Top Russian Super-rich It-girls
Check out Kira, the fifteen year old fashion designer bankrolled by daddy to the tune of $100m.

Foolish British Spies
You don't get headlines like that in The Daily Telegraph...

Treated Like Garbage
... nor that on Fox News.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Am slightly shellshocked this evening having just sat through Redacted, an extremely painful, punishing yet deeply affecting film about Iraq by Brian De Palma. It's a multifaceted fictionalised account of a real life atrocity committed by US forces in Samarra.

You can't help but be impressed by the fucking bravery of the guy for making it, because make no mistake, he's guaranteed himself a hard time amongst all sorts of quarters back in the States. It's the kind of movie that, like War Hunt (1962), will be recognised as a classic in years to come.

Monday, November 12, 2007


#11: experience

Of course, reminding me of this word was our recent vinyl reissue of Birthdeath Experience. It's particularly useful for unconscious communication for, just by saying the word, a listener will begin to do the mental process suggested because of the inherent nature of discourse being filtered referentially through first person.

I'll never forget the experience of eating that red hot spicy Mexican food.

Make up your own examples. It's just like the following pseudo-question language pattern used experientially, 'have you ever seen a pig flying across a blue sky?'. I say pseudo-question because, rather than requesting a genuine answer, it forces the experience in question; you cannot avoid imagining that flying porker. It's an example of one of the loopholes in the way that language works that's commonly exploited.

There are many members of this particular magical lexical family including wonder, feel, conceive, consider, realise and others, yet experience is the best. It's such a far-reaching word that manages to refer not only to how you're directly affected by something but to all the peripheral and associated aspects too.

Birthdeath Feeling just wouldn't have resonated so well.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


At the admitted risk of over-romanticising a point I've touched on before, after extended sessions in abandoned architecture - any abandoned building locations (particularly interiors) - I get a twinge of deep melancholy. For instance, if you were to imagine your home lying empty with you no longer there, you may also feel this.

Where does this melancholy come from? There's an atavistic echo; a longing to be outdoors, to be 'free', to be up in the trees or in the mountains, by the sea, looking out onto open horizons or up to the sky. Impro contains a memorable and powerful chapter on this very notion.

Although we rely on buildings for so much of our protection from predators or the climate - note this nation's widespread property-owning neurosis - you know, to me, four walls are not entirely to be trusted. Nor are their cohorts the locks, bolts, fences, and alarms. They are our (barely) gilded prisons and self-inflicted shields from the beauty outside.


Got caught up delving around the detailed demographic stats at imdb regarding Saw IV.

Although the movie's weighted average score is just 6.5, owing to an exaggeratedly high percentage of 10/10s, the median is as much as 8. Furthermore, and even more pointedly, whereas a pretty substantial number, 26%, of males give it 10, it's an extraordinary 31.4% of all females to max it and a phenomenal 46.4% aged below 18!

It's clear that males have more of a problem with it than females as in addition to that, at the low end of the spectrum at 1/10, where there is also unusual proliferation, it's a higher male ratio.

Of course I couldn't resist looking in the 45+ age group, and what you notice there is an exceptional polarisation of the votes, 1s and 10s in equally large measure, and more or less the same regardless of gender.

Who could have imagined all that about the market leader of so-called 'torture porn'?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


You don't need to believe in ghosties and ghoulies to feel shudders upon exploring once-inhabited, now abandoned locations as I know when last year experiencing the tangible eeriness at the disused children's village of Humbie nearby. The imagination alone does the work. It provides the soundtrack, the smells, it tells the stories. And none of it is good.

Even the thought of these furtive urban creepsters sneaking around with their digital cameras and backpacks adds to the resonance. Notwithstanding, it's a remarkable archive of photography (albeit within a rather unnecessarily cold website) and there are several which stand out.

Fuck knows what was going on here - I purposefully didn't google anything because one look at the long trestle table, or just those strange murals under the dank arches, and it will give you a more than scary enough sense of claustrophobia and foreboding.

The Olympic Village
Ah, the joys of sport - and how far removed is that heady sweaty youthful atmosphere in this collection. So void, so empty, so unhappy. You don't need Jared Diamond's Collapse to comprehend the full extent of the Ceaucescan folly that is London 2012.

The Meat Factory
A friend used to sit hunched over his PC playing Half-Life 2 for hours on end, running up and down corridors in and out of rooms just like these. I kind of expected to hear the soft crunching of his footsteps and the sharp explosions of his anti-gravity weapon.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


There's a real art to being a good swearer. It's a tightly nuanced balance between timing, the unexpected, intonation, and a special intent that betrays a subtext ranging from mischief, to hard sincerity, to anger, to seduction, or perhaps to irony. And above all, I feel it's important that there's a comforting sense of you being given permission not only to say fuck or cunt back, but also to engage in actions that might otherwise not be appropriate.

The risk is that it's all too easy tip over into sounding trite or come across as ugly, or worse, just plain inarticulate; and therefore it's a rare rhetorical quality to find in a person.

Now, I like it when a man can do that, and to me, when a woman can do that, it's particularly attractive.

I've been fortunate enough to have a few friends with this elite skill, though one such expert practitioner of the profane that some of us (in the UK?) might be familiar with is Daisy Donovan, the TV comedienne and actress, daughter of Terence has it, thereby portraying that promise of intelligence, of unfettered imagination, of freedom to be herself. What more could you want?

You can enjoy seeing her in action in the recent black comedy Death At A Funeral where she's well cast in a role that, as far as one can tell, is pretty faithful to her real life persona.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Saw IV is another masterpiece.

Without getting into a discussion about its merits, there's a curious phenomenon developing here which one can't fail to notice upon visiting imdb.

Saw IV is an anomaly amongst the mainstream (if we can call it such) in that it demands a hell of a lot of work from you; not just the film itself, but the implicit presupposition of your total familiarity with the other three (if not the short). It's the type of referenced complexity usually only found in literature. To be so punishingly exacting, to me, is a pleasure in itself in an era when most movies still treat us like lobotomised imbeciles with constant scripted prompts, unnecessary repetition in the narrative, not to mention the clichéd musical emotional cues.

Therefore, I visited its imdb page to get my head around some of the dense new plotlines and was astonished to see the number of board postings. Hundreds of pages each containing dozens, in addition to each containing comments therein. In merely three days. To put that into perspective, the iconic Star Wars and The Godfather have eleven and twelve pages respectively.

Further to this veritable supernova of artistic feedback (which I highly value), you'll at once see how extremely polarised it is in terms of verdict (which I also highly value). So whatever your own view is, in addition to capturing people's imaginations like nothing else in recent memory, it's apparent we're split into two very clear camps. Trick or treat.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The road to sainthood is indeed a rocky one, and there is no shortage of villains, murderers, scurrilous fraudsters, and other assorted psychos and ne'er-do-wells to count amongst their number.

Francesco Forgione, popularly known as Padre Pio, is one such and whose fabulous claimed abilities (at times surpassing those of Jesus, Gandalf, and Harry Potter) transcended his more mundane, nay banal, talents of the curing of terminal illnesses or giving sight to the blind, and included the ability to fly: on one occasion swooping majestically skywards to save a downed Italian WW2 pilot. On another, using his skill for bilocating, managed to steer a car of sleeping occupants for several kilometres. Such stories, if nothing else, would surely impress almost any cute receptive cherub of a choirboy that might catch a clergyman's roving eye.

Now that the method of using carbolic acid for his famous stigmata effect has been confirmed by historian Sergio Luzzatto, here below I reprint the resounding and categorical answer from the Vatican for all you sceptics and doubting Thomases.

"We would like to remind Mr Luzzatto that, according to Catholic doctrine, canonisation carries with it papal infallibility."


The Bridge (Eric Steel, 2005)
Hypnotic feature about the awe-inspiring Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and its romantic allure to the suicidal. Based on the essay Jumpers that originally appeared in The New Yorker magazine, I guarantee this is unlike anything else you've ever seen and may well leave you, like me, deeply affected afterwards. Thanks to the poster of this recommendation at the forum.

Crazy Love (Dan Klores, 2007)
Documentary of a breathtakingly perverse and violent love story; one that begins weirdly enough and then through the various twists and turns gets increasingly more bizarre as the story, as told by the protagonists, unfolds. Relationships surely don't get madder than this.

Zeitgeist (unknown, 2007)
A couple of tedious minutes in and ready to eject, you suddenly find yourself sucked into this two hour conflation of three fascinating topics (non-historicity of Jesus, 9/11 inside job, international banking conspiracies) all of which are, despite the low production values, pretty well presented. An explicit connection isn't really made, and I've already studied these themes a great deal, yet it's forgivable as it's refreshing, after our constant diet of information to the contrary, to see it all expressed in the public domain.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I don't think there are too many times in one's life when someone else manages to articulate your own feelings with such resonance and with such precision, that you feel they are somehow after your very own heart.

Well, a few weeks ago I'd been discussing music with Philip and without knowing too much of the biographical detail, had been commenting about the clear influences of jazz musicians Albert Ayler and John Coltrane on the amazing first album by the French group Magma, musical project of Christian Vander. And on Monday, to my great pleasure, Philip managed to dig up this brilliant essay that Vander had written about these very influences.

Way beyond the undoubtedly intriguing background detail, it expresses Vander's personal music philosophy in a way that's especially poignant for having chosen such an artistically isolated and disenfranchised path.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I don't know if you remember the 'downward spiral' drugs campaign where, through police mugshots, you could see a person's shockingly premature degeneration. Well, bearing that in mind, have a look at this startling (though inverted) emphasis of my observation on the magical transformative qualities of a woman's looks through clothes and make-up. With the aid of expert million dollar cosmetic retouchers and unbridled hardcore overindulgence, it seems you can effortlessly, in the space of 48 hours, oscillate from looking like a cute fresh sexy young pussycat to wizened old addled crack whore - and no doubt back to sexy again by this Friday night.

For the philosophers amongst us, it would serve as a worthy starting point for our continuing debate on perception of reality.


Hello Kitty is an incredible international phenomenon - some of the coolest people I've ever known are huge fans and belies the notion of it being a kids' thing. Fuck, I'm a fan myself and am not quite sure why; and who, by the way, is up for a trip to Sanrio Puroland?

For the true otaku, there's a monthly Japanese glossy magazine packed with all the latest HK products and merch from around the world which includes almost everything under the sun - and now there's even this.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


On account of needing more time for recovery, I've had to cancel the two upcoming concerts at the end of this month in Oslo and Helsinki (Philip will instead just do solo performances there) and while that's bad enough, to make things rather worse, the long planned and much anticipated two week vacation in Italy has had to be cancelled.

Italy is such a beautiful fascinating country and has been a memorable backdrop to so much great dramatic literature and film. It seems you can separate it all into two distinct categories of narrative: the soft focus dreamy romantic (for instance, E.M. Forster's A Room With A View and others), or the shadowy and deadly (Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now and Ian McEwan's dark novel The Comfort Of Strangers come to mind).

Saturday, October 13, 2007


The Lives Of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)

Of the many ways of deciding whether to invest time in seeing a movie, you find it usually pays to be wary of the Oscar nominations, especially ones in the patronisingly entitled 'foreign language' section. On this occasion however, if you haven't yet seen this intelligent drama set in East Berlin under the Stasi, make an immediate exception. It's emotionally engaging, unflinching, compassionate, and superbly constructed throughout.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


I used to really love those Magic Eye books that were all the rage for a while - you'd look hard at a seemingly abstract picture and with some effort a translucent 3D image would appear as if out of nowhere (example). Several years ago, there was even a wonderful exhibition of stereograms in Edinburgh which included spectacular examples requiring the viewer's severest concentration. It gave a curious feeling of intimacy to be seeing something that was otherwise invisible.

Is seeing believing? Have a go at this magical exercise in perceived reality, it took me a good 15 minutes to get my head round it; and although it's a seemingly trivial exercise, the more you note the tone of many of the dozens of comments there, the more you begin to realise what an excellent metaphor it is for types of human behaviour.

Monday, October 08, 2007


You might have thought you knew a few, shall we say, unusual things about Sammy Davis Jr. - however, I bet you didn't know about this. Here's another example of the demonstration skill, this time Bruce Lee, in a scene from Enter The Dragon originally censored in the UK.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Who doesn't like a good zombie movie? Trouble is there are precious few that can compare to the early Romero works, in particular the original classic Night Of The Living Dead.

Quickly forgetting the atrocious Dawn Of The Dead remake (one fears the worst for the upcoming Day Of The Dead remake) and the dreary 28 Days Later franchise, and with all this extra time on my hands, I thus gave Resident Evil: Extinction a chance - and enjoyed this third and best effort in the series quite a bit even though it breaks that most sacred zombie covenant: that it has been scientifically proven that zombies can't run. When will they learn that the true aficionado's willing suspension of disbelief will not pass that threshold?

Anyway, ignoring that glaring oversight, Milla Jovovich is most appealingly attired throughout and has the prettiest eyes, and then you go and see a ghastly frumpy picture like this and you're sharply reminded about the magical transformative ability that clothes and make-up have. For much better or for much much worse.

For the clothes fetishist however, I discovered a curious spin-off to all this where you can buy the gear from a range of recent movies (including RE: Extinction) at what seem to me pretty reasonable prices. I mean, fuck, eat your heart out, sapeurs! I'd much rather get draped out there than in Bloomingdales or Harvey Nicks. Now I just need to find someone who will fit snugly into this sexy little number.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Just came back from the hospital and it seems I was initially being a bit too optimistic: there are in fact 3 broken ribs and so I'll be holed up and out of any meaningful action for around 6 weeks. Oh well, here's to free codeine and reading all those books you always wanted to have time for. Sincere thanks once again to everyone who's written.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Do you think humans have as many lives as cats? I certainly hope so because I know they must be fast running out. From a couple of very near drownings, as a child sleepwalking my way off a five metre high balcony, almost being squished by a Spanish express train and to, most recently, Friday's falling off the stage at the concert in Belfast.

I remember it was dark, had just finished verse 3 of Cruise, and was heading back to the instrument table to let Philip unleash his '50 questions' when suddenly in a split second everything changed: flat out on a cold floor looking up at the ceiling not being able to move.

The good news is that the heavy duty painkillers are now doing their job, and there's no permanent damage, just torn muscles and some exotic bruises. The paramedics and nurses at the hospital in Belfast were, despite working under testing circumstances, extraordinarily warm, friendly and dedicated; and as surely as they won't be reading this, I'm compelled to say a huge and sincere thank you for everything. Many, many thanks also to everyone who has sent messages, it really means a lot.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


A severe test of one's faith or beliefs that is a common psychic crisis or passage in a person's midlife.

Christians typically reframe as tests of faith everything that might seem to be incontrovertible evidence of there not being a divine entity. Just like victims of natural disasters, what could logically be perceived as acts of a cruel and unjust god, the focus is on the baby who survives against the odds beneath the rubble: the evidence of the miracle. Mother Theresa suffered her dark night of the soul for the last 45 years of her long life - and in reality was much more likely to be the dull unconscious regret made up of a lifetime's lack of gratification, and of pointless self-sacrifice for the benefit not only of an illusory non-existent divine being but also a cabal of degenerate and cynical clergymen.

Since so much of our personae is constructed upon our acquired beliefs and worldviews (by definition an extremely shaky foundation), and which we cling to stubbornly and defiantly often against all reason, it seems perfectly natural that there should come a time in our lives when we, at least on an unconscious level, critically question ourselves in this way, and in a way which gives a deep sense of unease. The so-called dark night of the soul.

As a teenager, one of the best philosophical lessons I learned from the divine marquis (and to an extent ancient Greek philosophy) was the desire to avoid the human arrogance of the fixed idea, of the rigid sense of moral purpose. And to me, there's an important distinction between that and being amoral or immoral, which incidentally is similar to my mild personal discomfort at the label atheist as I see atheism as essentially a Christian construct. Therefore, I don't believe in any god, neither am I an atheist; my attitude is the same regards morality.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Are we blind or do you just close your eyes?

Slaughterhouse: The Task Of Blood is substantially more shocking than any horror film you'll see in a while. Quite topical as the country finds itself once more in the grip of another farm crisis: foot and mouth disease (again) and the disturbingly named bluetongue. This mad cow's mind boggles about that one.

A personal comment about this horrifying documentary: my own misanthropy isn't so much enflamed by the actions of any given individual, but rather our grubby human institutions and the way we organise our overbearing, arrogant, ugly selves together to carry out this and other dirty work.


Even though I watch precious little television, I have become addicted to the French channel Mezzo. MTV it isn't. It serves a stylish mix of classical, jazz, and other musics from around the world that, despite its arty seriousness, is a source of ideas and inspiration and joy that commercial music seems utterly incapable of satisfying.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, through Mezzo, I discovered the young jazz trumpeter Christian Scott's new album Anthem which is the most pleasing thing I've heard since I was earlier this year kindly introduced to the diabolically entrancing Ghana Funeral Field Recordings; and Scott's lugubrious Katrina-inspired melodies have become a constant soundtrack around here. I'm guessing this won't be everyone's thing, maybe I'm wrong.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Not sure if this vignette of our times is funny or depressing? Seventy-two years old. The rationale given by the supermarket at the end of the report is pathetic and symptomatic.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Sherrybaby (Laurie Collyer, 2006)

Confession time: I watched this because of Secretary. A minute into Sherrybaby however you know you've hit real gold (isn't it funny how you can tell a film's worth within seconds?).

Sherry, a recovering drug addict, returns home from prison and struggles with both the parole conditions to stay clean, and with reestablishing a relationship with Alexis, her estranged 4 year old daughter.

This is a brilliant female character study, with a painful and courageous virtuoso performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal alongside a superb supporting cast, full of memorable, occasionally shocking, yet believable scenes. Gyllenhaal's favourite actress is cited as being Gena Rowlands and this will truly delight all you fellow John Cassavetes fans, I know there are quite a few of us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007



flora_mundi said...
bravo. i think that devouring a mango in all its messy glory is something everyone should experience. most people are much too prissy about eating...

... hey, you're so right, messy eating is so good, and children still understand that. Supermarkets and their delivery, distribution, and storage methods have already managed to kill most people's sense of taste and smell, and likewise, cutlery deprives of us of the pleasure of the kino of eating. Admit it. You know what a thrill you get to have permission to longingly hold that food in your fingers. Even more when you know it might otherwise be frowned upon. And afterwards just let the back of your hand wipe down your smug satisfied chops.

Monday, September 17, 2007


One of my favourite treats is to have an impertinently soft plump over-ripe mango to sink my teeth into - and not solely to avail of its fabled aphrodisiac and life-enhancing properties. You know the taste and texture is so so sweet and good. This Sunday evening, after a few seconds of initial pointless reticence, I finally succumb to the temptation of going wolfman and wilfully plunge my stubbled snout into that yielding mango flesh, allowing the juices of that most fucking beautiful of fruits to stream all the way down and over. Delicious.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Commonly, you see the focus of demonstration skills eclipsing the ostensible principle skill - and, in the originally cited example of the guitar soloist, although extraordinarily talented showmen like Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Hendrix might have a lot to answer for, you can't really blame them for the inevitable apists, epigones, and other absurdist tailchasers that followed in their footsteps.

The widespread criticism of Britney Spears' recent performance at this year's MTV Awards also highlights this. Note that nearly all of the sniping comments refer to her demonstration skills - that is, her dancing, her looks, her lipsyncing (the performers to receive good press get complimented on those very same ephemera). Give the girl a fucking break - it's not like her songs are better or worse than anyone else's. Maybe even a bit better.

Of course, at this MTV level, the basic skill of singing a song (let alone writing) was forgotten about a long time ago. It also reminds me of Chris Morris's wonderful The Day Today series that satirised TV news' addiction to endless overblown computer graphics and camera edits that end up superseding the news reporting itself. The Day Today hit its target so unerringly and so accurately that it's hard to watch the real thing nowadays without a sense of profound cynicism.

To me, demonstration skills are absolutely fine, and moreover useful, as long as the original and main purpose isn't lost. The intent.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


In several recent interviews, and also in some blog postings, I've attempted to explain my particular artistic notion of asceticism (for example, here) - and I'm not sure if I've totally succeeded in articulating what seems, at its core, to be a total paradox.

How can one artist be better than another doing ostensibly exactly the same thing just because he or she is choosing not to do something else that we can't experience anyway? How can you explain the effect of the presence of something that can't be seen, touched or felt? You know, the more you think about it, the less it appears to make sense; while the less it appears to make sense, the more we know it has to be true as it's happening all around us.

One way is by applying a kind of intangible compromise, or what I call a transparent concession (originally referred to here), and I believe I've got a more effective metaphor for articulating this concept, culled once again from my favourite source of inspiration, the theatre.

Imagine you were playing the leading role in a play of two acts. In between the acts there's a 20 minute intermission where you have some time to yourself backstage. The question is, what would you do with this time away from the focus of the audience in order to maximise your performance? Do you relax and exchange small-talk with the staff perhaps, or do you spend it staying in character?

Of course the latter. It's an example of a transparent concession being employed - not something the audience is ever aware of, yet makes such a profound creative difference. Successful magicians and miracle workers employ transparent concessions - like in this Indian Rope Trick demonstration. If it's not transparent, then it's not magic!

You may now be wondering how you might put this to good use in music or painting or photography or other artistic endeavours - and in my typically cryptic, evasive (if not downright irritating) style, I won't provide any further real-life examples - all in the hope that it will serve to cognitively whet your creative juices in unexpectedly pleasing and productive ways.


Since the original post regarding my interpretation of the guitar solo as a demonstration skill (used in all sorts of contexts ranging from when a person's real potential might otherwise be invisible, or where a person might need some instant charisma), I have received a couple of emails wishing for further examples, so here provided are a few more.

- preachers slaying in the spirit
- fancy flourishes and card shuffles by magicians
- singers' fancy shines and dance steps during a song
- comedians singing songs
- footballers' acrobatic goal celebrations
- mediums' use of knocks and taps from beyond the grave
- poker players doing chip tricks
- wheelies by bike riders

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Really worth having a look at Ben Fairhall's fascinating blog - not just because you have a special interest in the Madeleine McCann mystery.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Walking home one night, I chanced upon this handwritten poster - and it broke my heart.

And it may strike some people as shocking that a human tragedy of similar dimensions would more often than not leave me emotionally unmoved. Not that I'd wish that on anyone, it just wouldn't affect me. Yet, a little girl's lost toy mouse and the poster she wrote really hit me hard and makes me feel sad. Does that make any sense at all?


This last week tricked myself into seeing Death Sentence, 1408 and The Walker. Avoid, avoid, avoid - if it's still not too late. I mean, I really don't care about the money, but is there any way at all I could just have my time back? No, I didn't think so. Fuck, what a waste.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Witness to a modest piece of unsung magic.


Paul Greengrass is undoubtedly a very skilful director - The Bourne Ultimatum is a masterclass of a mainstream action movie: full of imaginative flourishes, a tight script, excellent acting - and refreshingly, best of all, a recasting of a government organisation as the baddies - and there lies something I've yet been unable to reconcile.

The US administration has a lot of previous for mythologising real life events, of which Private Jessica Lynch's 'escape' story would arguably be the apotheosis, and you may recall Greengrass's penultimate work Flight 93, a film which lovingly retells this 'Let's Roll!' American hero narrative just as the discredited 9/11 Commission would wish for.

After all, let's be honest, film has formed the modern basis of our understanding of historical events - from 300 to Jesus Of Nazareth to Braveheart to Pearl Harbour and so on - that's what's memorable in people's minds, and that's what becomes the effective reality. Ever since the movie industry began, it has been used as a potent propaganda tool by governments of all flavours.

So, how is it that the same director can make two consecutive movies with such contrasting agendas? All I can think is that, as brilliant a filmmaker as Greengrass patently is, he simply does what he's told by his producers, and that's that. I mean, it's 2007, so what price integrity?

Monday, August 20, 2007


#9: magic
So yes, no 'k'. Because rather than alluding to some questionable Rosicrucian 'psychick' ritual spell, or even Melvin pulling a rabbit out of a fucking hat, magic is to me something special nevetheless. My own definition is a relatively simple one, yet within it there is incredible potential for creativity and exploration. It's the realisation (or actualisation if you prefer) of something you used to think was utterly impossible and unachievable. That's it.

Doesn't sound like much, except the more you begin to contemplate those words the more you begin to come to terms with how very much that truly encompasses. How many pleasures have you never experienced because you thought you never would? And indeed, how much of it can or could you stand? What in fact are your limitations?

Wherever you choose to set that is the boundary between the you and magic. And that's where I want to go.

The realm of magic in this sense is indeed vast of which I could pen hundreds of pages, and as far as creativity is concerned, one very powerful technique of getting there is the utilisation of what I term the transparent concession, a notion to be discussed in a forthcoming post.

#10: and
As a child, I went to over a dozen different schools. Don't ask why. And at one of them in particular, a private one, you wouldn't believe the stick I'd get from teachers for commencing sentences with conjunctions like and and but. And whose infuriation I naturally would keep enflamed by wilfully continuing to do so. It all probably goes to explain a lot.

Anyway, fuck 'em. And is one of the most powerful and misunderstood words that exists. So small and seemingly insignificant, it's almost invisible in its fleeting appearances in real time, yet so much meaning is contained therein that, even if you looked up the definition in the most bloated dictionary in the world, you would not find.

And my love of and is because of its implicit presupposition that two things are linked together in a relationship, or cause and effect, and it's its very smallness that allows that implication to be unconsciously accepted like a ninja creeping under the fence in the dark of night. Indeed, whenever I found myself using that horrid word but which is the linguistic equivalent of the delete key on your computer, effectively communicating to a person that what you're about to say is more important and superior in value to that which you've just been told ('yes, I agree with you, but....'), I learnt to switch it to and.

And I now wish I'd ended more sentences at school with and.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Having chanced upon this amusing discussion, I began to wonder what indeed was the point of guitar solos in rock songs?

There was a time in the early 70s when only hardened hairy bloke geeks could possibly enjoy the interminable live solo sections, whether guitar, bass, drums or keyboards. In fact there were so many transgressors in those dark days that it would be totally unfair of me to name Rick Wakeman alone. They would all (perhaps unwittingly) bore the fans senseless with interminable slots of indulgence. Punk's reaction to this culture of self-indulgence was refreshing - guitar solos reduced to a few seconds long, and usually just one or two notes (despite an enduring recollection in 79 of that pitiful band The Police doing a 15 minute version of Roxanne).

My own theory is that a guitar solo in mainstream music fulfils a different kind of role to the one commonly perceived as an aspect of the dynamic, melodic and harmonic structure of a song. I see it as an example of a demonstration skill: in other words, a way of showing off your main potential through a minor technical showcase.

For instance, walking on water is a fairly pointless action, yet it demonstrates to an audience in need of say, salvation, that by implication there must be so much more to offer. Of course, in this same way, demonstration skills are extremely effective ways of influencing, impressing, and persuading in all sorts of scenarios, not just in music.

A long-time friend of mine, Alan, a talented graphic designer, once had a prospective client in his office witness him quickly finishing off some Photoshop work. Without ever touching the mouse, Alan's fingers in a Paganini-like blur of shortcuts and keypresses, would resize, open, close windows on the screen, apply filters and conversions, and magically make paper disgorge from the printer. And understandably, this awestruck customer was convinced (quite rightly) that this guy must be the man for the job - but interestingly, without ever seeing his work.

To me, guitar solos have much the same effect, in much the same way as do Bach's flamboyant free-form preludes to fugues, they give enjoyment to the listeners who feel comfortable in the knowledge that the performers are talented, thereby adding credibility to the music; and as long as they don't start to fall in love with the belief that their solos are an end in themselves, they are a worthwhile component to a traditional song. I bet you didn't expect to hear me say that.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Ghosts Of Cité Soleil (Asger Leth, 2007)

It's really hard to knock a guy that's genuinely put his life on the line to make a documentary film like this - even Iraq In Fragments, which I reviewed recently, isn't set amidst such casual cheap violence as the US-style gun culture enacted out by the portrayed thugsters and gangsters here in the metropolitan neighbourhood of Cité Soleil on the outskirts of Port Au Prince. And undeniably it's nothing less than captivating throughout.

You can't blame the subjects of the film who are already born into a total disaster area of poverty and deprivation - it's an underlying tragedy that the corrosive effects of military and cultural colonialism will simply not disappear despite the country's nominal 200 years' independence.

But, part of all that is Asger Leth with his 85-minute wide-eyed MTV rap video that the amazing original footage has been converted into; it's also Lele, the silly French 'relief worker', who can't see any bigger picture beyond her next overseas shagging opportunity, and who should be more than old enough to know better; it's US troops once again being pointlessly thrown into narrow squalid street alleyways on some vague political imperative; and let's be honest here, it also includes oneself the viewer/voyeur lapping it all up for an evening's entertainment.

Haiti deserves a lot better than this.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


For anyone who might be interested, Carl Holmes has kindly sent in the full hitherto unpublished transcript of an interview I did for a Vice magazine article in Berlin late last year. The theme was 'poverty' which was why we got onto that topic.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

Albini once said to me how he believed in the fundamental principle that good music sells - that's all there is to it, if it's good, it'll sell. I agree with that to a point, yet a lot more people will see Rush Hour 3 this weekend than will have seen almost any David Lynch film, with the possible exception of the dreadful Dune. Ironic?

Inland Empire is shot on video which takes some getting used to having been accustomed to the director's usual high production values and cinematography. Beyond that incongruence however, this is very much classic Lynchian territory - and he gives free rein to his exceedingly fertile and surreal imagination over the entire 3 hours of the movie in ways that go beyond even my previous (and still) favourite, Fire Walk With Me.

In fact, although many mainstream reviewers (predictably) complain that it's too weird, and that it doesn't make sense (where have we heard that before?), while without wishing to second-guess Lynch's original intentions, to me at least, it's a fascinating and powerful exploration of a person's, in this case a woman's, layers of the unconscious mind - the wild ocean of possibility where any thing can happen, where any thing is possible (see EXOTERIC where I discuss this in relation to my own work). The fears, the lists of what needs to be done, the social pressures, the desires, the doubts, the relationships, the internal conflicts. Even the title itself can be summed up thus.

That the sexiest actor on the planet, Jeremy Irons, also stars is yet another reason for seeing this incredible work. Not, of course, that another excuse is in any way required.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Thursday, August 09, 2007


I might be extremely pleasant, and indeed I am, yet it hasn't stopped me from calling Simon Reynolds on his bullshit.

Amidst the bad grammar and typos of one of his recent chewy posts, you notice there's no irony lost on this hapless yet harmless copy'n'paste merchant as he helpfully includes some definitions of Racket for us all, and thus allows us to enjoy one of those exquisite moments when the art itself acts not only as the reflection in the well, but the hands pushing him in. Makes it all worthwhile.

We can see that, in his usual slack sloppy style, Reynolds clearly doesn't know the lyrics ('why should I?' you can hear him protest, 'Gen's already told me everything I need to know'), for otherwise he'd soon realise that his own entire career is a poignant embodiment of the point he's trying to make; and the fourth applicable definition of Racket, sadly not included in his Collins, is an it he will never get, even if we were to dedicate a further three decades to it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Check this must-see collection of cloud formations seen in Iceland by my good friend Akiko Hada. Doesn't it make you want to visit?



This last week's films I've enjoyed (for the sake of sparing embarrassment, the turkeys don't get a mention):

Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
Hustle & Flow (Craig Brewer, 2005)
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)

Monday, August 06, 2007

++++ 2

Yes, and as I look at you now I can see why people might love you.

I can see exactly what they might want from you. And what they desire you to do for them. In a way, it seems to make sense in them wanting that, from you; in willing you to do it, for them. So fucking desperately. Because in their minds you've got what they want. And sooner or later they'll also find out that they can't get it because you simply won't give it to them, will you?

One day we finally learn the lesson which is that to give people what they want from you is not to give them what they want from you. Life's pretty fucking easy from then on.

And now that I've already been given what I want, the way I can now really touch you deeply is to give up that desire to want it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


You're not waiting, you're hanging about. Aimlessly. That's precisely what you're doing - just fucking around watching the passing show when it happens. It's perfectness and it's all there. It's not being in the right place at the right time because that might imply some reasoning, some intent, some kind of choice. Let's not rationalise this. You're here and I'm here and that's how it is. That's how we meet.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Looking back over the year's entries to this blog, I've noticed a pattern emerging of my reacting to reviews - not something I ever really used to do or care about doing. A phenomenon of the internet is this capacity for everyone to have their say in public, which is absolutely fine (complaining about that would be like complaining about the shit rainy weather that is upon us here today - yet again!) so therefore why not extend the dialogue further? I know I often find other writers' and artists' feelings about responses given to their work revealing and insightful.

Of course, having spent a year and a half making a record gives you a privileged position when it comes to picking holes in all the minor factually incorrect claims - and I think it's important to resist that temptation. I also stand by the position that any response is part of the artwork itself and reveals as much about that person - and my favourite measure of artistic success is how deep that goes.

That said, the albums since Mummy And Daddy have garnered a really large body of often fascinating opinion, and there are a few commonly repeated themes I've noticed emerging, and once again with Racket. Here below listed are a few themes I'd like to take issue with, each having their very own obtuse sub-heading.

Has anyone raised with Conrad the argument that his novel would have read so much better if it were 40 pages longer? Or 100 pages? Or pointed out that Tolstoi's War And Peace is such excellent value for money? Or since when do you measure the beauty of a painting by its size? I don't give a toss about the capacity of a fucking CD. I want quality. I want to experience music full of ideas and content and feelings, and I want to enjoy playing it hundreds of times and still love it years from now.

Some men can be such prudes. In one sense they're traditionally obsessed with sex, in another they get all fidgety when you're open about it. I've written songs about all sorts of subjects, containing all sorts of cultural references, expressing all kinds of strong emotions, and yet it's amazing how often a review or band description will reference I'm Coming Up Your Ass or similar. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Get over it. Yes, it's a song about sex. This prudishness is comparable to the early days of rock'n'roll, R&B and blues when the originally explicit lyrics had to be toned down with euphemisms for the repressed white audiences. And then again with reggae, dancehall and rap. Funny thing is, one of the reasons for The Sex Pistols' infamy was because of the very word 'sex' - at the time, incredible though it may sound now, use of the word in a band's name was a taboo. It's noticeable that the legions of noise copycats are far more comfortable with murder and destruction, or just general total abstractness, than they are with filthy explicit juicy sex. It still amazes me now that, as a band within any genre, we seem to almost have an unchallenged monopoly on the use of the word 'cunt'. Well the men don't know but the little girls do indeed understand.

All your albums sound the same. I don't remember Jimi Hendrix ever getting accused of using a muff pedal on two consecutive albums, or John Coltrane for -gulp- using a saxophone again, or Bob Dylan for repeated use of a mouth organ. Oh, the recidivism. I'll stand up for myself here and boldly state that I don't think there are many bands around that, for such a long time, have experimented with totally new sounds and continued to progress and take risks. And to say otherwise reveals to me a lack of fundamental musical understanding. So there.

Of course I think Racket and Asceticists 2006 are classics - I suppose I have to say that. And I genuinely do believe that. However, I respect anyone's opinion - I have no problem with those who think differently or dislike our music, I really don't. It's understood that the music that we make isn't going to be popular like other mainstream forms; it's accepted that there are going to be a lot of people out there that will miss the point of it (even when they think they understand it): it's part of the territory because it's difficult music in the strictest sense of the word, and by the same token, the rewards are potentially much greater. Albums going right back to Birthdeath Experience and Erector and Great White Death and later Cruise and others were given very mixed responses upon release, and it was only much later that they began to get seen in a different light. Haven't you ever seen something or tasted something that at first disgusted you only for some mysterious reason at a later time find yourself really loving it?

Friday, July 27, 2007


Although, at least for the time being, I'll continue to do vocals live, as far as studio work is concerned, now that Dyad is out there, I've decided to just focus on the producing, the writing and the playing roles.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Iraq In Fragments (James Longley, 2006)

Essential viewing. This is a voyeuristic portrait of the disastrous and chaotic state of Iraq as seen through the eyes of three cute young boys: a Sunni, a Shia, and a Kurd. The US/UK invading forces' sporadic appearances form a shadowy backdrop throughout that remind me of the Martian tripods in War Of The Worlds (perhaps an apposite analogy if we accept Isaac Asimov's allegorical interpretation of the novel).

And the film's deeply impressionistic stylism, and artistic use of photography and colour, added to the boys' shared viewpoint of lost vulnerability, and the extraordinarily patriarchal society in which they live, all contrive to put the projected fantasy of our daily dose of Western media reports into even starker focus; and the atmosphere throughout at no stage allows for a feeling of comfort.


Praise the heavens for the hapless Nick Cain who single-handedly restores the balance. For a moment I was almost worrying and now we can all sleep more comfily in our scratchers. In his opening salvo of a few judiciously chosen song-titles to get the neutral reader on board, added to some predictable incorrect assumptions and prejudices, he teaches us all a thing or two about self-parody and cliché with his lazy now-familiar pattern of countless false contrasts - '...though this...', '...but that...' and so forth. I don't want to dwell on this particular clone (it's adequately dealt with in the interview) other than to say in a few years' time he'll once again be shamelessly stealing all your ideas. Oh well, I guess that's ruined our chances of a New Zealand tour.

Monday, July 16, 2007


The Boss Of It All (Lars Von Trier, 2007)

I really love a person who's never afraid to mess with convention nor an audience's expectations - and even better with a hearty dose of mischief thrown in for good measure.

The first few frames of The Boss Of It All feature Lars Von Trier narrating a theatrical-style introduction in his now distinctive Danish tones seen but as a reflection in the office building where the drama is soon to take place; and immediately you just know he's going to take you somewhere special. 'Theatrical' is really the key word here: this movie is a light almost Shakespearean comedy, full of subtlety and intrigue and clever language, and I imagine much is probably missed (especially by us non-Scandinavians).

The protagonist, an out-of-work thespian, is drafted in to act out the role of the top boss of a company who's never previously been seen by the staff; and things get predictably complicated as events unfold and relationships develop. It all plays out like a weird hybrid of Ricky Gervais's The Office and Extras, but fewer chuckles and more meaningful. At times it also reminded me of Catherine Breillat's brilliant underrated Sex Is Comedy - in particular for its intricate drama-referencing humour and message.

One of LVT's trademarks is often the camera-work and the physiology of the sets he employs - here I learned that he utilised odd computer-generated random camera shots which often miss the subject, and they act as an effective metaphor for the unpredictable nature of the storyline.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


There's a recurring comment you hear from what one might a tad patronisingly call the layperson. And someone asked me this again last week.

Why are you so angry all the time?

Of course this isn't the case, and I think the connoisseur will appreciate that - in fact, on or off the stage, it's an extremely rare event for me to get anywhere near to the state of anger.

Isn't it a bit like a small child walking in on their parents shagging?

Mummy, why are you fighting with daddy?

Friday, July 13, 2007


Simon Reynolds' much-feted Rip It Up And Start Again is an entertaining but ultimately shoddily researched book about what he describes as 'post-punk'; he has far less grasp on the literary and artistic cultural references he bandies about than he and his band of nostalgic mostly fortysomething readers might like to think. But that's rock writers for you. Anyway, enough of that.

On a personal note, it's irritating how Reynolds' included unverified quotes from Neil Megson get lazily regurgitated in various quarters, and once again, in this month's Wire magazine, Megson eagerly jumps at the opportunity tossed in his direction. And before I continue, I should state for the record that I admire both Chris and Cosey, nor do I have a problem with Sleazy (despite not being especially familiar with his latter-day work).

Hippie Megson has been playing the numbers game since the early 70s, trying his luck at almost any thing in the hope of hitting the big celebrity jackpot that, like the grapes to Tantalus, so sadly seems to keep eluding him. And despite the bold bulimic rhetoric he utilises in conversation, Megson in all that time - with the assistance of his trusty sidekick, the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary - has not managed (in my opinion) to write one single half-decent set of lyrics. His continual griping and posturing and bitching and rationalising and whingeing and namechecking and boasting says a lot more about him than it does about anyone else: a subtext of why he doesn't get the recognition and public love for everything that, at least in his own addled moral worldview, he feels he's invented or achieved, and donated to the world.

The ironic and disappointing truth is that he's not a man in drag at all, I really wish he was. He's Nicholas Fairbairn with piercings.


I'll get my apologies in first. As the first anniversary of this blog approaches, I've noticed my posting frequency inexorably diminishing month by month, so from now on have decided to somewhat artificially pad things out a bit in the form of more movie 'reviews'.

The curious thing is that, despite never having done any acting since playing Captain Smollett in a school production of Treasure Island at the age of about 11 (my major claim to fame since it also starred Laurence Olivier's daughter Tamsin...), of all the theory that interests me, that of the theatre is where I find one can learn the most. Plus it's an endless source of powerful inspiration because in its purest form it's inside you at potentially the deepest emotional level.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


I'm recommending a Disney film: and before you impertinently laugh out loud at the suggestion, or choke on your luxury chocolate cake - why not reread REVISIONISM and see Bridge To Terabithia.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


Egon Schiele prints hang all around my flat, you can't escape them - he always has been one of my favourite painters, and yet I was astounded, when visiting some of Vienna's finest galleries, to see them live, as it were, hanging on the museum-white walls. They seemed to reach out and touch in a way the more celebrated Klimt works didn't - at least for me. Schiele is perhaps most noted for his sexy female studies, and they are indeed studies in the most unflinching sense of the word - not jut because of the graphic poses and reveals but also because he forces the truth, and at the same time are truly romantic, as I would define the word.

There were also several of his other landscape and more abstract works, which were also vivid, and dark and foreboding - and this posting is only serving to remind how much a return trip to Vienna is needed for another fix of Schiele and the countless other lesser known (though equally impressive) artists' works.

Friday, June 15, 2007


There've been all sorts of interesting responses to Racket - and the nice things that have been said, especially from those whose opinions I particularly value, are really most gratifying to hear.

One comment that has been repeated in several quarters that continues to mystify is that Dyad is somehow about The Wire - so let me state for the record it's neither about The Wire, Playboy, Woman's Own, The Economist, nor any other magazine for that matter.

One type of response that I love is one such as the priceless following example (by a certain 'Zeno Marx'):
"If this was done by someone else, say, Konono N°1, which would never happen because they're actually good at what they do, this album would get panned as it justly should. While generally a purist, I'm no Whitehouse purist because I don't care about them enough to hold them to a strict standard or style. I don't think they've had a good idea, let alone executed an idea well, since Quality Time, and maybe even before that. Racket, and what an appropriate name that is, sucks. Tracks 4 and 7 are the only ones worth a shit, and the only reason I'll even give those credit is because the others are so bad that they stand out as having a semblance of value. Live off the name, boys, because that's what you have left."


Some new links added on the right hand side of the page - K-Punk's prolific blog is a great favourite of mine, I highly recommend it. I originally met him at a noise music conference at North London University; we had the pleasure of having dinner later with a group of the other participants, and I have been a great admirer ever since.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


There is no totally right or wrong relationship.

As you listen to music, with whom or what are you relating? Can you be touched?

Shut your eyes and ears for a brief time of silence, and try to discover who you wouldn't be in mental communication with, if there could be found one solitary moment when you'd not be in contact with some object. Because you may find something rather interesting: that even as you attempt to focus on something inanimate you cannot at all remove it from associations of life, perhaps of a person who created it, who placed it there, who touched it, who spoke about it, who looked at it.

If, as artists, we wish to exchange our feelings or our thoughts with a person, we must offer something you and I have experienced. Real communion is so much more magical than imitations of it - the simple desire to be merely effective cannot be allowed to cloak this relationship, this communion, this truth.


I think it's been obvious for a while now my fascination with African (and Haiti for that matter), especially in terms of the music, language, and art - the inspiration has been utterly invaluable, and now my plan is to take this passion and endeavour much further with the pursuit of an open-ended genre that I've dubbed afro noise. Essentially to consist of obscure African percussion elements in free-form work-outs with almost any other type of (genuine) sound experimenting. Already in evidence in some of the latter-day Whitehouse tracks, I believe there are incredible and exciting possibilities here which will also serve to draw a firm line between - what seems to me at least, and I've said it before - the utterly staid, conservative, conformist, and oh-so-boring ageing 'noise' genre. Let's recapture the flame and the excitement.

We're going to soon begin putting out a series of albums of the best of these compositions beginning with Afro Noise I which will proudly feature the amazing art of Stefan Danielsson - so anyone who has any interest will be very welcome to get in touch or send us their own experiments; it's of no matter who you are, what you normally play (noise, jazz, classical, electronica, whatever), or what part of the world you're from; just that it comes from the heart and that it works, just that it hits the spot. Also, in the Edinburgh vicinity, if there are any percussionists, djembe players, or just eager pairs of demon hands, it would also be great to hear from you because we're going to be organising some regular sweaty work-out sessions.

There's also a blog dedicated to this (contributions very welcome), a website is coming soon, and a MySpace page.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Still alive, still clinging on - album's been out a week or so now and, like that morning after the best party of your life, I always experience a feeling of utter emptiness and it's going to need a while to reanimate.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Don't you hate seeing sad listless animals shambling around in zoo enclosures? Especially the larger mammals. However, these amazing pictures (and check out the video too) are too extraordinary not to have a look at.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Over the last couple of days I have finally managed to enjoy getting round to seeing a few of the documentary films that Philip has recently recommended to me:

- When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts
- Black Tar Heroin
- Gladiator Days: Anatomy Of A Prison Murder
- Cocaine Cowboys

Spike Lee's devastating 4+ hours portrayal of the flooding of New Orleans at the time of hurricane Katrina is not only the pick of this worthy yet harrowing collection, but is undoubtedly, in my mind, one of the most brilliant documentary films of all time. It doesn't try to simplify, preach, or evade complexities, or be used as an exercise in egotism (think Michael Moore) - and by so doing packs an infinitely more powerful heavyweight punch; moreover, it even allows for inspired moments of gallows humour: this alone is testament to its greater poignancy.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


#8: intent
I am always curious about your intent, or even my own. It's the intent of a work of art or an actor's performance I see as the underlying motive, the belief about what one's fundamental purpose is at that time, whether implicit or explicitly stated - all invested and filtered through the energy afforded. It can reveal whether the artist has anything at all to say, other than exercising the pursuit of attention or emulation. In fact, as a measure of worth, I find myself much more attracted to, and interested in, an artist's intent than in their technical abilities, even though it's the combination of these two working together well that is as rare and as beautiful as the most obscure orchid in the rainforest.


Where would you go if you didn't know where it was? And what wouldn't you do if I didn't take you there?

Every system of prescriptive behaviour (like morals, ethics and forms of protocol) can be said to be imposing form upon a dynamic reality; and the gap between the two are what creates the tension that can excite an artist. The metaphor I like to use is that of the hand leading one into the woods; being led astray isn't necessarily being led to an unwelcome place, it's more likely to be something you'd dream - to me, it's that which is familiar that is the most unwelcoming - so if I'm going to be leading you anywhere, rest assured it won't be to a place you've been to before.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Further personal definitions. Tell me when you're getting bored.

#6: the you
This is an expression that I started using in lyrics around 2001 that I've been asked about a number of times.

Through compounding 2nd and 3rd persons, it's my way of referring to what an individual represents rather than who they are, that is, in terms of personal identity - a representation that offers a much wider sense of a human's characteristics, one that transcends his or her own belief systems and worldview.

And furthermore, it exposes our frailties and vulnerabilities, in my opinion, under a much more sensitive focus; and at the same time, by employing 3rd person verb forms, it becomes somewhat less direct and more universal in scope.

#7: dare
I love the word dare. Such a deliciously small word that encapsulates so much potential for excitement, for promise, for fulfilment. It's the immediate allure of the challenge, of the unknown: for pleasures not yet experienced, maybe not yet even imagined, let alone yearned for - all laced of course with a sharp element of risk, or even wrongness.

I dare you to do it.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Stefan Danielsson, a simply amazing artist, of whom I think I can say we both share the same kind of dark esoteric fascination with Africa, and who has done the cover art for Racket, now has a blog - which of course should hastily be added to your favourite links.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


There were many times I can recall when, in order to replenish the bare coffers, I'd sell off a few unwanted used records or CDs to the Dick Turpins behind the counter at London's Record & Tape Exchange. They may have offered a derisory amount in exchange for your precious vinyl but at least you didn't have to have your fucking fingerprints taken.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Tracklisting and times for Racket:
  1. Fairground Muscle Twitcher 2:29
  2. Mouthy Battery Beast 5:57
  3. Dumping More Fucking Rubbish 3:23
  4. The Avalanche 4:16
  5. Bahnhof 1:53
  6. Dyad 4:51
  7. Bia Mintatu 6:48

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Just like any cat, I hate doors - whenever I can, I leave them open.

Cats hate them because they block their freedom to patrol and to explore their territory (which is why they keep meowing to be let out and then, seemingly rather perversely to us humans, cry to be let in again after having accomplished their brief survey). To me, doors are another manifestation of our modern love of self-imposed restrictions that, while giving us an illusion of security, in fact represent a cage.

One of the first flats I shared was with 3 or 4 transient others, and as usual I would typically leave my room door ajar while sleeping - it wasn't a deliberate strategy but it was occasionally interpreted (and accepted) as an invitation to make a furtive night-time visitation. That happened at a small family guest house I was once staying at in Blackpool and, assuming the 'visitor' was a fellow guest (actually the landlady), was most taken aback when she demanded £25 before agreeing to leave the room...

Monday, April 23, 2007


In case anyone's remotely interested, here are my test results just in from the Political Compass:

Economic Left/Right: -3.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.03

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Some further personal definitions.

#4: romantic
How romantic do you consider yourself? It's a question that seems to come up in rather unexpected contexts. The funny thing is I use the word a lot and often feel the need to immediately qualify it. But why? Romance to me isn't some weedy supplicating tacky card gesture or late night 7-11 flowers or a gimmicky proposal or a box of Milk Tray. It's about surrender, passion, laughter, lost control, screams, tenderness, loneliness, ecstasy, danger, madness, fantasy, tragedy, cruelty, protecti0n, exhilaration; it's full of all of these wild contradictions - but crucially, all experienced with that someone with the purpose of transcending the numb prism of life itself, and paradoxically, to thereby celebrate it.

#5: yes
I don't mean yeah or yep or the other lazy variants, I mean yes which is a far far sexier word. I love to really emphasise that glorious final s to get it rich and compelling; to get that subtext of deep promise that will grant you the permission to do something, anything, any thing that might happen to be lingering there in our mysterious imaginations.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


I have a suspicion that adults don't have a fucking clue what being a child is really like - and of course I include myself in recognising the limitation of being able to remember all sorts of once upon a time things that happened - but not what it is genuinely like or how it feels.

You would think that as adults, all of us having underwent childhood (presumably), we would have a better understanding of what being a child is all about. And yet, in many ways adults behave and adopt attitudes that belie their experiences of those early formative years. Furthermore, books and films are full of examples of this curious form of anthropomorphism: child roles being merely voices for us adults to romanticise, idealise, or fantasise what it is to be young; or else our very own words and ideas are simply put into their compliant unquestioning mouths. For decades, if not centuries, women have had to put up with male authors and scriptwriters doing this to them - in some ways it must be even worse for kids. Because, by definition, they'll probably never get the chance to do anything about it.


Haven't you ever thought about the difference between what doesn't make sense and what you're used to doing?

There are times when you get up bright and early in the morning and see the legions of office and shop workers scurrying towards their bleak everyday destinations, looks of grim determination on their withered faces. All cheap suits, bad shoes and bus passes. It appears so alien it's like you belong to another species of creature. Or you might witness the measly 30 minute lunchtime breaks where these same battery hens form orderly queues in the fucking godawful Tesco Metro to buy their 'meals'. (By the way, since when did a bag of crisps, soggy sandwich and tin of Coke constitute a 'meal'?) The beckoning allure of weekend alcohol culture is the release and the conversation. And finally and wearily, the congested chase to get back to the trouble waiting at home. Do we really call this evolution? You call this a life?

Routine is the mortal enemy of fulfilment: doing things the same way, at the same time, in the same place, for no particular reason other than to continue doing it all over the next day. It anaesthetises before first killing what's inside you, and then by default what's around you.