The Team 4
Matteo Besana- Editor I have two big passions in my life: music and journalism. I developed the first one when I was fourteen, and since then I’ve always made a relentless research in finding bands that will led me to a musical Shangri – La. My second passion is journalism, I consider myself a news-junkie… I think I spend on newspapers and magazines what an average smoker spends on cigarettes. The soundtrack of my life is a mixture of Love Will Tear Us Apart by the Joy Division and Nobody But Me by the Human Beinz, because this marked contrast define my mood always between punk energy and post punk depression.
Dorothy Spencer Naturally curious, I am intrigued by lots of different things, which is one of the main reasons in my pursuing journalism as a career. Most of all I am interested in people. What they do, what they have to say, and how they live. In this issue of I explored something that has been intriguing me for a while, namely the link between drugs and creativity, how certain eras are thought of in terms of a particular substance abuse and how these shifts in drug trends can affect the art and music we create, and in turn our culture in general. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Nikolov - Photographer email@example.com
Adam Kemp- Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Suzie Shepherd I have been studying journalism for two years now and writing since I could scribble. I have written for i-D magazine, personal projects and art and culture websites. I decided to write for Butcher’s Hook because I was able to write about subjects that I would enjoy reading and therefore enjoy writing. I was also attracted to working with like minded and interesting people. The editor, Matteo has allowed us to work freely within the project so all of our pieces were created without limitation, which is rare.
Laura Zapasnikaite Born in Lithuania in 1986, my greatest memory of my country was of January 1991. I was 5, my parents decided to take me to the capital Vilnius to support our ongoing fight for independence from the Soviet Union. There were masses of people, tanks, soldiers. I wasn’t scared, I just remember falling down and making my white tights dirty. When I started my BA in Journalism I made a wish that I want to feel what those masses felt and as strange as it may sound I am waiting for that moment and it’s getting closer with every page of a favourite book, with every interesting conversation, with every captivating image...
Kamran Rajput Artist and illustartor. kamranrajput.tumblr.com
Ivo Aleixo - writer email@example.com Graphic Designer: Pedro Moreira PR: Emily Edwards Dorottya Francz
The charm of paper Welcome to the first edition of Butcher’s Hook! Creating the magazine you now hold in your hands has given us the opportunity to report what we thought was unreported, or simply needed a closer look at. I called this letter ‘The Charm of Paper’ because when we were deciding what platform to publish our magazine on, we felt that, despite the fact we live in a digital age in which everything must be consumed, read, and distributed at the same speed as a rocket, there is still a value in paper and a pleasure to be had from holding a physical object in your hands. Browse through the pages, make a note on the border of an article you like, enjoy it in a way you can’t on a Kindle or Ipad. In one of the articles in this issue we discuss the pleasure of loving a vinyl, something that you cannot do with an aseptic CD or ITunes download, and I think you can apply the same rules to print magazines. Enough of nostalgia …. What actually is Butcher’s Hook? Well, in our first meetings whilst smoking a lot of cigarettes and drinking a lot of whiskey (as the classical myth of a journalist imposes us to do) we came up with this magazine. Our starting point was The Rolling Stone in it’s cradle, in which rock n’ roll stories were told alongside quality and engaging features fresh from the typewriters of New Journalism heroes such as Hunter S. Thompson. So in these pages we have tried to cover what we considered interesting or unreported: from the band revelation of 2013, to the Medway Delta Sound, from the first editor of Itunes, to the “Architect of Boredom” or the influence that drugs can have on artistic work. We have tried to give a glimpse of these subjects, so as the cockney expression goes, have a “Butcher’s Hook” at it..! Enjoy your first edition and see you soon with the second..!
Public Service Broadcasting Words: Matteo Besana
In his book Retromania, Simon Reynolds explores how nowadays, despite all the new technologies we are more obsessed by the past than ever; we have our iPods, tablets and various online streaming sites such as Spotify but still we cannot escape from songs that are a repetition, a copy of something we have already heard or that remind us of something that was already in the turntables of our parents. And even if the notes are all the same and cannot be created from scratch, it is always refreshing encountering a band like Public Service Broadcasting, a London duo, formed by J. Willegose who plays guitar, banjo, sampling and electronic instruments and his drumming companion Wrigglesworth. They are one of the musical revelations of the beginning of 2013, having won BBC Radio 6’s “Rebel Playlists” twice, they are also the subject of what has often been defined as the best publicity of the world: the advice of a friend. What is refreshing about them is how they have been able to join the past with the future, connecting the forties with the electronic music that has always been at the forefront of the popular music since Kraftwerk in the seventies. This connection has been made through the sampling of voices and speeches of war period movies with their music, creating a fascinating mixture in which voices from propaganda movies such as London Can Take It filmed during the German Blitz between 1940 and 1941 are mixed with a music that is in contrast but, at the same time connect to it through the sense of aspiration that transmits, (clear in songs such as Spitfire). Public Service Broadcasting represent one of the best examples of a convergence that is common nowadays in music, in which an artist’s do not restrict themselves in creating a complete artistic operation which, with music as a starting point, combines videos and all the experimental avenues offered by new technologies. I know, I sound like a kind of visionary and old folk surprised by how technology can influence and change our lives. But listening to their songs you cannot remain indifferent on how they are able to mix music two very different and very distant decades and still keep a coherent line of connection.
After having published two EPs “The Public Service Broadcasting EP” in 2010, and “The War Room” in 2012; Public Service Broadcasting released on the 6th of Ma their first album entitled “Inform, Educate and Entertain” which at the time of writing has reached the 21st position in the UK Chart. As with the titles of their two EPs, the name of the new album clearly rings a bell in the forties era, using the famous motto of John Reith, the first idiosyncratic manager of the BBC who managed, or rather, dictated the Corporation for twenty years. To understand this peculiar interest in the forties and why the PBS have used so much of the movies made during those years I spoke with J. Willegose about his project, his passion for the forties and what is the main message behind “Inform, Educate, Entertain”. “Interesting enough, this project was born out of … listening to the radio. I was listening to BBC Radio 4 and they were talking about a new release by the BFI of old movies from the war period such as London Can Take it or The First of The Few. So I started playing with the footage and mixing it with music. After a good reception by some of my friends I started playing live and was joined later by Wrigglesworth at the drums”.
In speaking with J. it’s clear that the relatiomship between the past and the present are at the core of his project. “I think this is probably the interesting aspect of it,” he says. “I don’t think it would be so interesting if it didn’t connect with the past; someone else has described our music as ‘re-contextualising the past by putting it into modern setting’ and I think it’s one of the best definition for what we do. “The first reason for using the war period, and the Blitz in particular, was that I wanted to write an EP on a heavier subject and I felt that this period if handled in the right way could be perfect. I was in particulary interested in the spirit and behaviour of the people during those hard times, how they came together, the sense of comradeship. “I was born and I grew up in London, so I was struck by how this sense of community was lost during the regeneration that follow the end of WWII and at the same time I wanted to praise and highlight the remarkable spirit and reaction of the people at the time. “If you ask me what is the main message of the album and how it differs from our EPs, I think that whilst in the EPs we had a central theme, in our new album our central theme is our music itself, we wanted to give more space to the music and through it transmit an idea of positivity, that I think it is the main message that we wanted to “broadcast” with our album” Now that you have read those final lines, go home, or perhaps if you already are, go online and watch one of their videos while at the same time listening to their music; only in this way can you understand where the ability of PBS lies, not only in creating captivatingly good music, but combining it with video footage to create an experience that through modern means is able to connect to older but still significant moments from our past, building a virtual bridge between our past and present.
Portrait produced by Saunders after snorting cocaine
Contamination or Inspiration ? Words: Dorothy Spencer
The American artist Bryan Saunders has created thousands of self-portraits, sitting in his room in Tennessee; he creates one or two a day. Of the 8,700 he claims to have completed so far, fifty of these have gained particular attention. Fifty portraits, each completed under the influence of a different drug, ranging from bath-salts (a nasty new legal high, which inflicts a brief wave of cannibalistic desire in its users, apparently) to prescription medicines and the more familiar faces of cocaine and cannabis. Within weeks Saunders became â€˜lethargic and suffered brain damageâ€™ but continued his quest, albeit on a less regular basis. Sometimes comical, sometimes disturbing, the portraits embody the personality of each drug, with Saunders becoming a blank canvas onto which their traits are projected. The dark incessant scribbles that make up the nightmarish self-portrait he produced after snorting half a gram of cocaine communicate the menacing undertones of the drug, while the colorful, childlike portrait fuelled by hallucinogenic mushrooms could be a Steadman illustration for Hunter S. Thompsonsâ€™ Fear and Loathing. While Saunders preconceived notions of the drugs he was taking arguably inform his portraits, the project illustrates neatly the relationship between art and drug abuse. It examines how distinct substances can alter the style and form of creative expression. Does creating artwork under the influence of a particular drug ultimately contaminate the output with its psychotic imprint? Or does it merely provide the conditions needed for a person to maximize their creative potential by instilling a sense of unwavering belief in ones creative abilities? Do ideas become free to be acted on without the barriers of self-doubt or analysis?
Martin Sharps illustration for Cream's album 'Disraeli Gears'
Many seminal pieces of work have been constructed under the influence of mind-altering substances, some more evidently then others. Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland is an enchanting story, full of imagination, and once you have reexamined it as an adult, thinly veiled drug references. While the Victorian poets of the Romanticism movement were famed for their use of opium and laudanum. Samuel Taylor Coleridges’ acclaimed poem Kubla Khan, written upon waking from an opium-induced dream, is a flowing stream of consciousness describing a vision of the Emperor of Chinas summer palace, Xanadu; A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw: It was an Abyssinian maid, And on her dulcimer she played, Singing of Mount Abora. Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight ‘twould win me, That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice! And all who heard should see them there, And all should cry, Beware! Beware! His flashing eyes, his floating hair! Weave a circle round him thrice, And close your eyes with holy dread, For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise. The historic relationship between drugs and art has made the substance-abusing artist a powerful cliché, and given credence to the notion of creative-types all whacked out of their minds on something or other. Yet just how much drug use among ‘creatives’ has been sensationalised is unclear. The apparent popularity of absinthe amongst the bohemia in 19th century Europe, France in particular, and the widespread use of opium in England amongst painters and writers has been covered extensively and romanticized in films such as Moulin rouge, The Libertine and through the writings of Coleridge, Jean Cocteau, John Keats and in Oscar Wilde’s beautiful and tragic Dorian Grey. This has all contributed to a strangely alluring mythology surrounding creative people as troubled and reckless. Misplaced beliefs about drug use concerning individual artists are common, and it is all too easy to assign those who create things we find challenging, or surreal, as ‘on drugs’. The mind bending paintings of Salvador Dali are often assumed to be the result of his use of mushrooms or peyote, when in-fact, although intrigued by hallucinogens, (see film Impressions of Upper Mongolia) he denied ever using them, saying “I don’t use drugs, I am drugs” clearly suggesting his visions were his own, enabled only by an exquisite imagination and creative capacity.
'Dream' by Salvador Dali
A young Yayoi Kusuma on her surreal sofa of protruding phalluses
In more recent times the effect of drugs on popular culture is easier to examine, certain substances seem to encapsulate particular eras, and in the nations popular memory come to symbolize a certain period in society. Although it is prone to generalization, I think it reasonable to believe that while perhaps not everyone was talking LSD in the 1960s, the effects of it on a few influential characters reverberated and acid became a ‘mood’ or visual style which could be understood and replicated without one necessarily experiencing it. A lot of what we believe about the 1960s is related to the assumption that everyone was tripping, while the era has long been idealised as the perfect time to be young and wild, enjoying the excesses of new drugs and free love. The popularity of hallucinogens, in particular LSD, manifested itself in all aspects of cultural production in Britain, from music, film, art and advertising, with the psychedelic art movement being the most explicit of these. Typified by kaleidoscopic patterns, rainbow colours, and surreal imagery much of it seems to have been created in an effort to communicate revelatory visual, spiritual, or sociopolitical insights derived supposedly from access to new states consciousness via hallucinogenic substances. Psychedelic artwork was particularly popular for album sleeves, clothing and posters. Martin Sharps creations for Cream, Bob Dylan and the underground magazines such as OZ typify this style and remain popular relics from the era. In the art world Yoyoi Kusuma and Yoko Ono pioneered performance based art, while the op-art movement gained popularity In Britain with Bridget Riley’s mindbending illusions created through the use of repetitive pattern. Abstract lyrics in music of the 1960s is widely to attributed to the use of LSD, while John Lennon quite openly admitted using the drug frequently and finding inspiration for such songs as I am the Walrus, and Strawberry Fields in the acid trips he experienced: “Always know sometimes think it’s me, But you know I know when it’s a dream, I think I know I mean, ah yes but it’s all wrong That is I think I disagree” As the summer of love faded to ash it was riotously reborn with an uproar of anarchy in the UK as the punk movement emerged in the mid 1970s, its energy and anger perhaps fed by amphetamines, the illicit production of which became popular early on in the era. Radical movements emerged in the art world as a response to social and political upheaval; the Hackney Flashers used agitation techniques to promote women’s rights, with the shockingly raw photography of Jo Spence documenting her fight with breast cancer and exhibitions such as ‘Who’s holding the baby?’ The era, which saw a peak in cannabis usage although it well may be better remembered for glue sniffing, was an eclectic time for music, Fleetwood Mac’s seminal album Rumours (1977) was the best selling album of the decade, containing tales of inter-band love affairs fuelled by cocaine led hedonism, with vocalist Stevie Nicks suggesting they ‘created the best music when in the worst shape.’ David Bowie reportedly survived the 70s on a diet of milk and cocaine while parading as asexual alter ego Ziggy Stardust.
The orgy of cash, cocaine, and cheap credit that was the 1980s provided the backdrop for the emergence of the Young British Artists’ a cocksure, hedonistic, group hailing predominately from Goldsmiths art college, and including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin; their work shocked a nation in the iron grip of a Thatcher led conservative government with My Bed, and The Tent; Everyone I’ve ever slept with, branded obscene by the nations red-top papers. De-regulation of industry floods peoples pockets towards the end of the era marks the beginning of the emergence of rave culture, with the Home Office estimating that 1.5 million were being popped every weekend by 1995, this pill popping craze went hand in hand with the music scene; with house, techno, acid-house and happy hardcore among some of the sub-divisions of dance music that provided the sound track to the super clubs beginning to pop up in British towns and cities. Neon colours and smiley faces are the most lasting symbols of a movement which never quite reached the upper echelons of the art world. The 90s saw a revival in heroin use, or at least the romanticastion of it, with what has been described as the ‘trainspotting generation’ encapsulated by a young, thin Kate moss shot by Corinne Day in cheap knickers for The Face magazine, and the start of a controversial trend labeled ‘heroin chic’ although it seems most of Britain was indulging in cocaine instead, with the UK branded ‘Europe’s cocaine capital’ by the UN. Like everything else, drugs go in and out of fashion, a process that seems to have accelerated in the last two decades with the introduction of ‘legal highs’ and their producers’ eagerness to stay ahead of legislation by constantly adapting the molecular make up. How much shifts in drug use inform our culture is difficult to ascertain, some decades, such as the 60s are characterized quite explicitly by the popularity of a particular substance at that time, with certain sub-cultures becoming affiliated to one type of substance. While the work of Bryan Saunders shows the impact of drugs on the artistic process in a vacuum, in society it is clouded by other factors.
Kate Moss in the 1990s
There is a much-lauded line of thought that believes drug useâ€“ in particular hallucinogenâ€™s- can expand the imagination and enable better access to the creative mind. The physiological results of substances on the user will impact the creative process, but ultimately creative ideas have to come from the individual themselves, a chemical compound is simply unable to synthesize human thought, perhaps rather than creating creative visions, drugs have given people access to ideas or emotions that wouldnâ€™t usually register, and allowed them the confidence to accept and act on them. Without the benefit of hindsight on the current era it is difficult to make out a coherent picture of exactly what this era will come to be remembered for; some have suggested it is a decade of choice, with such a spectrum of drugs available everyone has their own personal poison, certainly hallucinogens are not as widely taken as they once were, and statistics on the take up of legal highs have not yet been accurately complied. Perhaps we are all engulfed in a giant K hole, trapped in the insidious circles of cocaine abuse or negotiating the euphoric swells of MDMA. While the war on drugs wages on like the charge of the light brigade, it seems appropriate to examine drug use in Britain. If we can learn anything from history it is perhaps that while the government attempts to crack down on any one substance a host of others are likely to appear. Attempts to have a sensible open discourse about drugs and their impact on British culture are largely eschewed in favor of the two polarising views of drugs as evil or heavenly.
A family with the wrong member in control Words: Matteo Besana
Society is like life during crisis. We question how we have lived up to that point, how we have behaved towards other people and if and how this behaviour needs to change. The same reaction applies to society during an economic crisis like the one we are living through. Voices and movements are born that begin to question how society is run, if wealth is distributed fairly and if not how this inequality can be reduced so that everyone in society can have a share, a chunk of the cake. In the last few years we have seen this ‘equality manifesto’ present itself in many movements and ways. The first ‘wave’ being the Occupy protest staged in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, despite originally starting in Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid by the Indignados (Indignants). The main aim of the protests was against the new (at the time) austerity policies imposed by governments up and down Europe. In order to bail out the banks cuts were made deep into health and social care, education, and the welfare state in general. In the UK grassroot movements such as UK Uncut have tried to put at the centre of public debate the unfairness of deep cuts into public services while at the same time the government seems unwilling to stand up to big corporations such as Amazon, Starbucks, or Google, who by using every loophole and method possible are systematically avoiding to pay their fair share of taxes. UK Uncut says that despite it not being illegal, it is certainly immoral, because these companies are not contributing to the public services that each and every one of us uses everyday. By boycotting the outlets of these mammoth corporations they have shown the power and influence that bad publicity can have on businesses today. And this message of collective bargaining, of the power of working together for the wellbeing of society as a whole is the core message of The Spirit of ’45.
In The Spirit of ’45 Ken Loach describes through the use of archive footage and first hand interviews the pre- war condition of the United Kingdom, a nation waiting in line at the dole queue during the Great Depression. Following how after the war with the Labour Landslide Victory of 1945, the Welfare State, based on the seminal report of Lord Beveridge of 1942, was rolled out in the country. The famous motto “from cradle to grave” was to explain how this new system would take care of every person in society from his first days of life until the very end, by providing free healthcare, unemployment and retirement benefits. In the documentary, Loach shows how the Attlee government fundamentally changed the structure of the economy by putting strategic industries such as the mines, railways, gas and electricity supplies under state control, and by doing so trying to guarantee better working conditions. In his masterpiece essay the Lion and the Unicorn, George Orwell spoke of England as a “family with the wrong members in control” and offered in a typically English way a compromise in the form of “Democratic Socialism” neither totalitarian nor capitalistic. A new system in which the working classes were to become the family member at the helm, to recognise their pivotal role in winning the struggle against the Nazis. In watching the documentary and reading the pages of Orwell you can see clearly how the English society that went at war in 1939 could not have come out of the conflict untouched or unchanged, and how the Welfare State, praised by Loach and in the testimonies used by him was the reward for their war effort. One of the most moving moments of the documentary is seeing the interviewees describing the arrival of the NHS in the poor houses of Manchester or Liverpool, making healthcare what Edmund Burke would have defined as a natural right.
Dole queue in London 1938
Puerta del Sol square in Madrid a focal point within the Indignados movement A lot of people even on the left have said that Loach is simply doing a “nostalgic operation” by making a documentary about a nation that is lost and changed forever but I think they are missing the point of why in my opinion Loach did this documentary: not to cry about a mythological past but to use this past example as a guide for today: it is a praise of the power of the community over the individual, the idea of sharing power against the idea of the 1% used by the Occupy movement to describe the controlling elite. Obviously a documentary, and more in general an idea which is considered by a lot of people as out-dated or nostalgic cannot be accepted or liked by everyone but in concluding it is worth remember Orwell’s words about what makes a writer start a book: “I write it because there is some lies that I want to expose, some facts to which I want to draw attention to, and my initial concern is to get a hearing” and about political bias and its influence on writing: “ the more one is conscious of one’s political bias, the more chance one has of acting politically without sacrificing one’s aesthetic and intellectual integrity.” We know from which church Loach is coming from, but at the same time we can always consider and maybe adopt his recipe for dealing with the economic crisis, as put by him in an interview with BBC Radio 4:“we don’t want to be at each other’s throat.” This idea of helping each other instead of rushing to crush someone else for your own survival, I think, is the main message in this documentary and there are signs that it gaining momentum even in society.
The kids are all square Words: Adam Kemp A short history of the Medway music scene with interview from Dirty Water Record runner PJ Crittenden It all began with Fun For the UK. Not literally by any means. This was 1979 England. Any grey and bleak preconceptions you might have of those times were most definitely true in North Kent. No, this was the first song on the debut album by The Pop Rivets, a young punk band fronted by Billy Childish, formed two years previously in the Medway area of Kent. As with many of the Medway bands, fans see Childish as a largely overlooked figure of British music and art, although he enjoys a considerable cult following. Admired by the likes of Johnny Depp and Kylie Minogue (who named an album after a book of his poems), most people, if they’ve heard of him at all, will do through his dealings with Tracy Emin and Jack White. He dated Emin in the 80s before forming The Stuckist art movement, based on her assertion that his art was “stuck, stuck, stuck.” The latter he publicly criticized for selling out, despite White previously voicing a love of his work. Born Steven Hamper in Chatham, he worked in the town’s dockyards (the name Pop Rivets comes from here) before he was accepted to St Martin’s School of Art. He was later expelled for writing lewd poetry concerning the college and refusing to paint on campus. While Childish was falling out with St Martin’s, The Pop Rivets had recorded two live albums and a few singles, releasing them themselves in line with the DIY ethos the Medway bands became famous for. Bruce Brad, drummer extraordinaire with The Pop Rivets, The Milkshakes, Thee Headcoats and many, many more put it like this: “We self-released our first few discs, firstly as The Pop Rivets on ‘Hipocrite’, with hand-made sleeves and rubber-stamped labels, then a couple of singles on ‘M.T. Sounds’ and later on Billy’s own imprints ‘Hangman’ and ‘Hangman’s Daughter’. Right from the very beginning we all had a mortal dread of ‘signing anything’ – which was synonymous with selling our souls, so any ‘proper’ record label would have certainly had their work cut out for them had any shown one iota of interest. Which they didn’t.”
As the 70s drew to a close, punk began to split into factions. Crass and the anarcho tribe went one way, the skinheads with their Oi! Punk went the other, and the nihilistic, studs n’ leather crew went yet another. A movement that lived by the ethos of non-conformity had begun to become more predictable. Of course a lot of that music was great, but times were changing, and the punk that Billy Childish, Bruce Brand and Big Russ Wilkins of The Pop Rivets had once known, was dying Turning their back on punk in the musical form, but never losing sight of its DIY aesthetics they looked to the past for inspiration. Damaged Goods, an important label for Medway bands wondered why “Link Wray’s 2 track recordings” were “more vital and exciting than anything a modern studio could knock out...Could it be that sophistication, far from enhancing creativity, destroyed it?” Or in the words of Bruce Brand: “I think we noticed that exciting music didn’t have to rely on speed and volume. Anyway I always preferred the more erm – dare I say ‘tuneful’ side of punk, or rather ‘songs over racket’. Or indeed politics.”
As bands across the pond like The Gories and The Mummies did the same the youth of Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Rainham and Gillingham looked to the raw 60s garage and mod groups for an antidote to the musical excess of the time. Unable to relate to what they saw as the pretentious New Romantics in the music press, The Milkshakes and The Prisoners formed in 1980, merging their punk sensibilities with their love of vintage sounds. ‘The Medway Delta Sound’, as it is sometimes jokingly referred to, was born. And despite it’s tongue in cheek title, it’s a sound that can still be heard across the world today. According to some, Medway in its heyday - the early 80s had a music scene to rival London or Manchester. But things took a while to kick off, on the M.I.C pub Bruce Brand says: “The Milkshakes played a Monday night residency there for what seemed like eons – to four blokes playing pool – until TVS filmed us for a documentary about the ‘local arts scene’. Funny how everyone charges out from between the floorboards when you least expect it.” Soon though there was quite a scene going, with Medway bands, particularly Thee Headcoats and Thee Headcoatees, releasing records on labels such as Crypt. PJ Crittenden, who is originally from Gillingham and runs Dirty Water Records, has put on many gigs by Medway bands over the years. He remembers it like this: “there always seemed to be something happening - a gig, a DJ night, a house party, gatherings and gigs and ‘record hops’. It was happening. So many other kids were into mod, or rockabilly, or psychobilly.” I asked PJ whether there was a rock n’ roll scene in the area dating back further than the late 70s. “Vanity Fair started out in Medway as The Avengers. And there was Erkey Grant and The Earwigs who had a single on Pye in 1963. There was a sixties group called The Cortinas who seem to have been highly rated at the times, even though they never got to record...I heard stories of a band called Dave & the Downbeats playing around Medway in the mid-sixties. But the band that really went worldwide with their record sales, and put the notion of Medway as a place where there were rock’n’roll bands into people minds would have been The Milkshakes.” Much of the appeal of bands like The Milkshakes was their staunchly DIY ethos. Few, if any of the groups signed to major labels. When members of The Milkshakes went on to form Thee Headcoats, perhaps Medway’s best-loved sons, their song ‘(We Hate The Fuckin’) NME’, did not exactly pander to the mainstream music press. Nearly everything, from fanzines like Young Man Afraid of His Horses to record and publishing labels like Hangman, was done by those involved. Of course there is no denying this is an essential part of the music’s cult appeal. But are the bands underrated by the wider world?
“Yes, for sure” says PJ.“Despite being so close to the center of the media/ arts world in London near enough everything from and about Medway is ignored by the mainstream world. As I said before, Medway is a shit hole. And so the media types, until they very recently started noticing Childish’s art, tend to look down their noses at the towns.” Why this area in particular then? Was it something in the water, a strange fog coming in off the North Kent marshes perhaps? PJ puts it more bluntly: “Medway was, and still is, an absolute shit hole. People had to do something. And so they did. And it probably helped that Medway seemed to have a distinct identity, despite it being several towns all joined together. It might have been a shit hole but it was our shit hole.” Five Medway Greats For Your Record Collection. The Pop Rivets- Greatest Hits LP Originally released in 1979, this is an overlooked gem of the early punk era, and notable for being the first truly independently released punk album. Confusingly not their greatest hits (the band would have no hits) but their first album, songs like ‘Fun In The UK’ and ‘Disco Fever’ are raucous and sing-a-long without ever being cheesy. The Milkshakes- After School Session EP With the songwriting talents of not one, but two Medway legends (Mickey Hampshire and Billy Childish), The Milkshake’s produced many of the areas most memorable tunes, not least ‘Shimmy Shake’. If the Back To The Future time machine crash-landed in Rochester not Hill Valley, this is the song Marty Fly would be playing. Highly recommended for people unfamiliar with the music. The Delmonas- The Delmonas LP This (usually) all female troupe performed a mix of choice covers and originals written by Billy Childish. Strange really that he gifted what was arguably some of his best stuff to others, but maybe it’s the female touch that makes this album so great, and with songs as perfect as ‘I Feel Like Giving In’, no one’s complaining. This album also features an incredible cover of The Stooges’ ‘I Feel Alright.’ If anyone can better Iggy at his own game, it might just be a bunch of girls from North Kent. Thee Headcoats- The Kids Are All Square- This is Hip! LP Released in the year Vanilla Ice topped the charts with ‘Ice Ice Baby’, the title of this album perfectly sums up the tongue in cheek, uncompromising attitude that set much of the Medway bands apart from the mainstream. The weirdo, bare bones garage heard on ‘Davy Crockett’ and ‘Cowboys Are Square’ is not to be missed. The Daggermen- Dagger in My Mind LP With a classic cover designed by Bruce Brand of The Pop Rivets/ Heacoats this is less stripped back than Brand’s own offerings but brilliant nonetheless.
Pioneer of the Digital Era
Words: Suzie Shepherd
Meet pioneer of the digital era, Denzyl Feigelson: founder of Artists Without A Label (AWAL) and iTunes first editor Denzyl Feigelson founded Artists Without A Label in 1997. Sixteen years ago it was the first of its kind. People didn’t know it at the time, but what he had done was change the way artists sell their music by giving back the power to the artists and their audience and getting rid of the middleman, the gatekeepers of the old music industry. AWAL welcomes small, independent labels and artists who want to sell their music online, and act as a channel doing all of the technical stuff so that the music can be available in stores like iTunes. Currently AWAL represents over 6,000 artists and has sold over 20,000,000 tracks. I met Denzyl on a typically wet and windy winter night in Soho. I had just finished dinner with my dad who was dashing off to catch his train at Paddington. Bored, I decided to loiter a little longer in the restaurant, and ordered another glass of wine, spread my essay books onto the table, opened my laptop, got on with my work and enjoyed the change of scenery. As it turns out I was making myself a little too at home. My papers and notes had spilled out covering two spaces to my left. And that is how I met Denzyl. He and his friend, Chris very politely put me back in my share of the window bar. I carried on with my essay, a little less leisurely and Denzyl and Chris ordered. Anyway we ended up chatting during their pudding. We discussed the subject of my slavery - an essay on science journalism - and we had another glass of wine. It wasn’t until I started to close the copious word documents sprouting from my screen whilst ignoring the pending software updates that I realised who he was. He gave me a slap on the wrist for clogging up my Mac and Chris jokingly suggested my porn addiction had infiltrated the system. Either way, my computer was on the edge. Denzyl clicked this and opened that and told me what I needed to do if I didn’t want to spend next terms loan on a new Apple. Whilst this was going on Chris whispered in my ear ‘you’re lucky, you just got the top guy at iTunes to sort that out for you’. But nothing had registered to me yet. It dawned on me later whilst discussing films and music that they were actually professionally involved in what we were discussing, and that I wanted to interview Denzyl for Butcher’s Hook. He knows exactly what is happening in the music industry because he plays a significant part in what is shaping it. We sat on three sofas, Denzyl under a blanket, me in my coat – you can see your own breath in most London flats come winter – and he agreed to an interview. Denzyl is pretty low key, there isn’t much information about him on the Internet and he’s not the sort of person to brag, although he does have friends that will do it for him. I’m guessing you did not recognise his name at the beginning of this article. But that can be said for many great influences in the music industry.
In fact the only published work I could find on Denzyl is the book Pioneers of Digital, which has a chapter about him. (All of the pioneers of the digital era have their own chapter but the only I recognised was Stephen Fry.) His chapter looks at his work for iTunes. He was on the original iTunes team and told Butcher s Hook how his role in the beginning ‘was editorial and label relations, I was responsible for the editorial voice.’ Basically iTunes needed someone who knew what was what in the music industry to headline the program and ensure that people came back each week. It wasn’t just a place to store your music: it became a place to buy, explore and promote music. It changed the way people interacted with music. ‘Music lovers now have a choice, so the power is in the hands of the people,’ he says. Back in the day record charts were calculated and awarded by the amount of records sold. So labels would send salesmen round to the independent record shops and practically give them away. Meaning the record owners could sell them for pennies and the songs would make the charts. This would bring the labels real money. But the CD and the digitisation of music changed all of that. Music lovers were liberated from the limits of their local record shop. Anyone could share music with anyone and make a profit. Denzyl also believes that ‘the quality of music has improved, which allows great creativity to rise to the top.’ He claims there ‘is also more opportunity for income not only from digital sales but from many sources. It is easier and faster to communicate that music exists, and if your music is great and can find its tribe and fan base, this has never been a better time to get that accomplished.’ And it hasn’t stopped the recent rise in records, which pleases Denzyl ‘Vinyl is a wonderful experience and I hope it leads to music discovery and exploration. Whatever it takes to get youngsters to listen to music! Plus all the great albums from the past are on vinyl and have that… sound.’ So if the past is successfully catching up with the present what about the future? ‘I expect all sorts of changes as technology and innovations are improved. I think it will all lead to better customer experiences, if we are smart. ‘It will also lead to the fact that people can get whatever they want whenever they want on whatever is their choice of device.’ For example Denzyl only watches ‘TV shows and movies on iTunes. I don’t need or want cable.’ The future for music is unpredictable, so it’s impossible to guess what technology will throw at us next. But the music industry will continue to evolve and thrive as will the fans and Denzyl. ‘I’m enjoying the moment, he says. ‘I want to learn and explore and also use my many years of experience and knowledge to be a service in this new world order.’
The Architect of Boredom Words: Laura Zapasnikaite Photography: Billa Baldwin Styling: Gabriella Orosz
The rebel. The outlaw. The Film buff and business-woman Tree Carr talks about her love of uncomfortable feelings, film and organic collaborations… Video Shop The idea came about in 2000 but the name, Today is Boring, a year before that. We asked ourselves, how do people feel when they want to see a film? What is the general mood? Names like Atomic Video or Super Video were not an option (giggling). We wanted a statement that was filling, a proclamation. Character It didn’t look like a video shop. The floor was done up like Twin Peaks, it was quite dark. We did all the interiors and built it ourselves, which took two years. We moved above it, which was challenging but there was never a dull moment. We created an atmosphere because we wanted people to hang out in the shop. All the films were in catalogues, which added to the experience. Film buffs would come in and spend quite some time looking through them and chatting. Today is Boring but it was never boring (smile). Film School When Adam and I met it was interesting because we were both huge film fans. It was amazing. We would always go to the cinema, keep up on films, visit Super 8 workshops. We were following international film festivals and animation festivals. Opening the shop was the best film genre education ever, better than film school. We really immersed ourselves in the six years of ordering, buying, researching and watching three films a day including the DVD commentaries. We started watching them as editors, our eyes got trained and we questioned things more and more. Our minds got trained to the scripts and we learned what worked and what didn’t.
Involved When Today is Boring opened we knew that it would eventually evolve into something more. We started reaching out into the community and other film lovers by organizing events, special screenings, and Twin Peaks marathons. Forming relationships with interesting people was at the core of these happenings. Vision By the time 2008 rolled around the shop was in its sixth year and we decided that it was a good time to move on. Mostly because of the climate of DVDs and hire shops, as technology had started changing rapidly. We realised that this technology was going to be extinct one day and decided that it was a really good time to make the transition to production of films. Downloads became more popular, which was great because it meant more people could access wonderful films in an easy way. We didn’t want to be stuck with dinosaur technology so we decided to take a chance. We closed the shop on Kingsland Road and started film production under the same name. We basically just made an announcement, ‘we make films now everybody’ (laughing). Attitude We took up a studio in Dalston, which was there for about three years. From the start we got involved in various film projects. A lot of industry people approached us wanting to collaborate. We had a thousand plus members at the shop and many people who got in touch were ex-members. I believe they trusted what we did because when they would come to the shop, we would spend a lot of time talking about film and they were regulars at our events.
Organic Collaboration To this day everything around us works organically. We’ve never approached anyone and always made things happen either at an event, a film screening or at the shop. It’s much better than officialism. The shop was a hub, a sort of creative outlet. We built a platform for like-minded and interesting people. I believe that collaboration is a natural process. People meet, introduce themselves, talk, get inspired and that’s how things happen. It’s like getting into a relationship with someone because you develop trust. Producers Our very first project was producing a feature length film, which was written and directed by a member - an ex-member - of the video shop. Her concept was about East London, young people and their love lives, their drug problems. It was a bit melodramatic, a bit of a fast bender mode. We got involved as producers and casting directors. We had no money (laughing). It was made in 2009 but it took quite a few edits and a few reshoots. Adam and I did all the locations; we pulled in all the talent. We made that film happen but once we gave it over to the director to start editing we got involved in other projects. Walk Directing and making films was our goal but we knew that we should learn how to produce first. The most crucial wall is building a film and taking on a role that would be like an architect or the backbone of the entire situation. We decided to throw ourselves into the industry as producers for a couple of years in order to learn. We chose the role that we actually gravitated towards by using our imaginations. It was a great learning curve because we made that film in two weeks and we’d never produced anything before. We cut our teeth on it so to speak (smile). Oscar is a Wanker (laughs) We received an invitation to the pre-Oscars party. They asked if we could do a visual installation about Oscar. We bought a fake Oscar statue online, drilled a hole in the head, bought a special tube, which went inside the statue and filled it with hair conditioner. A guy from the band Penetrators was the hand model. Hairy arm with fake nails (laughing), we aimed for it to be a bit fucked up. It was interesting because once more there was an environment that people went into. Adam and I dressed up in tuxedos and we ushered ten guests into a room with red curtains and a projection. It was all very Oscar style ... but once inside they would either start laughing or get a shock. It was very rebellious but there were no questions asked (smiling).
Isabella Blow It happened a few years before she died. Tim Noble and Sue Webster had footage of her in her studio and asked if we would be able to make something. We took it all together and collaborated with them to make a film to accompany their piece Isabella Blow by Noble and Webster at the National Portrait Gallery. The creation projected the image of her showing who she really is. Rough around the edges ‘We like what you do, just do it Adam and Tree style’ Tim and Sue said once. We are close friends and for the last two years we’ve been documenting all their new shows, which is still ongoing. It’s amazing how they trusted us to handle all of their footage. We edited it in black and white and added some pieces into it. That is what they love and we get associated with it a lot. The Today is Boring website is full of grainy, lowfi material in black and white. The clips are from our film archives. We were doing a lot of things low-fi. It was based on what we had accessible in terms of the technology. The camera that we had was from 1994. Into the Blue It marks a change. It’s cinematic and very different from what we were doing before. It’s a bit of a mystery, a bit of a horror film, but in a nonconventional sense. There is a lot packed in there. It’s important because it shows how we’ve evolved. We wanted to draw people into an experience and captivate their minds. Watching it in black and white may make you think it’s an art film. One might have preconceived ideas. We aimed to do something more vivid, we shot in colour with a really great camera and we were very meticulous about all the shots … storyboarded everything. We really wanted it to feel psychological, almost like a Hitchcock film where you are not even aware of the cinematic devices; you are just pulled into the story. We really wanted to get into peoples minds. Run Everything is an experiment. I like it when films are engaging on an emotional level. French cinema pushes the boundaries with storytelling. The stories are darker and they aren’t afraid to experiment with shooting techniques. I am more of a European cine-file. I choose uncomfortable, uneasy ... Please satisfy your curiosity and let her flow travel through your creative blood at: www.todayisboring.com/
The Golden Mile of Vinyl. Words: Matteo Besana Photography: Alex Nikolov
Inspired by the words of Graham Jones during the Q&A at the Butcher’s Hook screening of the documentary based on his book Last Shop Standing, I went with our photographer Aleksandar to one of the best places in London for buying records in order to assemble a small guide of record shops in pictures. Berwick Street in the heart of Soho was known during the Eighties as ‘The golden mile of vinyl’ due to the huge number of record shops present on every corner, offering every genre of music from hard-core to house. Despite the decline suffered by record shops as described by Graham in his book, today Berwick Street is still alive and kicking ready to cater to record junkies or newcomers making their first steps towards building a record collection or simply buying their music instead of downloading it for free. Before you read this guide I want to give you some very important advice that I learned myself time and time again when I was spending my last 10 quid of the month on buying some obscure garage punk compilation: when you go into a record shop, always ALWAYS, turn off your mp3 player or Ipod, because most of the time the music that they are spinning is something that you don’t know and most of the time it is something you will like, be it a new record or a collection of Delta Blues songs.
Sister Ray Sister Ray have been at their current location in Berwick Street since 1999. It is one of the biggest shops on the street and you can find more than 10,000 items, as put by one of the guys behind the counter they stock â€œeverything but classicalâ€?. On their shelves you can find vinyl, CDs, t-shirts of your favourite bands, music magazines and obscure fanzines.
Reckless Records I think the best way to define Reckless Records is intimate: the shop is a long room with every side backed by shelves of mostly second hand vinyl and CD. This tiny little shop is perfect if youâ€™re searching an old record by Tim Buckley or something less well known. Their main areas are rock and pop, soul, jazz, punk and reggae.
Phonica Records With its wood floor and shirts on the wall, at first this shop looks like a cross between a record shop and a clothes store. It specialises mostly in house and electronic music. It seems to be the perfect place to buy the new Daft Punk track or simply feel at home.
BM Music They themselves boast of being “London’s longest running independent dance music record shop”. They are one of the best places if you love house music, tech house, funky house, drum & bass. They also trade in second hand turntables and you can always rely on them if you want to transform your house in a little Ministry of Sound (for the happiness of your neighbours)
THE PRODUCERS Words: Suzie Shepherd
When film buffs, inheritances, degrees in economics and un-popular movies collide, the new generation of producers are born. Just as the film industry has changed over the years so has the producer. It is a reaction to survival. New technologies and ideologies change the way in which films are financed and created, especially in the indie film sphere, where one percent of films make a profit. It isn’t surprising then that some producers have evolved to accommodate the production of not-so-popular films. These producers are the force behind the previously untouchable, film acceleration. Some are having millions thrown at them. The before and after likelihood of these films being made are as shocking as the before and after pictures of Megan Fox. Picture this; a film buff is, on her 25th birthday, given around $2 billion. Said film buff then personally finances films they want to see, with directors they admire. It doesn’t sound unbelievable, because it’s not. This is exactly what the daughter of billionaire Oracle Corporation CEO, Megan Ellison did. She is now the similarity connecting appreciated and anticipated films such as The Master, Zero Dark Thirty, Spring Breakers, Killing Them Softly and Lawless. Megan Ellison is, although media shy, film friendly. Rejoicing in her film fantasy, acting as a savior figure to Hollywood’s indie elite, whilst in return getting to hang out with them. And watch risky, brilliant movies that would otherwise become nothing more than a director’s story time. She has already financed Paul Thomas Anderson’s, The Master, after its first financer pulled out for fear it was a dig at Scientology. Ellison agreed to every penny of production and the film was made in the exact vision of the Thomas Anderson. Unfortunately it didn’t exactly create a profit. But this hasn’t stopped Megan agreeing to produce Anderson’s next film Inherent Vice, which is currently in production. Luckily for Ellison her finances areseesawing to a balance. Where she may have lost money in The Master, she has made money in Zero Dark Thirty. But can this injection, money method be sustained in the film industry. Or will her risky endeavors mirror the inflation of the football business? Does a film like The Master need a $32 million budget if it can’t make it back? Did Paul Thomas Anderson’s fans even appreciate it? Whatever way you look at it, at some point Ellison will have to walk away from films that don’t make money, because with $32 million budget’s, $2 billion can’t last forever.
But Ellison isn’t the only one making a name for herself in Hollywood and spending a ton of money. The producer behind New York, I Love You is at it too. Michael Benaroya always intended to take over his family’s business – some big real-estate company in Seattle. He made the right foundations; receiving a bachelor’s in economics from Pomona College. But when some friends bugged him about making a movie, the self confessed ‘cinephile’ couldn’t resist. Since then he’s been at it like a rabbit. He is now fully or partly responsible for producing The Romantics, The Words, Catch 44., Margin Call, The Paperboy and Kill your Darlings. But Michael isn’t going down the big budget route just yet, he told The Wrap ‘I have not decided that I’m not going to do those one day, I understand a lot of the attraction, but I have definitely made a firm commitment in my mind to stick to what I’m good at and not to go making bigger movies just for the sake of making bigger movies.’ He’s right he is good at what he does and he takes risks, he recently financed first time director J.C Chandor’s Margin Call for $3.2 million and made over $19 million back. Unlike Ellison, Benaroya knows his economics and proudly states this on his company – Benaroya Pictures – website ‘A lifelong economics student, Michael has created a new model for the financing of Hollywood entertainment and is using this new model through Benaroya Pictures to finance a number of feature films and documentaries.’ I‘m guessing (because it says it on his website) that Michael aims to package and invest in outside projects, allowing the company to work with A-list talent of today whilst also grooming the up-and-coming filmmakers of tomorrow. God, maybe he really is a cinephile. Strategy and economics seem to be the hammer in breaking the Holly Wood piggy bank. Super Crispy Entertainment are also cashing in on the ‘spend a bit more than a little, get back a bit more than a lot’ idea when it comes to indie entertainment. The Super Crispy duo, Jonathon Schwartz and Andrea Sperling have been the producing cogs of such machines as Like Crazy, Smashed, Nobody Walks, Spooner, Douchebag, Sympathy for Delicious and Kaboom. They have excited and added to the Sundance festival from the beginning and are not showing signs of slowing down. I guess for now we will just have to sit back and enjoy the weird and the wonderful becoming big block busters. Perhaps the immense inflation will topple the carefully controlled scales of Hollywood and some other film buff with a fresh batch of inheritance will make a movie about it.
NOISY CRYPTOGRAMS Words: Ivo Aleixo After killing radio, TV went through an identity crisis and we are now clueless as to what exactly we are talking about when we string together those two letters. Do we mean network or cable TV? Is TV the false urgency 24/7 news-cycle or the endless menu of mind-numbing entertainment? Having created a maze of hundreds of channels to give the illusion that there is always something more important going on, whatever the phenomenon of TV means to you it will stand for something else to me. Then something called the Internet came, and it broadened the vistas in ways we can’t even fully comprehend yet. (It also showed us how little energy TV demands of us: you just sit and stare). With the floodgates to the entire world’s information open, you can surf and pirate through an unregulated ocean of data. And since our phones got smart you can access it from devices that fit in the palm of your hand. It’s only in light of time that we can begin to grasp just how much technology has progressed and how it has shaped the nature of our interactions. The smartphone in your pocket, for instance, is a million times smaller and a million times cheaper, and a thousand times more powerful than the mightiest of supercomputers of the 1960s. And even your ‘dumbphone’ has more computing power than the computer which was in charge of the Apollo 11 mission that drove us into outer-space and landed us on the moon. This dizzying speed of technological progress is not stopping, but speeding up. (In fact, computing power doubles every eighteen months according to the mathematical rule of Moore’s law.) Let’s keep the smartphone as an example and consider technology in a different way. Not simply as tools we use but as extensions of who we are. For instance, by using your phone to store data about yourself, technically you are outsourcing part of your cogitative ability (When was the last time you bothered remembering a phone number? You don’t have to, it does it for you.) Or take SMS – which allows you to send your thoughts through time and space at the speed of light. Or GPS. By passing all these functions of the brain to a machine we equip our minds with a number of new functions: we have the ability to go through a sea of information with a few taps on a screen, communicate with the rest of the world at the speed of light, or capture live reality on camera. All this talk about blurring the line between mind and machine through modern telecommunications could be taken from a sci-fi screenplay. (By the way, I’m not just using these terms as mind-bending metaphors: there actually is a concept in contemporary philosophy called the Extended-Mind Thesis which has been entertaining far-out philosophers for a little over than a decade.)
What’s interesting is that there actually is a real-life unscripted Hollywood story in the narrative of modern telecommunications technology. If you were to walk backwards in time and reverse all the steps that made it possible for you to complain about a WiFi connection you would eventually trip over the strange story of Hedy Lamarr, an Austro-American actress from Hollywood’s Golden Age of the 1930s and 40s with a life-story that reads like a work of fiction. Before rising to stardom in Hollywood, Lamarr was already infamous in Europe. Mostly by appearing nude in a 1933 film titled Ecstasy, and marrying the third richest man in Austria, a fascist weapons manufacturer who sold arms to and entertained the likes of Hitler and Mussolini at his home. He also tried to get all the copies of said film destroyed, which should give you some idea of what kind of control-freak Lamarr ran away from. (Accounts of her escape vary: from poisoning her personal maid to dressing up like one and leaving.) Her exile in America meant fame and success which she quickly grew tired of. Due to her strong accent at a time of paranoid anti-communist sentiment in early 1940s America she was often relegated to play the role of a spy or foreign informer attempting to convert America to communism. But what exactly is the connection between a forgotten runaway Viennese actress and modern communications technology? On the side of a Hollywood career that bored her and overshadowed her creative side, Lamarr moonlighted as an inventor. She spent her time tinkering with gadgets and ideas, amongst which you would find inconsequential sketches like a tablet that when mixed with water blossoms into a soda drink or a new traffic light scheme. But what’s relevant to this story is her concept of frequency hopping: a communication system which involved changing radio signals between the transmit ter and receiver so that the message could not be decoded. It’s in this idea that you have the genesis of much of our modern telecommunications technology, from GPS to Bluetooth to WiFi. Think of it as a secret language: between the receiver and transmitter the message is clear, but for anyone trying to decipher the code it would sound like a random sequence of noise. The signals, carefully synchronised, hop around from frequency to frequency. There is a tone of musicality to the work of frequency hopping, which is not at all surprising given the fact that the idea was co-authored by George Antheil, an avant-garde composer who had been exploring the idea of synchronicity in his own works. In 1923, more than two decades before they had come up with the idea of frequency-hopping, Antheil had provided the score for an experimental Dadaist film titled Ballet Mécanique, in which he orchestrated a cacophonous soundscape by synchronising – and numbers vary depending on accounts – a dozen pianos, xylophones, industrial-sized electric fans, bells, airplane propellers, sirens and an ragbag of percussion instruments. When he brought his noisemaking symphony to Carnegie Hall in 1927 to perform it live for the first time, it sparked a hostile response. Halfway through it, a critic stood up and attached a white handkerchief to the top of his cane and waved it in a gesture of surrender. The next day one paper’s headline read: ‘EXPECTED RIOTS PETER OUT AT GEORGE ANTHEIL CONCERT – SENSATION FAILS TO MATERIALISE.’
Today, Ballet Mécanique is regarded as a remarkable manifestation of mechanical music and Dada that pioneered avant-garde techniques such as silent and readymade. Once we start unpacking the reasons for why it flopped, we find that there is a common thread that links up and explains not only Ballet Mécanique’s failure but also why Lamarr’s genius remains out of focus. Lamarr and Antheil were granted a patent for the concept of frequency-hopping during the height of World War II, and to help out with the war effort they proposed to the US army that the technology could be used to radio-control torpedoes. By encrypting the frequencies and making them jump around, they argued, the signal could not be jammed and the torpedoes would go undetected. Yet - just as the critic only heard a mishmash of noise and not Antheil’s futuristic vision of mechanical music - all the army officials could imagine was that an actress and an avant-garde composer wanted to attach a piano to a torpedo. And so the idea was thrown into the wastebasket. What Lamarr should do, the army officials counter-proposed, was go and raise money for the war instead of wasting everyone’s time. Cue twenty years later and the army was bending over the wastebasket and using the idea for the Cuban Missile Crisis. Eventually it paved the way towards modern telecommunications technology. I don’t know if that counts as redemption or satisfies even the most twisted notion of poetic justice. (By that time the patent had expired, and Lamarr and Antheil never made a penny out of it.) With the benefit of hindsight, there might be one or two important points to make – or perhaps one that is part of a much larger point. First, let’s refresh our memory of what Lamarr and Antheil’s actual plans for frequency hopping were: they wanted to radio-control torpedoes to blow up Nazi submarines. War fueled creativity. And that’s not an altogether uncommon pattern. Take the tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, which led to both nations trying to outdo themselves in seeing who could get to outer space first. I’m not of course suggesting that all our best ideas either come from bloodthirsty impulse to kill or out of a fear of annihilation, but rather pointing to an intrinsic bipolarity in the nature of technology. Technology builds bombs and lands us on the Moon. It’s the Internet, and it’s the Atomic Bomb. And it’s also a bizarre story of a Hollywood actress and avant-garde composer who after inventing a technology to radio-control torpedoes met-up with the US Government to destroy Nazi submarines. And then there’s the larger point to make: understanding how ideas escape the intentions of whoever thought them up. Lamarr and Antheil’s patent was called ‘A Secret Communications System’. The whole point was to hide information. Yet, in that top-secret plot to encrypt and deceive there’s the inception of modern communications technology and the Age of Information. (That was not part of the plan.) The idea got turned upside down and is probably nauseous from the irony of it all.
Like infectious Frankensteinian mutations, ideas gain a life of their own and spread from brain to brain. What imagination is up against is fixed ideas rooted in tradition and culture that go unquestioned: be it Antheil’s critics, who drunk on their self-righteousness could not understand his symphony; or the bewildered army officials who could not fathom that an actress and a composer could have something to contribute to the war effort because they already had in their minds the archetype of what an inventor should look like and did not see her as more than a fundraising wartime pin-up. (It’s worthwhile to remember that how we perceive moment to moment reality is edited by our preconceptions, stereotypes, beliefs and culture, which act as filters that skew how we see the world and make us hostages of our era and culture.) It could be that because technology is so vast it is actually moving us towards evermore subjective worlds of our construction, accommodating all of our idiosyncrasies and allowing deeper fragmentations of personalities rather than homogenisation. Maybe it’s not a grim monochrome, but some sort of kaleidoscope. It depends what you consider. (I’m not suggesting – and this is my final non-suggestion – that these are the only two ways to see it or that you should see it as a yes/ no blue pill or red pill ordeal.) I don’t think it’s possible to chant all the slogans of interconnectedness and wonder at the infinite potentials of the Internet without noticing that it also creates a culture of instant gratification and frustrated button-clicking caught up in an endless stream that is reducing our attention-spans to that of an amnesiac goldfish. The overflow of information can be as overwhelming as is the speed at which technology evolves, and when everything is so fast and instant and ephemeral, awareness tends to drown and it gets trickier and trickier to discern the signal from the noise.
Mark Sultan Interview Words: Adam Kemp
Mark Sultan is the multi talented garage punk maestro most notable for being the BBQ in The King Khan and BBQ Show. He has also played in The Spaceshits, Les Sexareenos and The Almighty Defenders, among countless others. Adam: Could you introduce yourself and give yourself a job title. Mark Sultan: My name is Mark Sultan aka Marco Antonio Pepe, Creepy, Blortz, BBQ, Bridge Mixture, Krebs, Noammnym Rummnyymnn, Celeb Prenup, etc etc. I am a punk rocker, a rock’n’roller, and master raisinmaker at Quench Enterprises. Adam: Seeing as you are a great example of it, what do you think it is that makes many garage musicians so prolific compared with artists in other genres? Mark Sultan: There are a LOT of prolific musicians and artists, and I would say more avant garde and ‘noise’ dudes are WAY more prolific, for example... In all cases like mine or theirs, it’s generally because of the freedom. Lack of responsibility due to lack of fans. Lack of pressures due to lack of sales. Couple that with many small labels run by people who care, and you have the means to put out whatever the fuck you want at any time and not worry about sales and other bullshit, because you care and the people putting it out care. Who cares. Adam: Name one Canadian delicacy you think should be shipped worldwide. Mark Sultan: Poutine. From my home province of Quebec. It has been making the rounds, and has even been coopted as a ‘gourmet’ treat in some circles, but it’s our drunk-food masterpiece. Where I grew up it was brown, crispy-on-the-outside/ moist-in-the-middle, deep-fried in peanut-oil french fried potatoes, brown gravy (peppered) with squeaky, white cheese curds through and through. Awesome.
Adam: You’ve said before that you don’t like the intentional weirdness of Frank Zappa. What is your opinion on Captain Beefheart? Mark Sultan: Maybe I just don’t get it. I can’t stand Zappa’s music. Super-awesome musicianship and no LSD in his diet. It’s always the dude with the ‘kwazy’ braided goatee at the music store who LOVES that shit. And Beefheart. I enjoy the early Magic Band stuff, I guess. After that, I find it pretentious, and generally garbage. Sorry. I guess I don’t get it, even though I listen to a lot of fucked up shit. I generally lump this into one pile of stuff I avoid. Yes, people will malign me, now, but there are even more bands I don’t ‘get’: Motorhead, MC5, The Clash... Hate away. Adam: Is there anything you listen to that fans of your music would be surprised at? Mark Sultan: I listen to many things and am very much not afraid at how I ‘seem’ for liking or disliking music, genuinely. I don’t understand why people don’t admit they enjoy stuff or dislike stuff... Wouldn’t this be healthy? Fuck ‘cool’. ‘Cool’ is complete bullshit. If I wanted to be on a team, I would play sports. I can listen to almost anything, as long as it has a soul OR is actually devoid 100% of soul. Not much in between. Adam: Could you give us any idea on the books you’ve talked about writing? Do the themes cross over with those in your music? Mark Sultan: Not really. But maybe I should ross the streams, so to speak. Adam: Finally, do you have any plans to play in the UK? Mark Sultan: None. At all. Playing the UK is impossible for someone like me who isn’t ‘hip’ or ‘popular’ or whatever. Everytime I have ventured to the UK in whatever band or form, I have been ripped off and/or treated like human garbage. It’s just not that cool. Sorry. Ok, cheers.
Old Reels - Remembering Badlands Words: Laura Dorothy Spencer
There is something about teenage killing sprees that is worryingly and quintessentially American. Terrence Malickâ€™s directorial debut in 1973, Badlands, is loosely based the infamous 1950s Starkweather-Fugate case, in which a 19-yearold Charlie Starkweather went on a two-month killing spree, accompanied by 14-year-old girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, he murdered eleven people in the states of Nebraska and Wyoming.
Charlie Sheen gives a great performance as charismatic sociopath Kit, a dustbin man in South Dakota, he charms small-town teenager Holly, played by the enigmatic Sissy Spacek. The couple hit the road after Kit shoots her disapproving father and burns the house down, hiding out in the wilderness together they live a bizarrely domesticated life, complete with chickens and hair-rollers, until police detection sends them on a senseless killing spree across America. As a lovers-on-the-run tale, it provided inspiration for Natural Born Killers, while the moody, flat line style was replicated in such films as Moonrise Kingdom and True Romance. Its low-key atmosphere is wonderfully at odds with the effortless violence carried out by the young dispassionate lovers. The film carries a diaryesque voiceover from Holly, lending moments of dead-pan humour and unknowing poignancy to the film. An impeccable script makes this much more than an American road movie. Shortly after shooting a friend of Kit’s they were hiding out with: Kit: I got him in the stomach. Holly: Is he upset? Kit: He didn’t say nothing to me about it. Whether you watch the film simply to appreciate the suave performances, timeless style, or to gawp at the explosion of freckles on Sissy Spacek’s face is up to you. Read further into the script and Malick makes some lasting points about disaffected young Americans and the gun crime that is endemic in the country. A murderous fairytale that lingers in your mind long after, this one just seems to get better with age.
Southbank Centre Words: Matteo Besena Photographer: Lorenzo Maioni
In the last year or so the re-development of the Southbank Centre has become a heated debate, and another example of the struggle between luxurious re-development at the expense of communal spaces used by the residents of a certain area. The plans for a new Festival Wing at the Southbank Centre are threatening the closure of the skate spot that in the last 40 years or so has become a hub for skaters, bmxers and artists in a vibrant environment. In an article for the Guardian, the professional skater Crispin Robinson who went to Southbank for the first time in 1977, has defined the space as â€œthe spiritual home of UK skateboardingâ€?. The campaign Long Live Southbank has been vocal in defending this communal space, and has just lodged an application to the local council to have it recognised and protected as a community space under laws designed to protect green villages. We sent our photographer Lorenzo to this concrete village, and in his images you can see the sense of community that Long Live Southbank is trying to defend. If you want to know more visit our site where you can find a documentary made by Winstan Whitter and Toby Shuall on the Southbank Centre and the huge decrease in the number of communal spaces because of luxurious redevelopment projects.
Published on Nov 20, 2013