ONGREL Class of 2012: A (Hons) Music & Lifestyle Journalism niversity for the Creative Arts @ Epsom
THE GRADUATES 2012 MELANIE BATTOLLA (Features Editor) I am your typical girl next door, if that girl spent a lot of time alone in the basement. I moved from Rome to the UK to pursue my passion of music and writing, with the ambition of making it my career alongside travelling. 21 years old, I’m a shy but vital personality that really enjoys research and writing. Having had a good variety of work experience, from online music magazinesnto spending weekends working at the local pub, I’m now ready to start my career in the journalism sector.
NATASHA EMMERSON I am a 22 year old writer who has a hugely unhealthy obsession with the world of ambient as a music genre. Give me post-rock, plus a generous helping of minimalistic electronica and you’ll have me as a friend for life. If I’m not talking about it then you’ll more than likely find me writing about it for Shiver Magazine. My dream job would be working in the Warp Records PR team. 07817964103
07919 955 481 firstname.lastname@example.org
SAMMI CARTWRIGHT If Sammi Cartwright were a doll, she’d be the kind that comes in an outlandish box set with absurd accessories you think you don’t want, but wind up thinking are actually pretty neat assets (dress sense and sanity sold separately). Living in London, working part-time as a record label assistant and having photographed the likes of Billy Talent’s and Funeral for a Friend’s live shows, well, I guess that makes her the luckiest loser. 07525257410
HANNAH DUNSTER WHYTE At the age of sixteen, I began writing music and event reviews for my local magazine “The Whitstable imp.” This sparked my interest, and I later went on to study Music Journalism. During the course, I undertook work experience with 3-6-9 PR, which helped to broaden my understanding of the music industry. I am passionate about music and am not afraid of a challenge, which I believe is reflected in my work. 07792025878
TINA EDWARDS Tina Edwards is a writer, presenter, vocal coach... the list goes on. As the face of Balcony TV and Club Exclu TV, she’s now delving into the mysterious world of podcasting with BBMlive. com. Although her career lies in broadcasting, Tina also shines as a writer. Whether she’s writing academic essays (yes... she loves them) or writing for online shows, she adds an original touch. Watch out for her online music show, Stereo. 07860 766 915
EDWARD HEWISON Since my teens I’ve always wanted to be a music journalist. In order to ingratiate myself with these spotty, brushed-denim-clad arbiters of taste I would always wax lyrical about how right they were and how brilliant the music was. I was a teenager and teenagers aren’t supposed to sit around and nod sagely to the music. We should be throwing ourselves around the room uttering howls of rage and lust. What is wrong with me? 07845 459 974
MATTHEW DANIEL Originally from South Wales, but London raised, I’m a songwriter, producer, composer for The Water Seed Music Group in Atlanta, US. I record at The City Session Studios where I live in St. Margaret’s or at home. I’m still unsigned to a record label but still do it. I write for Blues & Soul Magazine, and have been since November 201 I’ve done eleven album reviews, three of which have been published in the December issue and the April issue. I’ve recently interviewed hiphop artist Naba Napalm for B&S Mag too. Also, I am a Junior PR Officer for Monique Pennie’s Purple Reign PR, here I have been made head of press contact for two Grammy nominated artists Melba Moore and Anthony David. 07709549550
LAWRENCE GICHIGI Before enrolling at UCA, I left Coulsdon College with 4 A levels including English language and media studies. I took a gap year, became deputy & music editor of Live Mag, covered the 2008 American elections from NY, and freelanced for Dazed, TimeOut, RWD, MTV. Following, I interned at Sony Music, built my own management & consultancy service, started writing my first book and will graduate from university in June 2012.
ALEX CULL (Reviews Editor) As I see it, growing up in small-town isolation has two possible outcomes: slipping into the simple comforts of microcosmic milieu or searching for meaning and inspiration outside of your limited confines. I chose the latter. Using the Internet as both a mediator and a window onto a greater culture, I set about immersing myself in the arts with a critical eye and a forward-thinking approach that has since seen me write for a number of publications, both print and online.
EMELY NEUBERT With experience in TV production, research, interviewing and acting, Emely Neubert has developed her own style in front of and behind the camera as well as online. To create a unique interview experience is the goal of her work, which she always fulfills. Besides having had an own music TV show in Germany at the age of 17, Emely now organizes a music show set in a chapel. Presenting and production is where Emely sees herself in the future.
KELLY JONES Despite the trials that entail interviewing bands in dimly lit backstage areas, crowded tour buses, and even in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Camden nothing has swayed Kelly Jones from her aspiration of becoming a journalist. She arrived at University to pursue her career combining her love for writing and music. Kelly has been writing for online music website Noise Addiction since 2009 and has also worked in the field of PR after interning at Anorak London. 07735473081
DAISY ROWELL I’ve always needed to be ‘in the know’ about everything. Regardless of the topic, I have to know what’s going on in the world. If I’m not talking about it, I’m searching for more. Over the past three years my love for news writing has grown, but I don’t like to limit myself to it. My time at Velvet Magazine was spent writing about a whole range of different topics. From fashion and beauty, to cars and even gardening. 07714795896
SINÉAD MURPHY (Editor) An unquenchable thirst for the written word has coursed its way through the bloodline of my family, tethering each afflicted Murphy to a pen like an unruly dog to its post. I, like the long line of men before me whose typically Irish poeticism leaves me beguiled and intimidated, must try to govern a mind of constantly configuring sentences, and a hand which sees no purpose other than to record. The realm of music journalism allows me to indulge this inherited passion for language with an equally overwhelming appreciation for melody – and from jazz to punk rock there is no genre which does not pique my interest. With experience in interviewing, feature writing, gig reviewing and A&R, I am compelled to write about music because I can imagine no possible alternative (and because I secretly strive to be as good as my old man…) 07958235080 email@example.com
HARLEY SHERMAN (Deputy Editor) With a keen eye for detail and a sharpened pencil ever at the ready, Harley Sherman is primed for a lifetime of toiling by the typewriter in the name of journalism. Consuming as much music, film and literature as possible is his passion, and writing experience at The Fly, ATM Magazine, Muso’s Guide, Virgin Music and BBM Live has left his ink-stained fingers rapping the desk for more. Form an orderly queue please. 07890184983
MATTHEW TANSLEY I like hearing my full name when I am introduced and I like using someone’s middle name when I am disappointed in them. I am Matthew Nathan Tansley in 15 years time, and I have worked for Channel 4’s Dispatches, worked at BBC News, became a freelance journalist for The New Yorker where I turned down a permanent position in favour of The New York Times, a successful blogger and 35,000 twitter followers. I gave up love to become this successful and I have no regrets. 07583589331
ROB JONES Twenty-something from the middle of nowhere who has come to the south of somewhere to do a bit of something. Creative and enthusiastic, thoughtful and expressive. Music and films, magazines and books. A new concept everyday. Say it how I write it, write it how I mean it, mean it how I think it, think it how I feel it, feel true. Clear eyes, full heart, can’t loose.
JAMES UDEN (Art Director) Film this, watch that, photograph something, listen up, focus hard, keep interested, laugh loud, pay attention, judge critically, be nice, create more, don’t settle, speak out, use sense, don’t worry, do good, splurge wisely, eat well, remain proud, look closer, write openly, think always, popular culture has made/ruined me. My interests and range of diverse skills only begin with writing. I have varied professional experience and restlessly await new challenges and a successful, creative future. 07854943982
TOM WILMOTT Music is my passion and my language. It’s the prism through which I communicate and the currency of my existence. It all started when I asked for “The Encyclopedia of Rock” for my seventh birthday. Now I devour, discuss and debate music, visit live gigs and contribute to webzines. I know what I’m going to do with my life: I’m going to write about music. If someone would just pay me, that would be perfection! 07572457840
EDITOR’S LETTER I
’d like you to think for a moment of the one thing in life that you yearn for. That single feeling or experience which enriches your time on this earthly realm to such a degree, that you couldn’t conceive an existence without it. Perhaps it’s the soul-soothing moment when the first notes of your favourite LP wind their way through the ethers to touch your waiting ears. Or maybe it’s the sight of your daughter’s excited gesticulations as you arrive home from the pallet of office grey, uncomfortably besuited and veiled in rush-hour perspiration. Alternatively, your idea of personal contentment might lie with that cottage by the river, jauntily positioned as it is amidst a symphony of gently rustling oak trees. Although the cottage is but a landmark on your constitutional Sunday morning walk, the thought of someday retiring to its thatched roofing and lavender-perfumed gardens makes you better equipped to face the ceaseless drudgery that is the working week. But for us, the Epsom UCA Music Journalism graduates with the ink on our degrees still yet to dry, that yearning finds itself in the written word, and is manifested here in the inaugural issue of Mongrel Magazine. So called because of its hybrid approach to content and journalistic style, Mongrel is a place where the exploration of our collective interests is indulged with the same fervent passion that has fuelled our study for the past three years. An inherent need to record and a thirst for all things linguistic is our very own cottage by the river – the absence of which would somehow tarnish the guild that casts its sheen over our respective existences, and confuse our reason for pursuit. However, that is not to say that the prospect of a course dedicated solely to Music Journalism is not, in its very essence, a recipe for disaster. In what is essentially the act of taking the most fastidious music geeks from classrooms all over England (and indeed further afield) and forcing them to occupy the same space at the same time, many of us felt that joining the course would lead to the crown of Biggest Music Buff to be snatched from our scalps. Faced with the daunting realisation that we may no longer have unrivalled knowledge regarding back catalogues and B-sides, our early days together constantly teetered on the edge of an explosion to prove our self-worth and expertise. But as time ebbed on and bonds were established over the swapping of records, we quickly learnt that rather than grappling with each other for an abstract title, we must instead feed off the bountiful spring of knowledge that our peers were able to offer. Some of the artists who now occupy the forefront of my record collection began as passing recommendations from my classmates, and for that I feel privileged to have spent the last three years with such passionate little know-it-alls. And so, as you thumb through the pages of Mongrel Magazine, with its witty and insightful observations on such topics as food, cinema, literature and gaming, please be aware that these words have been crafted from an unstoppable need to write, rather than the looming of deadlines or the ominous wag of our tutor’s fingers. Of course, you will also find some of the most well-informed and zealously written articles concerning all things melodic; and from ambient to hip hop there is no genre which is free from our very capable (and ever ready) critique.
Sinéad Murphy, Editor in Chief
All rights reserved. For educational purposes only. Mongrel is a collection of Stage Three BA (Hons) Music and Lifestyle Journalism projects and has no commercial value. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without written permission from the publishers. © 2012 BA (Hons) Music and Lifestyle Journalism, University for the Creative Arts @ Epsom. The views expressed in Mongrel are those of the respective contributors and are not necessarily shared by the course, its staff or the University of the Creative Arts @ Epsom. These parties cannot be held responsible for them. Mongrel is published once a year.
CONTENTS 4 5 6 6 7 7 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 16 17 18 20 21 22 24 25 26 28 29 30 32 34
James Lavelle Surrenders All - Natasha Emmerson The Inner Voice of Gregory Porter - Matthew Daniel The Peel, Kingston: Profile - Tom Willmott Xtra Mile Recordings: Profile - Tom Willmott The Drums and Visiomento - Melanie Battolla Not Your Song - Ed Hewison Prepare to Feast - James Uden The Legacy of Female Rock Stars - Ed Hewison Virtually There - Kelly Jones Azekel: The Journey - Lawrence Gichigi Jazz in not a Private Club - Tina Edwards Why the Election for a Republican Candidate is Bullshit - Rob Jones Stret Fighters - Rob Jones Free to EAT to your Heart’s Content - James Uden Sirisly? - Hannah Dunster Whyte Big Macs and Body Kits - Daisy Rowell Studio Roosegarde - Emely Neubert The Beautification of Algernon De Beajolais - Sinéad Murphy Avoiding Modern Life - Harley Sherman Telling Dirty Jokes - Sinéad Murphy From Marx To Mason... The Roots of Jewish Humour - Sinéad Murphy The Shelf Life of Mad Men - Harley Sherman Bringing Censorship to Book - Sammi Cartwright When Indie Goes Mainstream - Matthew Tansley David Lynch’s Women - Melanie Battolla Averting Wish Fulfillment - Alex Cull Reviews
REDITS Editor - SINÉAD MURPHY // 07958235080 // firstname.lastname@example.org Deputy Editor - HARLEY SHERMAN // 07890184983 // email@example.com Features Editor, Cover Artist & Layout Assistant - MELANIE BATTOLLA // 07919 955 481 // firstname.lastname@example.org Reviews Editor - ALEX CULL // 07500870575 // email@example.com Layout Director & Assistant Editor - JAMES UDEN // 07854943982 // firstname.lastname@example.org Special Thanks GARETH THOMAS (Content) LUCY O’BRIEN (Content) ROBERT DE NIET (Layout)
AMES LAVELLE SURRENDERS ALL WORDS: Natasha Emmerson
t was a grey, windy, and horribly cold day in the town of Camden – the very beginning of what was to be a neverending spell of April showers. I was on my way to a rather up-market pub named The Colonel’s Forfeit where I was to meet none other than the main face behind triphop/electronica project UNKLE, who if you don’t already know, goes by the name of James Lavelle. He’s finishing off a simplistic but appetising looking dish of potato wedges when I walk into the pub, and is sat with a female friend, or perhaps a colleague who works for his record label Surrender All.
Since establishing a name for himself as a solo producer as well as part of UNKLE, Lavelle has had the opportunity of working with some of the most respected artists in the industry, such as Mike D of Beastie Boys, Richard Ashcroft and even Thom Yorke. But those are just a select few of the greats he has produced with. Australian musician Nick Cave from The Bad Seeds and Grinderman did vocals for Money And Run on UNKLE’s most recent album Where Did The Night Fall? Lavelle mentions how he met Cave: “That music relationship came from my music partner Pablo because they were acquaintances in Brighton.”
The friend smiles and says hello, then leaves, and suddenly it’s just James and I. I feel star struck. My mouth speaks before my mind, and I ask him how his week has been. “Busy, busy” he says. He’s just got back from Japan and seems jet-lagged. I ask him how the ‘UNKLE Sounds’ show Australia’s Playground Festival went. His facial expression immediately tells me it didn’t go to plan. “Unfortunately it got cancelled because of the weather. It was the worst winter Sydney had had in years due to loads of flooding.”
With such a huge variety of sound genres demonstrated throughout the three UNKLE albums so far, I was keen to find out what a young James Lavelle may have been listening to before it all began. He reminisces, “Mainly at the time I was listening to hip hop and electronic music, such as Detroit techno and American house, and the type of stuff going on in UK with Warp Records – early LFO, Nightmares On Wax and British hardcore records. I was really into the samples hip hop used and got really into collecting old records from the funky soul genre.” There are obvious trip hop influences in UNKLE’s work too, as any fan would pick up. As a matter of fact, Lavelle’s been obsessed and in several ways, involved with the genre right from the beginning. “The biggest influence for me growing up as a kid was the whole Bristol scene, such as Massive Attack. At one point, I even tried to sign Portishead to Mowax.” Mowax was James Lavelle’s first record label, which he set up with fellow UNKLE member Tim Goldsworthy. The label really flourished during the ‘90s and brought the likes of DJ Shadow to the world of electronica.
One of the most captivating and incredibly dark videos created for UNKLE’s music was for Rabbit In Your Headlights, which was directed by John Glazer and tells the story of a tramp who continues to go on living, even whilst walking through and in front of speeding cars. It even reaches the point where the unimaginable happens - a car crashes into the tramp and smashes to pieces. The tramp, however, remains unscathed. For any die-hard UNKLE fan, ‘Rabbit In Your Headlights’ is a song and video that will always remain one of the most iconic pieces of work to have come from them. Not only does it showcase the extent of Lavelle and the band’s writing and mixing skills, but it also features vocals from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Lavelle talks about the time he and Yorke created that record: “ It was an amazing experience. We were in a San Francisco studio up in the mountains, looking over a valley, and managed to do the vocal in one take. Technically, it didn’t take long to make, but it was written over a long period of time.” The list of artists Lavelle has worked with is quite obviously endless, but despite that, there are still several other idols he would like to work with lingering on the surface of his tongue.
“There was one in Tazmania which got cancelled too. The festival scene out there is really saturated and it’s very expensive to buy tickets for. Even Big Day Out, which is a really famous Australian festival, struggled this year.” His main point seems to be that Australian music festivals aren’t what they used to be due to the fact that they rely so heavily on huge amounts of funding. Lavelle’s theory is that if you’re not a well established band or artist, then you’ve no hope in hell of getting a spot at an Australian music festival. “The industry spiel is there are no big acts that are young acts capable of selling out festivals. It’s all heritage acts and reformed bands. It’s all as though it’s imploding on itself.” He laughs off the fact that he travelled to Australia for two cancelled festivals. “In the end, I just relaxed at the beach for a few days.”
classic Sexy Beast. Lavelle still continues to work closely with the film and media industry, stating that, “There’s a few film projects I’ve been asked to do which are in the pipe-line, as well as a computer game too, although I can’t say what they are just yet. To work in film is amazing, and the more one can do, the better. But sometimes it’s hard to get your foot in the door. “
“The list is endless because there are so many young, new up and coming artists that are really great, and then there are always the people you really admire and would love to work with, whether it would be Leonard Cohen or Dr Dre. “
Besides the huge influence other artists and music seem to have on Lavelle, there seems to be many ways in which his and UNKLE’S music inspires cinematography too, including the skate film Fully Flared by Spike Jonze and Ty Evans which featured the track ‘Heaven’, plus a short film covering Ray Winstone’s childhood memory by John Hillcoat, accompanied by the vibrantly uplifting The Answer.
Lavelle’s interests appear to stretch far beyond the world of film and music though. It wasn’t so long ago that he pursued his interest in the world of visual culture to such a degree that he even started up his own art exhibition event named Daydreaming With...
He suddenly drifts away from the topic of film and expresses his love for American TV shows: “I’m addicted to American TV shows, such as Luck and Game of Thrones. When you tour a lot, you end up watching a lot of TV and films to pass the time.”
Daydreaming With... is an exhibition which allows Lavelle to work with artists in order to create artwork which holds a strong connection to music by UNKLE. The first ever exhibition took place at Haunch of Venison in London during August 2010, but according to Lavelle, that isn’t the first and last we’ll hear of it. “ I am doing another Daydreaming With… exhibition next month in Hong Kong”, he excitedly shares. “I’m going to be working with Shynola again who did the Eye For An Eye video and quite a lot of different artists from different styles and cultures of work.” His next exhibition Daydreaming With... The Hong Kong Edition is to take place at a venue named Artistree in Taiko Place from May 4th - June 7th. The main idea behind this edition is to display multi-media artworks from some of Asia’s leading creatives, including the likes of Can Xin, Li Wei, Wing Shya, Prodip Leung, Jayne Dyer, and Huang Rui. A few well-established artists from the U.S and Europe are to be involved too.
Short films aren’t the only types of cinema Lavelle’s music has featured in, however. His music has also been used for feature-length film scores, such as the British gangster
Working with Lavelle on this exhibition is Hong Kong installation artist and painter Simon Birch. Each of the artists will either be reacting to exclusive music produced
Lavelle discusses the impact cinema has had on his music, “Film and certain elements of television are probably some of the biggest influences for me. I loved Apocalypse Now and Blade Runner - films which have an epic, journey element. Also, Sci-Fi has had a big influence on me. During the Mowax days, I took a lot of influence from films such as Tron and Star Wars. “
“There’s a lot of film and television stuff I’m looking at, and then I want to move onto making a new record.”
by UNKLE, or working alongside Lavelle and Birch to create other forms of artistic media.
street and it’s all skyscrapers, neons, then you’ve got geisha girls. It’s a very unique place to be.”
Fashion seems to be yet another great love of Lavelle’s, since he once owned his own fashion label named Surrender, which coincides with the name of his current record label. I ask him if this is still something he dabbles in: “I collaborate with people sometimes,” he says. “I recently collaborated with a brand from Holland called DENHAM who specialise in vintage denim jeans but they do a whole range of stuff too. I worked with them to create a hybrid jacket with headphones inserted into it.” Lavelle appears to have a creative mind like no other. One with a drive I’ve never witnessed before, and quite frankly, it’s amazing.
As a solo DJ and with UNKLE, Japan is a country that he regularly plays shows in, and it’s a favourite too thanks to its inviting atmosphere. He mentions one of his favourite venues, which is based in Tokyo: “ The Womb is one of the best clubs on the planet. It’s a really amazing experience. I’d definitely recommend it.”
I’m aware of his passion for Japanese culture and figure that it must bear some sort of an influence on his work. He tells me what it is he loves about the country: “They’re very veracious in their appetite for western music culture, and they go so hardcore into it. Like, if you see someone who’s really into rockabilly, they will look like the perfect rockabilly stereotype – it’s very stylised. Plus visually, it’s a very stimulating place to be.” He continues, “Culturally, it’s so extreme compared to Britain. It’s a very unique mix of complete modern, super, super new with something old. You’re walking down the
HE INNER VOICE OF S GREGORY PORTER
Apart from the Daydreaming With… exhibition, Lavelle seems to be busy with a few other projects too. “ I’ve sold some of my music to a couple of commercials. I just did a commercial with Rihanna for Armani and I’ve also done Lucozade, which I did with Warren and Nick who directed the Follow Me Down video and did the artwork for the last record. There’s a lot of film and television stuff I’m looking at, and then I want to move onto to making a new record.” Sadly, my once in a life-time meeting with James Lavelle draws to an end, but I feel happy again when I’m told he will be playing at Secret Garden Party with the fantastic Eddie Temple Morris for his ten year anniversary, which is set to take place this summer, from July 19th - 22nd in Abbots Ripton, Cambridgeshire. Plus, with talks of working on a new record, the future of UNKLE still remains as exciting as ever.
WORDS: Matthew Daniel oul man Gregory Porter had one heck of a year in 2011. As well as being on Later…With Jools Holland he got a lot of press coverage. Yet, despite this flurry of commercial attention, Porter stays close to his roots. “Donny and Aretha influence me without a doubt.” he says. “The connection between the heart and voice is so close with these masters that all else is secondary, and it was and is still effective”. Having watched back his appearance on Later…, he reflects on his time on the show: “It was amazing! I appreciate the way Jools and his producers have no problem mixing
genres. Playing alongside and with masters that I grew up listening to was a sweet experience. Betty Wright put it down for all generations and Cyndi Lauper was so great at singing and reinterpreting her iconic music. Jazz and blues and soul can survive in a place that puts them on equal footing. Most people listen to music the way Jools runs his show, just good music.” 2011 was a highly successful year for Porter and his debut album Illusions. What is his key to success? “Listening to the inner voice. For me that’s been the key. I’ve learned that my personal stories are more universal than I once thought, and people see themselves in any art that comes from a grounded real place. I had pent up energy to release and I’m glad I’ve had the good fortune to be heard”. He expresses his thoughts and feelings on what’s the best advice he’s been given, and it turns out to be quite an emotional one. “My mother, in the last days of her life, told me, propped upright by pillows and with oxygen machine on its maximum setting, told me in a quiet voice: “Gregory, keep singing baby, you do many things well but it’s the best thing you do, so sing baby”. She also told me always to sing with an understanding of lyrics, not just using lyric as a vehicle to carry a note”. So what are his plans for 2012? “I’ve had some success and I’m so thankful, but I know there are so many ears that have never heard me or my name or my songs. I’ve said all along that I just want to be heard, let the listener reject if they don’t like it, but let it be heard”. And finally, how do you think the internet has affected soul music? “It has taken that sound to all corners of the world. That sound that has its roots in the American South in fields and in churches and juke joints has influenced top pop acts, to restaurant singers in Siberia. I hear soul in every language now”. To buy Gregory Porter music visit your local iTunes store or see him online at: gregoryporter.com
THE PEEL, KINGSTON: profile of a music venue
ingston Upon Thames is already familiar ground to many for its shopping and leisure facilities, university and it’s within easy reach of the capital. What is less well known is that it’s home to a thriving music scene. Aside from the weekly indie club night, New Slang at The Hippodrome (put on by local record store and promoters Banquet Records) and The Fighting Cocks, there is The Peel – the venue which really kick-started it all. Founded in 1939 – a date that has recently been incorporated into its retro brand name 1939 at The Peel – the venue started out as a pub named after the eighteenth century prime minister, Sir Robert Peel. Its days as a pub ended some time around the turn of this century, however, and today it’s better known to the cognoscenti as a joyously sweaty setting for music lovers to mosh to their heart’s content. At a capacity holding of around 250, it’s the perfect place for an intimate audience and when there’s a full house, breathing is something of a luxury. Whenever you turn up for a gig, you just know the atmosphere will be electric, unfettered by the overzealous security you find at many soulless, corporate-owned
venues dotted across the country these days. For the best part of the last decade, the Peel was a favourite of a number of punk bands and was instrumental in shaping the movement. Acts such as Capdown, Sonic Boom Six and even Gallows frequented the venue in their early years. And, paying tribute to the establishment at their gig in December, new frontman Wade McNeil said “When I joined Gallows we decided the first thing we should do is play The Peel to get back to where it all first began.” Many Surrey bands have taken the first steps on their music career here, including Hundred Reasons, Reuben and Tellison. But aside from punk, the venue plays host to a number of progressive rock acts, thanks to the House Of Progression promotions company. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the likes of Oceansize, ex-Marillion frontman Fish and Katatonia pass through.
ott Willm S: Tom WORD
profile of independent label
The only real gripe with the venue is that it’s next door to a strip club but you can’t have everything. Notwithstanding, The Peel is definitely a place you should visit if you are seeking out live music in Surrey. Here’s to more exciting nights at one of our favourite venues.
In recent times, however, The Peel has started to book more high profile acts. In 2009, britpop sensations Ash chose to play the venue as part of their A-Z tour, with Kingston representing the letter K. Last year saw two
tra Mile first started to shape a part of the British music scene in the early 2000s. Back in 2003, when Charlie Caplowe was handling the press for four-piece punk rock band Million Dead, he became frustrated that no one was showing any interest in signing the band so decided to form his own label and take them on himself. Xtra Mile – so-called because they “Go that extra mile for their artists”- was born and ,as part of a joint venture with Integrity Records, released Million Dead’s debut album “A Song To Ruin” that year. One year later, the label put out their first independent release, a single from the same band, “I Gave My Eyes To Stevie Wonder” followed by the debut release from acclaimed Surrey trio, Reuben.
TRA MILE RECORDINGS:
big names in punk, The Bronx and Against Me, play to packed-out crowds. And to top it all, as part of Rock Sound Secret Sessions, in conjunction with last year’s Sonisphere festival, local band You Me At Six played a special homecoming show. It was the first show the band had played here since they found commercial success.
The label’s ethos was, and is, according to Caplowe, to sign “Rock of all shapes and sizes – anything with a bit of excitement.” Signings come about in the normal way through demos and recommendations from managers and friends, but it’s also a bit of a “family affair” these days as bands signed by Xtra Mile will suggest others to be checked out by the label. Their main rise to prominence, however, is due to Million Dead’s front man, Frank Turner. After the band’s demise in 2005, Turner embarked on a solo career which would outclass the group’s entire back catalogue, and slowly but surely gained a dedicated following. In 2007, he released his debut solo effort, “Sleep Is For The Week”, receiving a positive response and playing selected festivals. He quickly followed this up with “Love, Ire and Song”, which now saw him getting daytime radio play and, according to Caplowe, was Xtra Mile’s “proudest release”, given that it had sprung from the humble beginnings of the label. With a strong work ethic, Turner’s third
WORDS: Tom Willmott
effort “Poetry Of The Deed”, saw him move up the ranks, and by the end of the promotional tour, he was able to pack Brixton Academy. Charting just two places outside the UK top ten albums chart with his latest release, “England Keep my Bones”, he has just headed a sell-out show at Wembley Arena, which many regard as a victory for independent music. Today the label deals with a varied palette of artists. Following in Frank Turner’s footsteps, they are home to aspiring singer-songwriters such as Ben Marwood and Chris T-T, overseas punk acts including Against Me and I Am The Avalanche, and continue to seek out exciting new British talent. Forthcoming albums include the latest releases from Straight Lines and Future Of The Left. So do support these guys – without a doubt they have done great things for British music and it’s only fair to return the favour by making a purchase or two, rather than take the more devious route of scouring for their material via file-sharing sites.
Million Dead – A Song To Ruin (2003) Reuben–Racecar Is Racecar Backwards (2004) Frank Turner – Love, Ire And Song (2008) Crazy Arm – Born To Ruin (2009) The Xcerts – Scatterbrain (2010)
NOT YOUR SONG
THE DRUMS AND VISIOMENTO:
- Cover Songs on Adverts
WORDS: Ed Hewison
Reﬂection of a Multi-Ocular Society O
n 28 February 2012 the Drums’ website posted the series finale of the multimedia experiment Visiomento. “In an age of insatiable voyeuristic desire, rampant mass surveillance, and cyber-exhibitionism we have become a society conditioned to transmit and receive images, sound, and information at lightning speed” says the page’s manifesto. And nothing could be more true. Think about the fact that we’re in a society, where there are almost two million CCTV cameras scattered around the country. Think about the fact that “reality” is spoon-fed to people on a daily basis through reality TV. Think about the fact that again, daily, we obsessively scan through pages and pages of other people’s personal information, which is delivered through the apparently harmless web of the social networks. The band doesn’t see this negatively; it actually accepts it with an evil grin, stating that they submit themselves to “the cyber-airwaves, and surrender to transmission”. The web series, which can still be viewed on the Visiomento page of the Drums’ website, is a collage of videos that catch a glimpse of the bands performing in their studio, guest appearances and interviews. All with the candid, intimate eye of CCTV. This isn’t a far cry from 1984, and is undoubtedly a surrender to what society has become. Through the series, the band was able to communicate with their fans in an almost clinical way, with only a computer screen to divide them. The group shared personal thoughts, new material, answered questions and gave out competitions that fed the fans and made them feel part of it all. It is a growing trend nowadays to be under the scrutiny of fans in advance of critics, in order to get the product tweaked to perfection before official release. But doesn’t this go against an artist’s integrity? Doesn’t this compromise the artistic process? Should this whole methodology be embraced?
WORDS: Melanie Battolla
f there is one thing during the ad break more annoying than the Go Compare commercial, then it is the appearance of a cover song on an advert.
Another surprise was when Gary Barlow of Take That appeared on the box, with his cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”, for the new Marks & Spencer ad campaign. This will not only have John and George spinning in their grave, but Paul McCartney too.
Cover songs don’t usually bother me. I don’t mind if a band want to cover a song during a live set but I know that they will also play some of their own songs. I just hate cover songs on adverts.
The most recent cover song on an advert I have had the displeasure of hearing was “It’s Been A Long, Long Time”, an American standard written by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, and originally recorded by Harry James and Kitty Kallen in 1945. It was subsequently re-recorded by the likes of Bing Crosby, Perry Como and Peggy Lee. The re-record in this Dulux advert was specially created for the ad by a music production company ‘Hear No Evil’. Well, let me tell you. I. Hear. Evil.
Who hasn’t heard Adrienne Stiefel’s exhaustingly breathy vocals on her cover of Malvina Reynolds’ “Little Boxes” for O2, and cried out in anger? This advert features a singing voice so annoying you will actually get up and punch your television until the channel changes. Last Christmas I was almost in disbelief when I learnt that department store John Lewis had the blessing of Morrissey to use a cover version of “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” in their new Christmas advert. The sell out. I bet they paid him in Brussels sprouts and lettuce.
Why have you done this to a classic song? To sell some paint? You monster. And if you watch the advert I’m certain it suggests the Dulux dog is listening outside the door to a couple having sex. The filthy pervert.
PREPARE TO FEAST T
he ultimate accompaniment to the cult HBO TV series Game of Thrones has just hit bookstores worldwide –and it’s set to make fans’ mouths water... ‘A Feast of Ice and Fire’ is the official companion cookbook to the immensely popular series and novel collection. Written by the duo of Sariann Lehrer and Chelsea Monroe, this guide combines mega fandom and amateur cooking. The easy-to-follow recipes accompanied by delicious photography are set to entice and satisfy fans of all ages. The vast imagination of George R R Martin that introduced global audiences to the world of Winterfell now earns itself an additional thematic accompaniment in the form of bringing a piece of the realm right to our dining room tables. Hey, why not make a night of it and add costumes to the mix? Each land of Winterfell is represented by its local cuisine. From the North’s Beef and Bacon Pies to the Dothraki’s Tyroshi Honeyfingers - the entire roster of tribes is accounted for.
WORDS: James Uden
The success of Game of Thrones continues to broaden in depth in terms of media formats. Wether you’re looking to dine like a rugged Sean Bean or simply want to add another piece of the GOT world to your merchandise collection, this is by far the most unique and aptly contextualised cookbook currently on the horizon. The blurb aptly reads: “This is the companion to the blockbuster phenomenon that millions of stomachs have been growling for.” And fans couldn’t be much hungrier for this.
HE LEGACY OF FEMALE ROCK STARS 8
WORDS: Ed Hewison
omen in Rock didn’t emerge overnight. If you know anything about rock n’ roll you know it sprouted from many different types of music. The original women in rock actually played jazz, gospel and country, and other types of musicians, such as Mamie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton sang the blues that inspired the creation of rock n’ roll. While many of these women learned to sing from hymnals and church choirs, the rock n’ roll spirit affected quite a few of them.
by predominantly male songwriters. People didn’t write their own songs. In the late sixties/seventies there was a boom in women singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Joan Baez. Yet as we said before for other singers like in Motown these singers were singing songs written for them by men. As a singer you don’t need a band or amplification. You can practice any time. Likewise as a singer songwriter you and your guitar are all you need. But there is only so much you can say like this and expressing anger with a acoustic guitar lacks punch.
Prior to 1977 the number of women in any form of rock was minescule. The trouble was that rock has been always created on man’s terms and women have struggled to compete on those terms. To see why that happened, we have to paint broad brush strokes in the history of music. How many women composers were there? How many omen jazz greats who played an instrument were there? Then compare that number to how many women jazz singers like Billie Holiday there are.
In the late sixties and early seventies, where bands became grotesque money making machines, woman were seen as groupies to satisfy the all conquering bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, plus a host of others. Was the ‘free love ethic’ that was preached serving as liberation, or a licence for the boys to shag as many as women as possible? After all the boys would have had a hard night’s rockin’. Women were seen as the relievers of the boys’ sexual wants. Then along came punk and everything changed.
Production, writing, managing and playing were all traditional male preserves. Even now production and record bosses are predominantly male. Instrumentalists, session musicians are predominantly male. Any walk of entertainment - be it films or script writing or TV - is still essentially male based. Why has music been so male-dominated? I can only assume that most rock bands come from sweaty pubs and clubs, bastions of maleness. Paying the traditional dues, where you learnt your licks on a never ending treadmill of Chuck Berry and 12 bar. Where you shagged your woman, got drunk, took drugs and moved on to the next town girl. Being a woman musician meant not competing on male terms of musicianship but as a novelty act not to be taken seriously. There was no tradition or outlet for women in music except singing. Is it any surprise that female major artists throughout the last 60 years have been predominantly singers? Singing is the one thing you can do without a band and which of course you can do anywhere. Prior to the Beatles and their ilk songs were predominantly written
In 1978 Kate Bush began to get noticed. She said, “I think I’m going to have trouble, because people tend to put the sexuality first. I hope they don’t. That’s what I am trying to fight. I want to be recognised as an artist. “Women are going to be the new Elvis’s,” Debbie Harry told NME in 1978. “That’s the only place for rock ‘n’ roll to go. The only people who can express anything new in rock are girls and gays.” Debbie Harry was an ex junkie, sex maniac and Playboy bunny who hooked up with Chris Stein, a photographer and musician, and soon-to-be boyfriend. They make an intelligent pair, who at the time just wanted to make snappy pop and they became part of the early seventies US Punk scene of close knit bands. Harry was often questioned as to whether she could handle an audience full of men. “I certainly thrive on it,” she said. “If a band full of men is on stage and an audience of girls is screaming then everything is as it should be, but if it’s a girl on stage then suddenly everything is cheap because I’m a girl and they’re not used to that. If it was the Bay City Rollers up there then everything would be cool.”
When you really dig in, the list of legendary women is endless. Women have done a lot for rock n’ roll, but are the present women of rock still as influential? Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, a self-confessed ‘stoner, cat loving girl’, is one of the biggest female rock musicians in the USA. In a digital age someone can be posting something online about her every minute. Sometimes it becomes too personal. “Any woman that makes music is instantly critiqued on what she looks like, and how fat or thin she is. And it’s obviously not only in indie music; this phenomenon totally exists in all of music, for all actors,” Cosentino said. “As a woman, you become this unwitting contestant in some beauty pageant. In the beginning, seeing dumb comments written online about my weight, or things about me physically that these anonymous people didn’t like, that was definitely, like, the breaking point for me.” Cosentino has been honest and has said many times that comments she has received through Twitter and even sometimes by reviewers of her gigs have made her want to quit music. “I felt, like, ‘I can’t deal with this,” she revealed. “Why does it matter what I look like? Can’t people just like or not like my music without caring what I look like?’ But wishing for that is a fairytale; that’s not how the world works. People critique other people all the time every day. People are just mean. You have to just grow a thick skin, because it doesn’t matter. None of that shit matters. If other people think differently, fuck them. I just have to care about making good music; that’s all that really matters.” Another band that is opening up music to all gender’ is the UK boy-girl two piece Blood Red Shoes. In a profession where female role models are thin on the ground, perhaps rather ironically considering how their presence has inspired so much music, the arrival of guitarist Laura-Mary Carter has provided women, not satisfied by the polar opposites provided by Beth Ditto and CSS’ Lovefoxxx, with a realistic role model who has remained down to earth. In fact Carter has walked out on interviewers
“suddenly everything is cheap because I’m a girl and they’re not used to that.” - Debbie Harry, 1978
who have suggested having a boy-girl two-piece band is something of a novelty. The White Stripes were big pioneers for the boy-girl twopiece band and blew audiences away with their powerful tracks. Jack White has also recently been touring with an all-female backing band, wowing audiences worldwide with their expert playing and blowing the allmale bands off the stage if reviews of his recent tour are anything to go by. Californian band Warpaint were a breakout band last year. Too much was made out of the fact the band are all female. It still seems people are shocked when they see an all-female band. Singer and guitarist Emily Kokal recently told the Guardian, “When people don’t know the band. It’s an angle. I mean, it’s true, we are all females, but why should it matter.” In fact US reviewers discredited the band for years, and when they broke through they were unfortunately marketed on their looks. Apparently even in 2012 that stereotypical ‘hot-girl-gets-promoted’ mentality is still pathetically rife. Dum Dum Girls are an American noise pop band from California who has caught the ear of many recently. It’s a testament to the band just how crowded their recent London gig was, even if it was on the male-heavy side. Beginning the night with a slower number sent the message that the band weren’t just going to do their best-
known stuff. Their vocal harmonies were flawless, their stage presence magnetic. The reviews of this show were overwhelmingly positive, however quite a lot compared the band with other bands with a female singer who are not even in their genre. It is good to see so many girl fronted bands breaking into the ‘boys only’ clubs, but bands like Dum Dum Girls should not be lumped into the same category as Best Coast just because they both have a female singing. Today if a band is entirely comprised of females it acquires the label of “girl band,” yet bands made up of all males are not automatically labelled “guy bands.” They’re identified by the name or style. Why is that?
There is obviously a lot more that could have been covered in this article, but the main point is that women have struggled for decades to be considered equal to men in the rock music profession, and have hardly been able to shake off the reviewers who still cannot get to grips with men and women playing side by side in a band. Perhaps women and men will never be equal in music, but equality should always be an aspiration. There are two steps you can follow to make sure things change -
One, if you are a woman who wants to be in a band jam with guys, play shows with guys. Don’t be intimidated. There is no reason why you can’t keep up with men, just because Something the music press is often guilty of is denying they are men. female artists a link to their male forebears, and hence is guilty of keeping rock divided. For example EMA, St Two, if you’re in an all female band, then stop referring to Vincent and Anna Calvi continually cite male inspirations your band as a “girl band”. Never say those words again. when interviewed, from Jimi Hendrix and Scott Walker to Just simply refer to your band as… a band. Lou Reed and Bo Diddley, direct, explicit statements that they’re creating in the tradition of rock gods, yet each of If female musicians make a conscious effort to follow these these artists have been cast, at one point or another, as steps, things might change, but the most important thing indebted to PJ Harvey, something that although she has to keep in mind is that this battle is for equality. Women deserve to be treated as equals and men should no longer contributed a lot, is not true in these circumstances. be the dominating force in the world of rock music. There This divorces female musicians from their privileged have been so many talented female musicians throughout forefathers, denies them their artistic lineage, and creates the years that have proven time and time again we are just a system where women with electric guitars can only be as as qualified to be rock stars as any man. Don’t let anyone good as the women that came before them, celebrated but make you feel any differently. never shoulder to shoulder with favoured male peers.
WORDS: Kelly Jones
o see your favourite band live, you usually have to be there at the gig or face experiencing it through anecdotes from other people or, if you’re lucky, DVD footage. However, the demand of instant, get-itnow technology has started to change this. You can just as easily go on YouTube and find hundreds of live videos from a band, but they still leave you with the vague feeling of missing out. Now though, webstreaming is beginning to find its feet as the pioneering new development. Fans can be there and not even have to leave the house, and there’s no waiting around for DVDs or poor, shoddy footage from a camera phone. Coachella is an example of a festival which recently embraced this new media by webstreaming the US festival, meaning that when the incredible sight of the holographic Tupac appeared on stage it wasn’t just seen by those at the event – it was seen by thousands across the globe. Smaller bands are benefiting from webstreams, playing gigs in their own homes or streaming them from a venue. Helen McCookerybook (also known as Dr Helen Reddington) was bassist for the punk rock band The Chefs in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and is now predominantly a solo artist as well as a lecturer in music at the University of East London. She has streamed her own solo gig from her kitchen, via the website Stageit, which runs with the tagline ‘a front row seat to a backstage experience’. Though the stream costs a small fee for fans to view, they can also pay a donation to the artist if they choose to do so. Helen explained the experience behind playing a webstream from the comfort of her own home. “It was very strange,” she explains. “I didn’t particularly want people to see what my kitchen looked like, for a start,” Helen jokes. “Also, something I hadn’t really thought about was that I haven’t really got stage lighting in my kitchen.” She also adds that the experience left a strange feeling with her, as opposed to how a normal gig plays out. “The strangest thing was I had a lot of adrenaline and nothing to do with it. If you’re playing live you still talk to people after the show, but with Stageit it just stops, and you’re just standing in your kitchen again.” Helen explains that the site also allows the fans to communicate with the artists via a messaging system, which also allows them to talk amongst themselves during the show. They usually last thirty minutes. “It’s quite responsive really, I got lots of people writing comments and things. It’s quite encouraging,” Helen continues. She explains she used the platform to debut some new songs and to gauge the response to them before she debuted them live. Unlike a larger scale show with an audience, the Stageit webstreams features artists in their own homes putting on shows, meaning they can see the comments and respond. She adds that there’s a different atmosphere to playing a webstream via Stageit, and enjoys the idea that it won’t end up on YouTube. “It’s nice that they don’t record it, it’s in real time and then it’s gone,” she explains, which gives the site an ‘in the moment’ feel. Helen’s usage of Stageit differs greatly from any other band’s usage of webstreaming. She chose to use the online tool to debut new songs and play an intimate set, where
as other bands use them on a larger scale whilst playing a full live show. This diminishes the intimacy, but allows fans to experience something they otherwise wouldn’t be able to witness. Both uses offer the fans something totally unique. We also spoke to Charlotte Cooper, bassist for the rock band The Subways, who have done several webstreams, including a recent one from Fort Asterstein in Koblenz. Giving a personal insight into webstreaming on a larger scale, she explains how, when playing a live show, it doesn’t change her mindset on stage. “Whenever we do gigs that are being broadcasted, I always find it quite difficult to comprehend people watching at home,” she explains. “In Koblenz we played with as much energy as we usually would, and responded and bounced off the people in the venue. It was just so amazing to be in that beautiful setting.” The show, set in a historic fort in Germany, was broadcast free from their website and was an opportunity for fans to see them play at that stunning setting. Not worried that webstreaming would detract from the experience of actually being in the crowd, Cooper adds that “nothing can ever beat the feeling of being at a live gig” but also points out that there are definite advantages for those who can’t be there. “If you can’t make it to the gig, or are watching in another part of the world, the idea of a webstream is amazing,” Cooper explains, however she acknowledges that very little can beat actually being there to witness it first hand. “I think people will always want that experience of the live gig, there really is nothing like it.” When touching upon the subject of whether fans should pay, Cooper explains that she believes all webstreams should be kept free.
“As a person in a band, I see it as a great opportunity to expose our music to a wider audience. Perhaps if someone sees a webstream they will then want to come and see us at a live gig,” she offers. Wendy Fonarow, aka “the indie professor”, a columnist from The Guardian and also an anthropology instructor at Glendale Community College, offered an insight into the growing trend of webstreaming. When asked whether webstreaming will change live gigs, she is quick to determine that she doesn’t believe so. “I don’t think webstreaming has any impact on the live shows’ atmosphere. It’s like saying that getting beer at the supermarket will affect the atmosphere of the pub,” Fonarow explains. When faced with the question of if webstreams should remain free, Fonarow adds: “That is a moral question. I don’t feel that is part of the role of the ethnographer to make moral assessments. It is the role of the music industry and the advocates for the social roles that each advocate wishes to get remuneration.” Webstreaming is beginning to find its feet, being used by artists, larger bands and now even festivals. Its future offers something fans will definitely enjoy - the ability to feel as if they are at a gig, and to experience something live as it happens. However, it’s clear that the bragging rights of seeing something in person will always win over seeing it from your own home, no matter what. As for the future of sites like Stageit, Helen compares it to the likes of Facebook and MySpace - a tool for social networking, but perhaps equally destined to eventually attract the wrong kind of attention. “You’ll get corporations barging in and buying and ruining it,” she explains, sadly, “but for the time being it’s a good idea.”
ZEKEL –THE JOURNEY A
n artist manager’s lot depends on the ups and downs of popular culture, of fleeting fads, temporary trends and fickle public opinion.
Once the realm of cigar-toting, dark suited men behind large desks, the internet has opened up everything and managers, like artists themselves, have the world at their fingertips (resting on a computer keyboard). UCA graduate Lawrence Gichigi is part of the new breed and has written a book – or rather ebook – on his trials and tribulations managing an up-and-coming artist. ‘Azekel–The Journey’ charts Gichigi’s involvement with the eponymous rising urban artist from the first exposure to his music through to record releases, gigs, video-filming and hob-nobbing with industry types. It’s a very personal voyage into the unknown by way of cyberspace – and what follows is an excerpt: In the lead up to the ‘New-Ish’ release we did what any rookie manager and artist would do - acted like we knew what we were doing. The truth couldn’t be more different. Azekel was working part time at River Island, which paid just enough to get our objectives met. It was clear he’d had enough of being a shop floor assistant but never so much as vented or complained, and simply seemed to get on with it. While Myspace was still somewhat relevant, we had it revamped (not by the graphic designer we paid to do it over a period of three weeks but by Azekel himself in the space of two hours). Next we met with video director Paul Akinrinlola for a J20 in a dingy pub in Stratford that had far too few bar stools to make it fully functional. After seeing his work and his price tag he was hired. February came and on the day of the shoot, I was in Paris for Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2011 eating various cheeses and enjoying the small luxuries of mobile signal on the underground. When I came back and peeped the first edit, I made a brutally honest list of the things I didn’t like. To this day Paul has never been the same with me, but once the video was edited to a good standard and the artwork looked the business, I focused on getting us a remix. When it came to major decisions Azekel would often ask for my thoughts, as if he wanted to see what I came back with. Early days that they were he had every right to test me. At the time I had the musical hots for a female artist called Kay Young and had such great expectations from the moment she agreed. “Its like Malcolm and Martin coming together as one.” I told a friend as I waited for her email and attachment to come crashing into my inbox, setting my Mac ablaze. Unfortunately, her verse wasn’t quite as epic as I’d hoped, so I politely asked her to re-record, and she came back a bitter 5% stronger. Needless to say the remix never made it out, and this was just the first of many promising events resulting in nothing. Such was the outcome of an acoustic performance for OHTV on an impressively professional set up, which was never released despite the director’s incessant and
AZEKEL THE JOURNEY
BY LAWRENCE GICHIGI
tiresome apologies. Amede was another alternative artist and was a close friend of Azekel. He was a friendly giant of a gentleman who stood at about 6’3” with a deep baritone voice and doubled up as our personal mixing engineer, making him a valuable asset to the team. There was a clear mutual brotherly respect for one another’s music and Amede would always go out of his way to provide us with an efficient mix. By the time he’d put the finishing touches on ‘New-Ish’ and press mail outs were at the ready, the anticipation had officially consumed us. It was safe to say we were living purely for the release date. The day soon came, and ‘New-Ish’ was cast out onto a sea of expectations, and on the bright blue horizons loomed success, reverence, and greatness. However, we quickly found ourselves washed up on the cold shores of reality. Despite our plights of wishful thinking and excited ‘what ifs’, views and reactions to the song were heartbreakingly minimal. It soon became painstakingly clear to me that the song wasn’t going to unite world leaders in a musicinspired utopia. Azekel’s reaction to this was to obsess slightly, noticing when it had jumped as little as 50 views. I chuckled at the thought of him at home staring into his
MacBook screen repeatedly refreshing the web page. I reacted by clicking the same cut and paste combination into the mailbox of almost every Soundcloud user in the world. In hindsight, we both contributed to the slight social media overkill and even though it was flagged up by the likes of SB.TV, SoulCulture and Best In New Music, the rest of the online world weren’t exactly going bonkers for it. Azekel’s friend from New York had bizarrely done a topless sing-along video to the track, but he was no Keenan Cahill and it failed to go viral. Thanks to Pelena, we got our hands on a document with emails for 100 London radio DJs. It was heartwarming to see that as his partner she as always doing what she could to help. There were times when I was convinced she was gunning for my job. We fired a second mail out round and a little excitement erupted over spot plays on BBC Radio 1Xtra and Choice FM, but disappointingly they were always past midnight. It was then that we were taught our first valuable lessons. Azekel–The Journey by Lawrence Gichigi is available from Apple’s iBooks
AZZ IS NOT A PRIVATE CLUB WORDS: Tina Edwards
he word ‘jazz’ conjures up a lot of questions and insecurities for some people. Do you think there’s a secret password that we’re all keeping from you?
I bet there was a time when you realised that you like jazz. And then comes the panic. Where do I start? Do I need to know everything about jazz to be taken seriously as a fan? Sadly, some fans don’t help the fact that jazz can come across as intimidating and impenetrable. Sounds like Hell, right? It begs the question, is jazz inaccessible? And if it is deemed so, then do jazz musicians fuse with other genres to find a fan base? The Jazz Killjoy It’s not uncommon for a music lover of any background to say that they’re intimidated by jazz. Frequent sentences that come out of people’s mouths include, “it’s confusing”, “I don’t know where to start”, and finally, “Miles who?”. There are die-hard jazz fans out there that will pride themselves on their music theory knowledge and on their infinite collection of first edition records, but the wish to share information with curious friends is too often withheld. Chris Wells, editor of black music magazine Echoes, believes that those jazz lovers who keep recommendations to themselves are prohibiting the genre from being more celebrated. “They’re snobs. They can piss off, frankly”, says Wells. “Nobody needs to be intimidated by such people”. Do some jazz fans enjoy the idea of jazz being a musical delicacy that many find too intimidating to approach? There are several potential answers for this. Could it be a reflection of class? Or perhaps of intelligence? After all, a recent study states that listeners of jazz have higher than average IQs. It could be said that admission into jazz is like admission into MENSA; keep it exclusive, and only for the best. On the other hand, Stuart McCallum, best recognised as Cinematic Orchestra’s guitarist, even wonders if “jazz fans really know what they’re talking about”. Do jazzists purposely pose themselves as being more knowledgeable on the subject than what they really are? “People have a lot of preconceptions about what jazz is and isn’t”, says McCallum, wondering “whether they like it just cause it has jazz in the title”. Into The Mainstream Perhaps, these preconceptions about fans, whether they’re true or not, is why jazz musicians such as Jamie Cullum, Imelda May, and the late Amy Winehouse fuse their jazz skills with other genres. By combining their sounds with pop and other easy-listening genres, they’ve opened jazz up a little more to mainstream audiences. Cullum’s combination of jazz standards with his own jazz-pop creations have given music consumers a less intimidating way to listen. You could even say the same of Michael Buble. Take his version of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good for example. However, it’s not only today’s jazz inspired artists who are criss-crossing between genres. Classic artists such as trumpeter Miles Davis and pianist Herbie Hancock were also known to colour outside of the lines. Hancock was particularly experimental in his journey from jazz, to jazz-funk, to disco-funk. With such closed attitudes about jazz ingrained into our society, it’s worth wondering if it encourages a jazz musician to work outside of the perimeter. Perhaps the precious genre is kept so far underground that the only way to find fans is to enter, sometimes temporarily, into the mainstream.
The Cullum Effect Jamie Cullum is a prime example of someone who has combined jazz with other genres. Steve Rubie, owner of The 606 Club in London, believes that Cullum has had a “significant influence in breaking down barriers for audiences”. Since his 2002 album Pointless Nostalgic, Cullum’s created jazz in a pop context. The track I Want To Be a Popstar (perhaps the clue’s in the title) could possibly show his frustration in searching for a mainstream audience. In the song, he puts forward his interpretation of the music industry with lyrics like ‘maybe next year I’ll pretend to be gay, I’ll sell more records in a flash that way’. And indeed, he’s sold more records, without changing his sexuality. His 2009 version of Rihanna’s Don’t Stop The Music is a prime example of Cullum’s pick ‘n’ mix approach. And that could well be the magic key: could jazz blended with other more mainstream genres be the best introduction? Stuart McCallum believes that although he uses elements of jazz in his writing, he’s intimidated by the genre. “I try to avoid thinking of music as jazz or not jazz”, says McCallum. “I try not to have too many boundaries or pre-conceived ideas about what should or shouldn’t be there”. So what does McCallum think about getting his jazzinspired music out into the open? “I think if you have vocals on it, it’s generally gonna reach a more mainstream audience”. Yet his decisions aren’t lead by fame or a hunger for mainstream success. “I’m not really making music for anyone else but myself”, says McCallum. “I just write unpopular music and I’ve accepted that”. Facing Judgement Dave Morecroft of WorldService Project aligns with Wells in his opinions over musical snobbery. “I can’t help feeling that some musicians almost want jazz to be inaccessible, because of a sense of ownership over the music, or pride”. Morecroft believes that anything from ‘how you walk on stage’ to ‘how you look at the audience’, can have an affect on how an audience interacts with a musician. “If you enter into a relationship with an audience with this sense of musical snobbery... then of course people are going to find it hard to get into the music... naturally they will feel intimidated”, says Morecroft. Is it combining jazz then with other genres that will break down this wall of fear? Saxophonist Jim Hunt (Primal Scream, Amy Winehouse) believes that the way into jazz needn’t be through hearing padded-down jazz-pop. “It’s about context”, says Hunt. “In a club... it’s looking cool and it’s got an atmosphere. At that point people get it and love it, because they can contextualise it, and that instantly breaks down barriers”. Staying Pure Not all jazz artists are finding the need to combine their craft with other musical styles to get heard. Norah Jones, who thrust herself into the mainstream
with her 2002 album Come Away With Me, combines jazz piano and classic vocals. Melody Gardot is another great example of a jazz artist who needn’t water down her music to find an audience. The smooth shuffling of the brushes on Our Love Is Easy needn’t be compromised, while the crying horns of Worrisome Heart give off the aura of sitting in a smoky 1920s club. While both Jones and Gardot are recognised predominantly as jazz vocalists, their music is enjoyed by mainstream audiences. In an interview with PopMatters. com, Gardot stated that to get into jazz, “a subtle introduction” is needed. “You can’t just jump into the deep end”, she says. First Impressions That’s one way to think about the genre. However, it can be argued that if someone isn’t convinced about a piece of jazz that they’ve heard, they may have just heard the ‘wrong’ jazz for them. For example, someone who enjoys groove-lead bass lines and calming melodies, may have come across the erratic free jazz sounds of Ornette Coleman as their first jazz experience. When actually, they would adore the smoothness of Sonny Rollins’ laid back smooth jazz. That person then easily, and somewhat understandably, rules out jazz as a genre that’s ‘not for them’. It’s all about finding your way in. “I can usually guarantee that I can find something within the pantheon of the Jazz catalogue that they will like”, says Rubie. “Once that barrier has been broken (“I didn’t think I liked Jazz but this is great”) getting people to then open up to differing styles becomes much easier”. The moral of the story? Let your guard down. Make of jazz what you want to make of it. It needn’t be inaccessible if you refuse to think of it that way. There are several ways to explore jazz. If you’re finding it intimidating or difficult, you could well have a jazz killjoy somewhere amongst your group of mates. Whether you find a way in through hearing jazz fused with another genre, being in a jazz club, or just striking it first time lucky on a Spotify hunt, there’s no wrong way in. If someone tells you it’s a private club, tell them that the password changed. Stefanie Meynberg
HY THE ELECTION FOR A REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE IS BULLSHIT
WORDS: Rob Jones
don’t care that the only options the US Republicans have are old white men that all seem to be saying the same thing. Maybe the fact that they are all saying the same thing represents where the true heart of the Republican Party lies. I don’t care about those same things the party candidates are saying. To some people, the agendas and policies of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and (the recently self-suspended) Rick Santorum are terrifying, but to others they embrace morality and principle. Those policies, even with Romney the most moderate of the three, are reminiscent of attitudes more at home in the 1950s than in the present day. Romney, who is cleaning up the polls now Santorum has put himself out of the race due to family commitments, spoke a few weeks ago about getting rid of Planned Parenthood in the States and has clearly stated that he is “not concerned about the very poor.” But I don’t care.
people who can’t see through him that America will be better because he’s a Christian. Obama is Christian, but that’s not the foundation of his policies. When Obama required the Catholic Church to provide health insurance for its employees (meaning they’d get contraception if they wanted it), Santorum insisted that he will stop the current President’s “War on religion” if he were in power. In Santorum’s South Carolina campaign he even sent Jewish supporters holiday greetings cards reading, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” from the New Testament. ‘If you trust in God then trust in me,’ is what slick Rick was saying.
But what I care about is how Romney and these other farright presidential contenders encourage people to trust them. And how do they do that? They use God. God has no place in politics.
The worst thing is, they are all in this mindset, so in order to be the man against Obama in November, they must outreligion each other. Santorum didn’t find that hard. Not only did he link his policies with his faith – having already written the book Conservatism and the Common God - he misleads the
Back in the 2008 election (yes, he won’t go away) Romney declared that America’s religious liberty is “Fundamental to America’s greatness,” and said “Faith would inform my presidency, if elected.” But here we are, present day, and after noticing that he’s been appeasing the right so much, he’s reading out a speech written on tracing paper with an old JFK speech under it. “I am an American running for president,” he said. “I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith.” If so, then why need to point that out? Or use religion as a basis so many times before? What it comes down to is that it’s never acceptable for a candidate to use God as a political tool. For Christians, surely nothing could bastardize Jesus more than fusing him with some kind of worldly power. If the candidates are acting in the belief and name of Jesus, how can they want to gain power of armies and the power to inflict violence or the power to govern people when Jesus believed we should all be free?
They are just Romney’s policies and people who agree with him will vote for him. People that think he’s a dinosaur won’t vote for him and will also try their best to deter others from voting for him. This is all fair enough. How could anyone not demonstrate their strong feelings about what they believe in?
American believers are being convinced that a Christian – Gingrich and Santorum are Catholic, Romney a Mormon – is the answer to a good president. But Jesus wasn’t a politician with God as his manager and his disciples his campaign team, so why link the two together? When the two are linked, it has the capability to influence many Christian votes. ‘I’m a Christian,’ these candidates are saying, ‘and if you’re a good Christian, you’ll vote for me.’
written by Santorum’s team, showing the same kind of backwards ideals: anti-choice, anti-same sex marriages. But now it seems he’s got carried away and strayed so far to the right that he’s clawing his way back to the centre.
But now Santorum is out of the race, it seems the Republican candidate to stand against Obama will certainly be Romney (the most press Newt has got recently is that his finger was bitten by a penguin at a zoo in Missouri, so we’ll count him out). Santorum is bad enough using his faith to persuade fellow believers into carrying him to the White House. But Romney is definitely worse. Despite Santorum’s extremely far-right ideals – gay marriage and relationships: wrong, pro-choice: wrong, homosexuals and women in military: wrong – at least he believes in them. Romney on the other hand, once a prochoice, lefty-Stanford attending man, seems to change his views according to the reaction he gets. Deep into his campaign he was making speeches that could’ve been
In fact, according to the Bible, Jesus set us free. Jesus lived and died for everybody, even his enemies, not fighting back with violence. So to try to gain power in Jesus’ name and use that power to defeat enemies with violence, have more money and more influence is just hypocritical. How can you market yourself a Christian candidate when your behavior is technically un-Christian? The worse thing is that this gives all Christians a bad name. Because of the Bush’s, Santorum’s and Romney’s of America, who have some how changed the world’s view to that Christian means Republican; we see all Christians as rightwing, gun bearing, homo-hating idiots. You might say that if, like Christians believe, we contain the spirit of Jesus, why shouldn’t Christians be the ones making rules? But whether you’re Christian or not, everyone wants order and justice, so why slap God’s name on it.
TREET FIGHTERS WORDS: Rob Jones
ince 2003, a crack commando unit sent by God has patrolled the streets and kept people safe. If your mate’s a bit poorly, if you’re a bit lost, or if you just need someone to talk to, maybe the Street Pastors can help you. I get off the bus at half nine on a Saturday night in Kingston Upon Thames. It’s colder than it has been recently; the early spring weather we’ve been having has regressed into similar to the month previous rather than the month ahead. I’m prepared though. And I mean two pair of socks, long johns, jeans, vest, t-shirt, flannel shirt, jumper, zip-up, hoodie, hat and gloves prepared. After ringing the front doorbell and then walking around the back of Kingston United Reformed Church – shady to say the least – I am greeted by a shadow at the door and then welcomed jovially by an American bellow. “So you’re Rob”, it says. The voice is that of tonight’s Street Pastor leader, Louie. “We’re gonna have some fun!”, he assures me. The Street Pastors is a network of some 9000 volunteers in almost 250 different towns and cities across the UK. The brainchild of the Director of the Ascension Trust and London based Rev Les Isaac, it was started in 2003 as a ‘response to urban problems’, helping people in need whilst on nights out (usually at weekends) from about 10pm through until 4am. The Kingston branch has been going six years and Louie tells me that he’s “Been here from the beginning.” Louie’s a sweet guy. He’s got a face like Doc Brown from Back To The Future and is just as eccentric. Telling me odd stories about the vast things he’s done for charity, he says he draws the line at a sponsored skydive, “God didn’t create us to jump out of airplanes”, he insists. Street Pastors go out in groups of no less than four in order to stay safe, so joining Louie and I is Bethany; young and well spoken, Kathy; mumsy and round, and Gina; a German woman who doesn’t really talk much. I get given a high-vis jacket (I don’t get an official Street Pastors coat as I’ve not got the training that gives me the privilege) and we’re ready to save some pissed up people from themselves. At least I think we are.
Apparently, first we need to pray. Other than the four Street Pastors that patrol the town, there is another member of the team that stays at their base, in this case at the church. These Prayer Pastors have a radio, as do the Street Pastors themselves, which is linked to the police in the area and the bouncers on the doors of clubs and pubs in the town. “We’ll listen to what’s going on and if they are reporting there’s a scene or anything causing concern then we pray for that specifically, but we also pray generally that the Street Pastors will be kept safe”, Pastor Dave, tonight’s Prayer Pastor tells me. “And we pray for all the other people on duty in the town and for the people out enjoying themselves, that they’re having a good time without any hassle. Just supporting them all in prayer try to make a difference”, he concludes. It’s easy to forget the Street Pastors are even a Christian based charity. If you overlook the organisation’s name, then their work is really more social than religious. They might be ‘Pastors’, but they’re not spreading the word of God verbally to people in towns. “These days, I think people are surrounded by others telling them what they should and shouldn’t believe or think”, Kathy tells me later when I bring this up. “It’s very easy to switch people off by telling them what they can believe in. So to show them that we love them as God loves us is much more powerful.” “You could tell anybody until you’re blue in the face, but if you show them through demonstration that you do care about their welfare, it’s showing them Christianity in a practical way”, Louie agrees.
the church’s reverend hold a weekly discussion group and free lunch called The Great Feast. It was originally started to help those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction and homelessness when a nearby program was limited to just giving out methadone, rather than giving counseling along with it. This resulted in many showing up on the church grass to take their dose, and rather than send them away, Paul invited them in. Paul’s a lot less eccentric than Louie. Just a normal southern bloke, sporting a couple of tattoos on his forearms and a shaved head; he spoke to me in a straightforward way. I could tell he really believes in the work he does. He told me a story about a girl that his group of Street Pastors saw a few times, who was being abused by a boyfriend. “She was trapped, sort of following dog-like behind the guy”, he recounted. “And sometimes it’s just saying to them, ‘You’re worth more than this,’” hitting the table with the end of his first finger, really showing me how deeply he feels about this stuff. “It’s like these guys here”, waving his arm around the whole room. “If we build these guys up to such a point, they can make a right choice about what they’re doing.” But Street Pastors surely isn’t all like that? “Hey; it’s people that are drunk and need our help to people that just want to talk about football, we’re there for them all,” he laughed.
We set out at 10.30pm. The streets are expectedly quiet and our walk is a relatively somber one. Louie says hello to all of the bouncers as if he’s known them for years (which, realistically, he may have). He asks how the night is looking and then moves on to the next pub or club to chat to their respective bouncers. I walk just behind the group and I hear Louie talking – Louie’s always talking – about what Paul Jaccobs, another leader and the Street Pastor coordinator for the area, told him about the previous night; some drug dealing apparently, but nothing the police weren’t in control of.
The beginning of the night is expectedly quiet. After two hours we walk back to the church down an empty shopping precinct, rather than past the pubs and clubs, because there could be people who are alone and in trouble down there. Back at the church, we sit down for a brew (something all good Christian religions are based around). It’s only twelve o’clock, but everyone (apart from Louie) looks tired already. Whilst they have a quiet five, Louie tells me about a chunky Asian man called Mr. Moon, who although used to be homeless, now just pretends, and sells cans of lager, collars for shirts and cheap shoes outside clubs.
I met up with Paul a few days previous to talk about his branch of the Street Pastors. We met at St. Peter’s church in Norbiton, just outside of Kingston town, where he and
Part of me doesn’t really understand why you’d want to do this job. It’s not the easiest charity work on offer; a charity shop worker or fundraiser would be a lot easier
and definitely not as messy. “I believe that Christians should live out what they believe, not just keep their belief to themselves”, Kathy tells me. “Like Jesus said, ‘Love your friend as you love yourself”, Gina chips in. She continues in broken German-English, “Don’t just go to church and warm the bench, but you also need to go out and show what you believe and be part of what you believe. Live what you preach.” And it seems it’s not only because they think they should be doing it, they want to. When Bethany was eighteen, she decided she wanted to become a prison chaplain but realised she “Knew nothing about Christianity outside of Sunday mornings”. So she joined the Street Pastors to get experience. “I found it so much more rewarding than I ever thought it would be”, she tells me. “I did it - not purely for selfish reasons - but to gain an experience but then realised really how rewarding it is.” Personal experience also adds to the desire to make a difference. Later on in the evening Kathy surprises me by telling me when she was fifteen there was a breakdown in her family. “I started to act up and drank
chucking out and people can’t get into another but also don’t want to go home; that’s when we’re needed,” he says proudly. They know where they’re needed via the radio the leader of the group has, in this case Louie. We’re barely out five minutes before there’s a call from the police about a girl who has collapsed close to the curb of the road near the train station. When we get there she’s throwing up on the pavement, not really getting much help from her friends who are also quite visibly drunk. The girls in the group help her, Louie says girls feel more comfortable when girls help them; he just speaks to her friends. Unpacking their first aid bag, the girls use some wet wipes on her face to clean her up, give her water to get everything up and give her a space blanket because she’s wearing next to nothing. Louie has found out from her friends that she’s not taken any drugs, which means she probably has no need to visit the hospital. He finds out where she lives and tells her friends, if they can’t get a taxi because of the state she’s in, to get the bus and tell the driver she has epilepsy so they let her on. “A white lie won’t hurt”, he says to me with a wink.
15 capacity Oceana nightclub where one girl in a large group of friends recognises the Pastors and starts talking to them. She’s pretty drunk, but harmless. She asks Louie for some flip-flops because her shoes are hurting her. The Street Pastors carry a rucksack full of disposable flip-flops for just this reason, after seeing an uncountable amount of girls walking around the streets with no shoes on. At first, the people the girl is with poke fun at her, even taking pictures of their friend talking to these strangers. But as the girl is getting her new shoes, the others are intrigued and ask the Pastors about their work. By the end of it, more girls request flip-flops and they can’t stop telling the pastors about how great they are. It seems as if they are met with hostility then they leave with acceptance and gratitude. But for the gratitude they get, there will naturally be a bit of flak. “Here’s five angels”, one bloke says as he walks past. This isn’t a regular occurrence, but it’s often enough. “Here’s the help brigade”, a girl says later; “Hey up God squad”, another lad shouts out.
“They might be ‘Pastors’ but they're not spreading the word of God verbally to people in towns" quite heavily”, she confesses. “It made me realise we don’t know the stories behind the youngsters we meet. They may also have stories like that, which made me very aware of how venerable we all are. It’s made me want to help people that have gone through difficult times.” Before we head back, Pastor Dave leads another prayer. “Oh Lord,” he begins. “We pray for Kingston, for safe streets, for safe people, for safe pastors, for safe doormen, for safe ambulance people and hospital workers. We ask for good conversations and interactions with people the pastors meet tonight. We pray for people to hear you Lord and against violence on the streets tonight.” By half twelve we’re back in the town and it’s evident that it’s changed a lot since earlier. The police riot van is already driving around and there’s a lot more people about. “This is when we get busy”, Louie tells me, kind of excitedly. “It’s when the pubs and clubs start
At first I’m surprised at how they fall into their respective roles like a trained military unit, but by the end of the night this scene will have been played out almost identically multiple times. We get another call; again from police about a case similar to girl we’ve just dealt with. “At first police weren’t very welcoming to us”, Louie admits to me on the way to the next call. “They saw we valued them and relied on them, which made them fear we’d be a nuisance. But eventually they realised we could add value to what they are doing and give them extra manpower.” The relationship they’ve built with police is very similar to the one they’ve built with the public. Like the police, when people on nights out, usually young, always drunk, encounter the Street Pastors, they can be a little hesitant towards them. On the way back from another call – other than meeting Mr. Moon which makes me very happy - we walk past the huge 2500
Louie thinks the reason people can be anti-religion these days is because they have the wrong perception of it. “People think that to believe in God you must be perfect all the time and that scares them, but it’s not like that”, he says. “When you’re learning to ride a bike and you fall off, what do you do?” he asks me, what I realise after a few moments, non-rhetorically. “Get back on?” “Get back on,” he confirms. “And that’s religion. You might fall off sometimes but you practice and eventually you have a good relationship with God.” Not everyone would agree with Louie, but the faceless mockery of a few would never be enough to deter them from the work they do. “A lot of people share their testimonies about how we’ve helped them before, and that’s just amazing”, Bethany proudly tells me. “Every time I go home from doing this, I know we’ve made a difference in people’s lives”, Louie concludes, “And that’s what matters.”
REE TO EAT TO YOUR HEART’S CONTENT WORDS: James Uden
t has recently been reported that £56,442 worth of uneaten food was left by MPs in private Commons dining rooms last year, with platefuls being binned on a daily basis. This is a prime example of food waste within grossly populated establishments. We daren’t venture into comprehending the amount wasted by schools nationwide – though the quality would of course be slightly more questionable. The point is that whatever source the waste may come from, the nutritional value and potential impact that such throwaway food could have on someone else’s life is undeniable. The term ‘freegan’ was coined a few years ago to describe groups of people who actively seek out produce that can still be put to use from garbage areas used by companies in towns and cities worldwide. The rise of this in terms of media attention and activity has developed a sense of scavenging culture - but for all the right reasons. Members are young, old, employed, students, the list goes on - and ultimately a community has developed that care about reducing waste and improving environmental, corporate and social ethics. A couple of years down the line from the underground explosion and certification of freeganism, we can now grasp how the movement has grown and changed amongst said coverage and further financial decay within societies. This is thanks to organisations such as Freegan.info, who act as information hubs for news, statistics and organised events. At the same time, having embraced the positive outcome of freeganism’s growth. It’s still evident that certain companies aren’t clocking on to this burst of social productivity, and are still very much salescentered, whilst being very much aware of what’s going on around them. Former EAT employee Gavin Jenkins, 25 talked to us openly about the experience he had working for the company, and how little was done in terms of putting their waste to effective use: “Food was being wasted on a daily basis. As much as five bin bags could be disposed of on a slow day”. EAT is unofficially established as a freegan hot spot due to the priority in keeping their products fresh on a daily basis. It’s publicly known that they have to clear the shelves one way or another by closing time, but we wanted to find out how tightly ran the procedures were. “I believe that the official line is that any stock being thrown away is supposed to be donated to charity, but in my near 12 months of working at the company this never happened.” reveals Gavin. Having clocked on to hungry freegans seeking
access to their waste, he even confesses that they would keep the bags in their basement to avoid congregations outside. “Unfortunately I think that upper management were simply turning a blind eye and just concentrating on targets and sales. It’s strange to think that a company that promotes freshness, vitality and excellent customer service has lost sight of helping the homeless. I doubt many customers knew about the amount of stock we threw away. Many would be disgusted.” This is far from a one-off occurrence too. EAT is a freegan target and there’s an unfortunate consistency as to why. Having caught up with Sam, 21, an active student freegan in Oxford, he confirms: “We got told about EAT through word of mouth, from a source handed down through generations of cash-strapped student knowledge.” This reiterates the existing freegan sense of community spirit and cooperation. In terms of arrangements, being at a popular university in a central location – Oxford Brookes in this case means having to keep certain store operations quite low-key. Consider, if you will, a huge barrage of hungry bin-grabbers raiding the back of one store on a daily basis. For a start, it paints an ugly picture of the pro-active freeganist movement. Sam informs us of the how-to in terms of keeping it subtle however: “Normally just two people go, as others who we don’t know might also be there. Depending on the haul, the guys will share out excess food to the rest
of the house. It differs from month to month depending on money situations or whatever.” The thought of a friendly, pro-active group of people seeking to end food waste begin to turn on each other, pulling apart unheated sandwiches in the streets is again, just hideous. However, with the right plan of action a catastrophe can be avoided. Sam reveals: “The gist of it is waiting until the shop closes, then food is put in big bins down an alley by the side of the shop. We sneak through a gate and then rummage to get the correct bag full of leftover sandwiches. We fill up our own bags with the food and make the dash home.” Yep, we’re thinking Ocean’s Eleven meets Skins as well. You wouldn’t be frowned upon for considering establishments such as EAT, Costa and Pret a Manger to hold similar moral values. Their stores even look the same for goodness sake. The revelation that we’ve gained however of such opposite values in waste management and putting unneeded products to good use is really quite shocking. Presented as a manifesto, Pret proudly and more importantly publicly declare what happens with their daily waste and how they want to keep improving on putting it all to valuable use: ‘The Pret Charity Run operates a fleet of vans that deliver over 12,000 fresh meals to numerous shelters for the homeless in London every week. Many charities across the UK collect directly from our shops at the end of each day too.’ This is the kind of productivity that companies aiming to gain positive reputations and improve moral standards under contemporary social climates should be expressing. The manifest concludes: ‘As a company, we’re committed to sending zero waste to landfill by 2012.’
“Unfortunately I think that upper management were simply turning a blind eye”
Putting EAT to shame, Pret take action on a daily basis regarding their productive use of waste. For EAT to shun this, and then go one step further in trying to avoid the freegans aiming to make use of what they have leftover is frankly shameful. With the rise in freegan activity comes a rise in public understanding and awareness. You’d hope that by now the majority of companies, and people understand the good intentions of freegans and don’t ignorantly judge them as simply looking for food to pinch. People power and public influence has the ability to force companies into changing their standards for the better, and that is evidently what Pret have taken on board. By avoiding waste, we ultimately avoid environmental damage and moral apathy towards those who produce it on a mass scale. Just take a moment to think before you next EAT out.
WORDS: Hannah Dunster-Whyte
"If you wish to purchase something costing so much, do your research."
dvertising is a fickle business. Companies need to compete to get ahead, to show their product in the best light without actually lying about its features. However this line tends to blur and we bare witness to extravagant campaigns willing us to buy flashy products to give our lives more purpose and meaning. There are frills, gimmicks and exaggerations thrown at us like bear traps, which you can chose to either dodge or embrace like old friends.
perform as advertised, rendering the iPhone 4S merely a more expensive iPhone 4.”
If you chose to embrace them, then you need to accept the nature of sales tactics. You need to fully understand what it is that you are spending your hard earned money/your parent’s money/student loan on, before making the commitment.
He has said that the only reason he purchased the phone was because of its thirty second television advert. In said advert, somebody is shown asking Siri to make appointments for them and asks whether or not they would need an umbrella for the day ahead. It does actually say, “shortened sequence” at the end of it, albeit briefly but if you have seen it more than once you would notice it. An impressive feature, but voice control isn’t ground breaking considering most phones offer some form of it. Its just beta and requires an Internet connection to work. Basic things you would know had you bothered to look into what you were spending around £500 on.
For example, if you love spending hours in your room avoiding your social obligations and playing on your Xbox, then you probably want new exciting games to fuel your passion. So, when a new game is advertised you are positively foaming at the mouth to get your paws on it. Most gaming ads show a sample sequence that appears magnificent and alluring with an apt ‘end of the world’ vibe song craftily dropped in for good measure (Assassins Creed 2 – Genesis by Justice anyone?). However there is usually small print at the bottom of the screen that says “Not actual game footage.” As a consumer, you are aware of this, and buy the game regardless because you are educated enough in what you are purchasing, to know you will enjoy it. Brooklyn based Frank M Fazio is all over the news at the moment because of his complaint and law suit about Apple advertising for the iPhone 4S. Fazio’s formal complaint reads; “[Apple’s] advertisements regarding the Siri feature are fundamentally and designedly false and misleading,” and, “The iPhone 4S’s Siri feature does not
Fazio’s blatant stupidity is transparent and insulting to the general consumer. His complaint begs the questiondid he not have a receipt? If you are so disgusted with a product, you return it and go sulk somewhere quietly, right? You don’t embarrass yourself publicly with an uneducated depiction of what the iPhone 4S is.
If you think your lifestyle justifies you to have an iPhone 4S, then surely you are smart enough to read the small print before committing to such an extravagant purchase and not base your investment on an advert alone. Fazio states that, “iPhone 4S merely a more expensive iPhone 4.” This claim illustrates just how uneducated in Apple products Fazio is. With the 4S, the gimmick of the product was Siri but if you look at the phone without this, it is a good step up from the much complained about iPhone 4. It’s antenna has moved to a less awkward place, it’s ironed out glitches and has a much larger memory and a much better camera quality than it’s predecessor. If these things don’t matter to you Fazio, then one could question why you are investing money into Apple when you could
get a much cheaper smart phone. Many have the same surface ability (takes photos, has apps, is touch screen, oh and makes calls…). Yes Siri could be better there is no doubt about it, and Apple are not without fault, but it still remains the best mobile phone around and doesn’t show signs of moving from every phone ranking list ever. Other lawsuits filed against misleading advertising are few and far between, however it could be argued that the majority of companies do falsely advertise, but as consumers we are savvy enough to decipher between the outrageous claims and the mild pantomime that we are shown in order for us to buy things we don’t need. An outrageous claim, for example, was made by the mouth wash company Listerine numerous times resulting in millions of pounds worth of lawsuits. In 1914, 1971 and 2005 the company made false claims such as it being a cure for the common cold, prevention against dandruff and being “More effective than floss”,(the latter was proved wrong after the discovery of a rigged medical trial). These are just barefaced lies, which are too much of a stretch to be taken with a pinch of salt. The solution is simple Fazio, if you wish to purchase something costing so much, do your research, speak to the smarmy sales advisors and if all else fails, keep your receipt and don’t make a publicity storm out of it. You wouldn’t buy a car based on the advert, you go for a test drive, you speak to people you know who own it, you put a lot of effort into your purchase to make sure you make the right decision. It’s a mundane task and yes it would be lovely if all you had to do was say “That one” and it would work perfectly as advertised. But that’s just not the bear trap culture we live in Fazio. Everyone is out for your money and now it seems you’re after Apple’s. If Steve Jobs could see you, he would roll his eyes.
IG MACS AND BODY KITS WORDS: Daisy Rowell
“Their cars become an audacious and authentic form of self-expression.”
o to any fast food outlet’s car park after dark and you’ll find them. McDonalds is a popular choice. They often group together and travel in convoy, trying to avoid any clashes with their predators. You might’ve seen them challenging you to a duel at the traffic lights, or perhaps they’ve crept up and scared you with the sound of a loud exhaust. Although they like to keep a low profile, the one thing they hate is blending in to the crowd; you definitely know when you’ve found a pure breed. Say hello to the boy racer, Britain’s favourite stereotype. If you’re not familiar with the term, then let me shed some light. Boy racers are typically known for their modified cars. Most are modified just to look different, but others are modified to enhance their power. Regardless, they can be found congregating in various places across a town or city near you. When they’re not chatting away through wound-down windows, they’re driving around (most likely in convoy) on the hunt for another location. The general public has never really warmed to the boy racer - but they haven’t really warmed to young drivers as a whole, either. Researchers at Cardiff University confronted Britain in 2010 with a message stating: “Newly qualified young drivers should be banned from night time motoring and carrying passengers of a similar age.” Their research also found that one in five new drivers are involved in a crash within the first six months of passing their test, a statistic that might leave most young drivers, mainly men, being accused of driving dangerously. Because of those statistics, car insurance prices are sky-high for young drivers, and even more so for those who own a modified car. Many modified car owners have to disclose each and every modification in order to become insured. So what exactly makes someone want to spend time modifying a car? What on earth is there to gain from it? Is there actually a difference between modifying a car and being a ‘boy racer’? Meet Daniel Hickman, a mechanical design engineer from the West Midlands. The 23 year old’s bright orange, modified Fiat Punto
made the front cover of Fast Car Magazine recently, and it’s not difficult to see why. Apart from being a garish colour (every boy racer’s dream), it’s pimped to the nines. So how do you get into this sort of thing? What’s the appeal? “Personally, I got into it purely by accident, some idiot crashed into my car and with the payout, I decided to upgrade certain parts. Once I started it was impossible to stop”. It’d be stupid to assume that everyone does it for the same reason, and Daniel is quick to tell me that. So why exactly do people want to add an unnecessary piece of plastic to an already perfectly fine car? “People would say to me, “You should get this it would look so good”, and you just kind of carry on buying stuff, in a lot of cases it becomes almost an obsession or an addiction.” He goes on, “Others however do it for the attention. It’s their way of having a ‘head turner’ without spending the sort of money needed for the likes of a Ferrari.” He proves a very good point. Like they say, you can’t polish a turd, but you can roll it in glitter… It’s obvious at this point that Daniel isn’t your typical McDonald’s-car-park-after-8pm boy racer type. He pushes the fact that he takes care on the road and doesn’t drive like a maniac. Speed is something that boy racers have been associated with for as long as the stereotype has been alive. Although altering an engine to make it faster is something that the stereotypical boy racers don’t generally do, a lot of them still ride around like they’re driving something powerful. Regardless of the police’s power to seize an individual’s car if they’ve been involved in anti-social behaviour, many of them escape the law and go unnoticed. The police themselves classify anti-social behaviour regarding cars as: “Vehicle nuisance such as ‘cruises’ – revving car engines, racing, wheel spinning and horn sounding.” Obviously Daniel doesn’t think that the car-park-dwellers share the same attitude towards safe driving as him. “Racing is for tracks, not public roads”, and he begins to tell me how “stupid” meeting up in car parks truly is. “It draws the police’s attention away from the important things.” He admits that the police have stopped him a few times before, but merely because they believe he’s suspicious. But how can you blame them? A bright orange Fiat Punto
doesn’t really blend into any sort of surroundings, let alone on a road in Britain. “There’s a big difference between what I do and what they do,” he tells me. “Boy racers generally have cheaper cars that they don’t really care too much about.” It’s clear from the get-go that the car modifications business has strict divides and rules, seemingly dependent on how serious you are about it all. Daniel takes his car to shows around the country, mingling with other car enthusiasts, as well as checking out how others have modified theirs. It’s clear to see that he’s proud of the work he’s done. We got in touch with AutoTrader, the classified car magazine, to see what the market is like for these kinds of cars. Surely if these cars are modified to a certain person’s taste, doesn’t it mean that it won’t appeal to anyone else? If someone has already done half of the job, what’s the point? We spoke to AutoTrader magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Jon Quirk, and he had this to say about boy racers: “The boy racer stereotype is a more multi-faceted genre than people give it credit for. For many young people, it’s an opportunity to get interested and excited in a type of car culture that appeals to them.” Jon was never going to turn away business, so it’s obvious that he would stick up for this kind of culture. He can’t be too picky. However, he does speak for the well-respected minority of boy racers like Daniel, who simply modify a car for enjoyment or as a hobby. Jon believes that, “Their cars become an audacious and authentic form of self-expression and any car person must respect that. Whether you see a return on that time and monetary investment when you come to sell, ultimately comes down to whether you find a buyer that shares your passion and enthusiasm.” So they’re not opposed to selling, but they are particular about whom it’s being sold to. It’s a very particular process, it seems. It’s a weeknight and I’m hanging around a McDonalds car park in Wisbech. I’m not here to get a casual Big Mac and find the quickest way to the exit, but instead I’m here to mingle with the youths. I’m with Stavros Petrou, an 18-year-old self-confessed boy racer from
Cambridgeshire. He hasn’t been driving too long, but he already has a long to-do list of modifications already. Looking at his 1.9 litre Volkswagen Polo, it’s clear to see that he’s been at work on it already. A mass of stickers cover one of the back windows, the car is sitting scarily low to the ground (he can just about maneuver his hand between the top of the tyre and the wheel arch) and it’s been almost completely de-badged. Stavros tells me that he’s de-badged the car because he goes racing on a nearby abandoned airfield. It might sound dodgy, but the event attracts hundreds of cars, all of which arrived geared up to challenge each other to a race. Similar to drag racing, a strip is marked out and the cars race down it. I’m not entirely sure whether it’s legal, but it’s definitely a popular event. “I de-badged it so that other people can’t see what sort of engine my car has. If the people I race saw that I have a diesel, they’d probably laugh,” he tells me. He also admits, like Daniel Hickman, that modifying is addictive. At the moment, he’s currently looking at putting an entirely different engine into his Polo. Why? I’m not sure he even knows why himself, but he shrugs and quietly says, “It’s something different.”
of air fresheners and teddies hanging from the rear view mirror. Or perhaps they’ll have some of the interior lined with pink fabric. I don’t know who is worse, the girls or the boys. Stavros tells me of a friend who, despite being a girl, works as a mechanic. As he tells me more about her, it’s obvious now that car modifying isn’t just a bloke’s hobby, “The girls I know don’t take it as seriously as us. It’s all about personal taste though.”
There’s a row of cars parked outside Brantano Footwear, packed with three or four people in each. Every window is open, and they all chat amongst themselves, seemingly regardless of the fact that they’re not even sitting in the same car. Each vehicle is decorated with some sort of accessory, whether that’s a spoiler or just a random decal stuck to the window – it is forbidden for any car to look alike in this group. The majority of accessories appear to be cheap add-ons from Halfords, despite their thirst for originality. It’s not just blokes hanging around here either – there are girls too. You can distinguish them by the huge collection
The police occasionally drive by, although it seems to be more of a scare tactic than anything else. Some cars leave the pack and some others join them. I’ve driven past here before and witnessed a full football match going on, and even other cars drive by like there’s nothing wrong. It’s sometimes comical watching them speed in the car park at god-knows-how-many miles per hour, and then watching them having to slam on the brakes in order to avoid catching the side skirts on the speed bumps. I ask Stavros why he comes here, and what the point of it all is. Smiling, he looks unsure, “We just meet up, have a get together. Loads of us can be here at once and we don’t
Some of them are shouting to each other across the car park, but I can’t quite distinguish what they’re saying from the comfort of my bog-standard Corsa. Stavros sits beside me in his Polo, with a friend in the passenger seat. Another car sits painfully close to Stavros – another friend of his. He explains to me how this sort of gathering works: “I’ve known some people who just drive by here, have a little look and then decide to come in. Then all they do is put their foot down in the car park, get everyone’s attention and drive out again.” I ask him why, and he adds, “Just for attention, but they normally have a good car. A BMW or something smart like that.” I’m lost on this one, but it seems like a bit of a piss take, and nobody seems to have realised it.
have to go anywhere else then. We just catch up, see what other people are doing with their cars.” I point out the smashed windows of the shoe shop we’re parked beside, the windows that were smashed by reckless boy racers, and ask him what it’s all about. “There’s no point in that. If you’re bored, go home. We don’t sit here because we’re bored. Why bother wasting your petrol?” I can’t argue with him. Maybe it’s criminals like that who are giving people like Stavros a bad name? It’s absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they drive a modified car: it’s the fact that we only hear about them when they’re involved in anti-social behaviour. I admit that I feel a little scared sitting here. But from my time with Stavros, I’ve learnt that modifying a car is a game of confidence. If you’re going to modify a car, you need the confidence to drive it. If you’re not sure of yourself in this game, then others are likely to laugh at you. The culture of car modification as a whole has always been cliquey. If you’re not serious about it, you’re likely to be ignored, and it’s exactly the same for boy racers. There are different levels of how seriously people take their hobby, and there’s a clique for each of them. What’s clear now is that there are two main forms of the stereotypical boy racer, and it’s essential to know the difference. While it’s certainly not my sort of thing - or many other peoples’ for that matter - the next time you spot a gathering of boy racers, don’t be too quick to judge. They’re probably not a chav, and they’re unlikely to be a criminal either. They’re people who have spent too much time than they care to talk about working on their cars. That piece of plastic or chrome trim might look stupid to most of us, but it’s probably a week’s worth of work for a car modifier.
STUDIO ROOSEGAARDE WORDS: Emy Neubert
alking along the Maas River in Rotterdam by night, a chirping sound accompanies every step. It is neither crickets nor birds that create this joyful tinkling. Like reeds possessed by fireflies, the path lights up as soon as the human body moves along the way. It is not nature, but technology, that responds to human movement. Responsible for this interactive installation titled ‘Dune’ is Studio Roosegaarde, a laboratory that consists of artist Daan Roosegaarde and his team of designers and engineers. Based in Rotterdam and Shanghai, the studio has developed responsive objects, which have been exhibited in many parts of the world. This year, Studio Roosegaarde will premiere one of their creations on holy ground. Commissioned by the Sainte Marie Madeleine Church in Lille, France, the Lotus Dome places a vision of the future with the architectonic beauty of the Renaissance. With the slightest movement, hundreds of smart foils open up and suffuse the space with light. According to the website of Studio Roosegaarde, the Lotus Dome is “A futuristic vision on the Renaissance”. Its previous and smaller version, Lotus 7.0, is a wall composed of the same materials. Daan Roosegaarde, founder of the studio, describes these creations as “techno poetry”, and it quickly becomes visible why he uses this term. It is human nature to fear the future, the unknown, and therefore creations with a futuristic vision tend to be observed with a sceptical eye. Roosegarde, however, manages to remove this barrier by making his sculptures interactive. It is indeed the poetical essence in the movement, sound and light effects that replace the uncomfortable fear of the unknown with a welcoming sense of curiosity. Responsive objects tend to be seen as humanised, in this case it isn’t the creator’s approach: “I am not trying to humanise objects”, he says. Roosegaarde continues, “I am trying to humanise people again. I think it is weird that we live in a physical world which is becoming more and more generic, more and more the same. Look at shopping malls or cities in Shanghai, they are copied and pasted. And it seems that our emotions, our feelings are more connected to the virtual world, to Twitter and Facebook. So in a way, our physical world is becoming more inhuman and our immaterial world is becoming more emotional”.
Think about the time each individual spends every day communicating online, in many cases it surpasses the actual physical contact we engage in. Technological inventions of the past were created to provide mere “extensions of our senses”, whereas now technology has a life of its own. “It becomes more autonomous. Facebook wants things from us, it has its own mind”, he explains. For Roosegaarde it goes beyond a discussion about technology, he sees it more as an ideological conflict. “The question is: Do we want a George Orwell scenario where technology dominates and controls, or do we want to move to a more interesting Leonardo DaVinci scenario where we learn how to fly and cure diseases? There is a much more ideological than technological agenda”, he says. It’s Studio Roosegaarde’s mission to achieve the second scenario. Public experiences in technological awareness are the key to put it into practise. The artist sees his work as “my personal role to rethink the role of technology as a language, as communicator, and to make people aware that it influences our lives heavily, and we should consider it our second language - as a tool to create new realities of interactivity and durability. I get scared when people take it for granted or think they are just nice, decorative objects.” To create human awareness of technology and the humanisation of the individual are not the only motivators behind his creations. In 2009 Studio Roosegaarde developed a sustainable dance floor. Through the act of dancing on the LED laden floor, up to twenty watts per person can be generated to provide the club with electricity. The interactivity makes sustainability appeal to a wider audience. To be able to achieve something with the mere act of dancing causes both fascination and joy, which turns a technological experience into something fun and exciting. “You get some immediate feedback; the more you dance, the visualisation makes the floor appear deeper and you are generating power. We are taking something from you but giving something back and that’s an interesting state of negotiation”, he describes. A record of over one million joules was achieved on a sustainable dance floor in Murcia earlier this year. These larger public experiences are what Studio Roosegaarde strives for. The first step to realise such
projects is to create a connection between nature and technology to generate human interactions. This is followed by the transformation of the first step to larger urban scales: “In the second step we do art but also public lighting into one or energy generating foot paths or highways; the agenda expands in that way”. With a degree in both fine art and architecture, Daan Roosegaarde has focused on “the art scene, the museums to explore, experiment and refine” in his installations. With the ever-changing surroundings these are exhibited in, the team used reactions from the public as inspiration for updates, hence why browsing through his website different versions of each body of work are listed. The Lotus Dome is the best example of the whole process each invention goes through, from the Lotus 7.0 wall to a big public installation in the Sainte Marie Madeleine Church in Lille, France. That Studio Roosegaarde’s installations can even appear romantic to some is proved through photographs of brides and grooms posing with them. Roosegaarde often mentions the story of couples wanting to have their picture taken in front of Dune. Now placed along the Maas River, it used to light up the Maastunnel. The studio’s works generate emotions in pedestrians. Now it is dancers practising their movements alongside the Maas River. Dune is the only permanent public art work so far, “but you can expect some larger, public installations coming up this year which will be there on a permanent base”, he says. Roosegaarde adds, “Actually, that is what I am working on right now, helping cities to figure out what is interesting to do.” For example, the installation Flow - an interactive wall made of ventilators - would be interesting to “put into a hospital in India where it actually cools people down.” Another project is the wider use of the sustainable dance floor. “We are working on sustainable highways. So we copy morphing the technology of the sustainable dance floor into a road, which would have a huge effect in cities like Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur where traffic jams and pollution are enormous”, the artist adds. Whether it is large or small public installations, for Daan “There is no difference between a museum or a hospital - you can do magic everywhere”.
THE BEAUTIFICATION OF ALGERNON DE BEAJOLAIS
WORDS: Sinéad Murphy
lgernon De Beajolais raised a gnarled, tobacco stained finger and stroked the chin of his particularly handsome face. How, in the name of Aphrodite’s Anus, had it come to this? These were reduced circumstances, even for him. He was sixty-five years old, the product of a marriage between two of England’s most prestigious families. He was schooled, and routinely buggered, at Eton. He’d had an extraordinary life as England’s most intrepid explorer, and had discovered the one-eared floppy fringed vampire flea of San Diego-Suarez Madagascar. He had taken tea, biscuits and heroin with four American presidents, two kings, numerous heads of state, and an old hunchback with a scalded left testicle who swore blind he was His Holiness The 14th Dali Lama. He’d deflowered more virgins than one could shake a stick at, but a love of strong liquor and powerful opiates had instigated his decline many decades ago. Indeed, he had to sell most of his internal offal including a lung, a kidney and one of his two hearts, to assuage the violent anger of Columbia’s most feared narcotics trafficker, Juan Cornetto, following a bungled career as a drug mule. He had endured four failed marriages, including an illfated liaison with a marmoset monkey who cheated on him with the RT Hon Tarquin Cattle-Prod (MP). He was friendless, destitute, and years of high-living had left him with the cognitive skills of a pox riddled chinchilla. And so, Algernon De Beajolais had reached his nadir. The 25th floor of a tower block in Mile End, London E3. In the capital’s most cosmopolitan borough he now resided, in the fabulously inappropriately named Ku Klux Klan House. Number 520 was indeed bleak, like the black hole of Calcutta - only in Newham. Two rooms, mould everywhere, and the unmistakable smell of unicorn faeces hung in the fetid air. As the days and weeks passed, Algernon De Beajolais began to settle into his new life of soul-destroying
mediocrity. He spent his time listening to owl pornography on the wireless and tending to his only pet, Bob Marley’s grass snake, Trevor. He began to get to know his neighbours. They saw an old white man dressed in Harris Tweed and built-up shoes, he saw a motley collection of feral, but oddly likeable teenagers. He was fascinated by their names - Ashkay, Manshukh, Delbert, Kwame, Kojo, Ladyblossom, Jillisha and Marlene. He was enthralled by their love of music - Dancehall, Grime, Trip-Hop-RaggaJungle-Hip-House, Hard House and House Clearance. He played them his ’78 record collection including Victor Sylvestor and Joe Loss, but Ladyblossom threatened to cut his head off if he did that again. He taught the loveable scamps the dances of his youth - the Charleston, the Jitterbug, and the timeless Lets String The Black Fella Up, I’m Sure He’s Guilty Although There’s No Evidence. The teenagers language intrigued him, bereft as it was of adverbs, prepositions and pronouns. It took him an eternity to work out that “cah man dem West rip bare shit” loosely translates to “come chaps, let us scurry to the West End where we shall remove merchandise from upmarket stores without money exchanging hands.” The weeks rolled into months and Algernon De Beajolais found that he was actually enjoying life in Ku Klux Klan House. Most evenings, the teenagers and their parents would gather at flat 520 where he would enthral them with his tales of daring do, like the time he circumnavigated the globe on a seahorse. He had stopped drinking, although he did like to mainline Bovril occasionally. He persuaded the teenagers to return to their studies, and they all attended evening classes together. He became quite the expert on Malcolm X and Timmy Y. Everyone liked him, they didn’t judge him, and cared not that he was penniless. In the summer of 2010, Kwame became ill after being bitten by the local newsagent. The only thing that could save his life was a kidney transplant, and bizarrely enough, Algernon De Beajolais was the perfect match. He agreed to help without hesitation, knowing that the operation would kill him. At the Royal London Hospital the night
before the transplant, Kwame’s mother hugged Algernon De Beajolais to her ample bosom and cried, “Lord! Look after your son Mistra De Beajolais, cah him really is a saint!” Algernon De Beajolais would have cried, if he didn’t posses two glass eyes.
“Algernon De Beajolais had reached his nadir. The 25th ﬂoor of a tower block in Mile End, London E3"
AVOIDING MODERN LIFE
WORDS: Harley Sherman
Robert Wringham is proposing alternative ways of living via his bold magazine New Escapologist
etween 1918 and 1979, the share of national income owned by the top one per cent of income earners fell consistently, from 19 per cent, gradually down to six per cent, as Britain slowly became a more equal society. Since 1979, following the indoctrination of neo liberalism and unfettered free market policies by Margaret Thatcher and the Tories, the process has taken a turn for the worse. From a six per cent share of national income in 1979 it rose to 14 per cent by 2005. Combining this with a rise in mental health problems, and the United Kingdom ranked a meagre 74th in the Happy Planet Index, and it is little wonder that many British citizens are chronically unhappy. But who is taking the bull by the horns and escaping from the drudgery of modern life? It seems that by and large most people are content with gliding through life, but a magazine created by Glaswegian Robert Wringham hopes to rectify this. A cross between a whimsical self-help manual and counter culture magazine, New Escapologist is about “deftly avoiding the trappings of modern life: debt, stress, unrewarding work, bureaucracy, marketing, noise and over-government”, asking the reader to “consider the circumstances in which you would most like to live and encourages you to find a way of engineering them”. It is simultaneously a fight against the corporatocracy that has polluted modern life with the twisted ideals of consumerism and capitalism. Wringham draws help from a number of contributors, who over the six issues have provided a wealth of material for those wishing to explore the art of escapology. Such articles have included the benefits of travelling, how to escape your possessions, resisting tax, a discussion on the merits of delayed gratification and self control, and how corporations and privatised government have damaged the world. Conceived in a rickety Glasgow loft in 2007, Wringham collected a crew of like-minded writers, artists and illustrators. Born out of necessity due to lack of publishing opportunities elsewhere, the project was equally driven by a desire for creative autonomy: “I liked the idea of starting a magazine because my friends and I weren’t getting published anywhere else. Why work so hard to court the owners of the machinery when you
can build your own machinery with relative ease? If you do that successfully, the machine-owners will come crawling to you eventually”. Wringham took to the books, delving into social history and musing on the mechanics of rallying against the system: “It struck me that most people are probably Anarchists or left-wing Libertarians at heart. Nobody wants to be pushed around by politicians or big corporations. We just have varying levels of tolerance for it. So I began to investigate the more autonomous ways in which people have actually lived” Books he read included one detailing the Situationist art movement and How To Be Free by fellow idler Tom Hogdkinson, But the literature that most resonated with him was the biography of the legendary escape artist Harry Houdini. He describes how Houdini’s tricks were more than just a simple form of entertainment: “Houdini was a kind of conjurer but he was also a satirist: those on-stage escapes were metaphors for how people felt about politics and consumerism and the new technology of the time. Things that were being sold as liberating, laboursaving miracles like frozen food, phonograph recordings, automobiles, and New Imperialism were actually making us completely dependent upon The Corporation and a centralised government.” But all this theory and existentialist thinking would not serve as a substitute for real life experience; he had to get out there and practice what he preached: “I couldn’t have all of these ideas and write about them and encourage other people to think about them if I didn’t live them wholeheartedly myself.” Wringham previously held down two day jobs: working in web design for a government office, as well as supervising library assistants in a university library in the evening. Alongside this, he pursued a passion for engaging in stand-up comedy and freelance journalism, which led to the subsequent inception of New Escapologist. With a growing pool of cash earned from his day jobs, and the increasing confidence that he could carve a viable career as a writer/comedian, Wringham freed himself from the
shackles of wage slavery and headed to Montreal with his girlfriend in 2009. “I’m also just not that interested in being an employee. I’d given it an honest shot because it’s what most people do, and it’s what the careers advisers insist upon, and I didn’t want my parents to disown me. But I’m just not an employee by nature. I don’t see how anyone can be satisfied as an employee, waiting on pay cheques, humouring idiot managers, and bookending the day by sitting in cramped, leaky buses. Not when you could be getting up at noon and working for yourself at something you enjoy.” Emigration restrictions have forced him to fly back and forth between Glasgow and Montreal, but the FrenchCanadian city will soon become his permanent base. Ranked as the 34th most desirable place to live in the world, he cites cheaper living costs as a pivotal factor in his decision: “Because of the low overheads, a dubious industry like publishing your own magazine becomes financially viable. You’re not so dependent upon big pay cheques any more. I also get to live in a foreign country this way with a different culture and language to the one I’m most accustomed to.” Aside from running New Escapologist, Wringham fills his days doing what he does best: relaxing and being creative: “I skive as thoroughly as possible. I’m a very lazy person. I like to hang out in big libraries, reading books for free. I like to walk for stupidly long distances, especially in cities: from urban centres to industrial complexes on the edge of town. When I’m not getting swigged up and wondering aimlessly around, I’ll be working on a major caper like a book, or tinkering with a smaller folly like an essay or a magazine article or something. I suppose my activities are characterised by the fact that they’re self-initiated. I don’t look for big-whoop things to do like enrolling in college classes or joining sports teams. Find your own things to do. Don’t look for other people to plan things for you.”
“Consume less, work less is my advice. Become a minimalist and be free.” For Wringham, adapting to his new lifestyle was far from laborious. It was in fact quite the opposite: “The struggle was in maintaining my old life. I’m not an employee by nature. Nobody is. What’s hard is waking up at 7am, commuting across town in the rain, trying to concentrate on your work from your veal-fattening pen with phones ringing everywhere and managers striding around selfimportantly. Those were the hard things. What I do now is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.” Leading such a seemingly precarious lifestyle lends the question: apart from running ‘New Escapologist’, just how does Wringham survive? For a long time he subsisted on savings that he accrued in his previous life as an ‘employee’. By moving to cheaper confines and rejecting the “usual consumer crap”, he made that money last for years. He now funds his lifestyle by writing, performing and doing stand-up comedy: Showing off and playing around with words are what I always wanted to do anyway, so it’s not really work. I don’t get paid loads of money for what I do: but it’s just about enough to live on. It’s possible for anyone who is willing to seriously curb their consumer desires.”
Judging from Wringham’s experience, this is a lifestyle that on paper seems hugely preferable to punching the clock on a 9-to-5 job. Which begs the question: why don’t more people follow his lead? Wringham argues that we must break free of consumerism’s insidious stranglehold over society: “Our perception of how much stuff we need is grossly out of whack. Our evolution as a species is partly to blame, but marketing is to blame too. Some of the world’s most intelligent people dedicate their entire careers to convincing you that you need things that didn’t even exist yesterday. There’s a direct connection between consumption and work: the more you consume, the harder you need to work in order to pay for it. That’s why we call it wage slavery. It’s a treadmill. Consume less, work less is my advice. Become a minimalist and be free.” Advertising isn’t the only problem. Wringham puts forward a concept entitled ‘bad faith’, coined by French philosopher Jean-Paul Satre, as a potential theory for society’s conformity to ‘wage slavery’: “It’s the idea that we deceive ourselves as to the reality of certain situations. Take office life as an example.
We all know in our secret hearts that we don’t want to commute to an office every day and sit there, playing computer solitaire for eight hours straight. Even if we’re genuinely passionate about our work, we don’t want to go about it like that. But we tell ourselves that it’s okay, it’s just a stopgap, and - above all - it’s what people do. It’s the natural order of things. We know it’s not. But we tell ourselves that it is. So the ‘one issue’ is in defeating this weird self-denial and facing up to the reality of the situation and doing something about it.” But can this utopian idea work on a mass scale? “The economy is already in a bad state and it didn’t get this way by people being cautious minimalists did it? The economy is the way it is because of greed and financial mismanagement on a grand scale. If everyone was a minimalist, the economy would be smaller, I suppose, in that we’d have a smaller Gross Domestic Product. But a high GDP shouldn’t be a target or even be considered an indicator of economic good health: it’s just transactional heat. So, no, I don’t think the economy would be in any worse shape than it is today. It could even be better off for it”.
ELLING DIRTY JOKES
(“A man walks into a talent agent’s office…”) WORDS: Sinéad Murphy
rom the light-hearted cheekiness of Vaudevillian humour, to the abrasive and unflinching nature of modern stand-up, the power of the controversial joke and its ability to cast huddle formations over playgrounds and offices alike has continued to rouse disgust and intrigue in audiences since the inception of humour itself. But what is it about controversial humour and its dangerous meanderings into sexual or racial territory that piques our interest so? Perhaps this form of comedy offers us a brief respite from the militant political correctness of our modern social structure, or maybe we reap a quiet enjoyment from the dangerous act of laughing at subjects which we know should be dealt with sensitively. Whatever the justification behind our morbid attraction to contentious joke telling, even the most compassionate of souls cannot fold their arms and turn away from the almost spiritual sense of abandon one feels when crudeness and vulgarity is given free range. Although we might never care to admit it in the company of in-laws, professional superiors or new acquaintances, many of us have known the shameful pleasure of the corners of our mouths defiantly creeping upwards at the crude words of a Princess Diana or 9/11 joke - crafted just that little bit too soon after the event, and spreading through the social landscape with as much rapidity as the news story itself. And whilst we might attempt in vain to repress our sniggering with the awareness that violent death and national tragedy is indeed no laughing matter, we feel able to justify our laughter not as a result of the wildly insensitive material at hand, but as the fleeting moment of freedom which is gleaned from wmaking light of the unspeakable. Of course, transgressive comedy is not confined to the uncouth skewing of widespread media stories. It is a strange world in which rape, murder, racism, genocide, paedophilia – just about every social taboo whose disturbing nature appears void of humour – loses its untouchable guild and is mocked with the same sense of vigour one might apply to a mother-in-law gag. But there is one joke in particular which stands alone in the extremity with which it forces humour and crudity to occupy a simultaneous space. The Aristocrats (or The Sophisticates, as it is sometimes referred to, depending on the persuasion of the teller) is a slice of inexplicable vulgarity which is believed to have found its beginnings in the leather chair adorned and cigar smoke hued after parties hosted by Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Michael O’Donohue during the late 1960’s. Far too controversial to be included in the body of their on-stage performances, The Aristocrats was saved with giddy excitement until the laughter had subsided and the audience had safely exited the building, providing the humorists with a blissful fortress of solitude in which to test the limits of their own tastelessness. Comedy exclusively for comedians, if you will. The structure of the joke has remained the same since its hazy Scotch-fuelled inauguration in Chevy Chase’s dressing rooms, with the opening lines and the eventual punch line never deviating from tradition. The set-up, however, has always been left open to interpretation and personalisation, and relies on the signature of the comedian and their improvisational abilities in order to successfully make the transition from obscenity to humour. The almost jazz-like nature of The Aristocrats means that in relaying the joke, it really is about the singer and not the song, and although we the audience are being exposed to filth of unimaginable proportions, we are also able to notice the bravery of the comedian as he
defies the taboos of social constraint and seeks only to offend and disturb us. Because the content of The Aristocrats differs considerably every time it is told, it would be impossible to divulge the joke in its entirety within the pages of The Ulnar Nerve. To attempt to reproduce the joke in print would also detract from the shocking yet strangely pleasurable experience of hearing such explicit vulgarity spoken aloud, and so we recommend that you seek out one of its numerous renditions online (where you might just be surprised at the breadth of comedians who have decided to make this subversive joke their own). But, for those morbidly curious characters who just can’t wait for the sting of obscenity to fall upon their waiting ears, the essence of The Aristocrats is as follows: The joke begins with a man walking into a talent agent’s office, and as he takes a seat before the chain-smoking and painfully stereotypical ‘New Yorker’ agent he explains that he is one-forth of the greatest family act around. “You’ll love our act”, the man assures. “We’re unmissable”, he reiterates. Unconvinced, the jaded talent agent makes clear his distain for family acts, suggesting that they might infringe on the credibility of the agency. “Just give us two minutes”, the man pleads, “That’s all we need to convince you. Once you’ve seen our act, you’ll want to sign us up immediately.” With obvious scepticism, but lacking the energy to protest any further, the talent agent allows the man to showcase his act. “Two minutes”, the agent says forcefully, rubbing two cigarette-clasping fingers against his temple. “That’s all you’ve got to convince me.” Upon receiving the go-ahead, the man jumps to his feet and is immediately joined by his wife and two young children. What follows next is the section of the joke in which the comedian must improvise the most grotesque scene imaginable, complete with disturbing sexual acts committed by and inflicted on all members of the family. The various acts of fornication between father, son, mother and daughter are told with distressing clarity, and renditions of the joke often include defecation, the swapping of bodily fluids, and sexual activity so violent it instigates bleeding. Not too dissimilar from a typical night in the Russell Brand household, then.
The scene is made as shocking as the comedian desires, and offers the audience a glimpse into the grim capabilities of the human mind when the prospect of conjuring disturbing imagery is the only objective. The length of the scene is also decided on by the teller of the joke, and the dusty recesses of comedic history suggest that Michael O’Donohue would often relish in the act of describing this scatological and incestuous scene for periods of time lasting in excess of ninety minutes. Once the audience have been suitably pushed to the very brink of toleration, and once an uncountable number of social taboos have been broken, the comedian ends his gruesome improvisation by implementing the never-changing finale: “Wow!”, the agent exclaims in disbelief as the bloodied and faecesflecked family proudly take a bow. “W-w-what do you call your act?”, he asks in a voice made unsteady by shock.
The man looks up from his state of genuflection, and in a regal tone offers the conclusion, “We call ourselves (he pauses for dramatic effect)….The Aristocrats.” The punch line is of course meaningless, and offers no purpose other than to conflict wildly with the earlier and most certainly un-aristocratic content of the joke. But in doing so, The Aristocrats defies the conventional format of standard joke telling and does away with the conditioning of sitcom humour in which the very last stage of a joke is considered to be the most important and evocative part. Instead, steam is built in the set-up, and the punch line serves as nothing more than a cherry atop a rancid sundae. It is perhaps the only conceivable punch line which could satisfy such filth, but whether or not the audience finds humour in it is in fact irrelevant, as the main objective of The Aristocrats is to wave off the last vestige of respectability and explore the furthest reaches of indecency. Another factor which contributes greatly to the notion of The Aristocrats being the perfect post-modern anti-joke is its entirely uncensorable nature. The prospect of using a family as the members of the act means that the joke can only ever be obscene, and is therefore able to dodge the sterilisation of editing. The suggestion that the talent agent would query the name of the act before questioning the crude action he has just witnessed displays the lawlessness and absence of morality in comedy, making us aware that a joke is perhaps the only place in this earthly realm in which we able to be totally free. We need not worry about the repercussions of unveiling our most disturbing thoughts, because under the guise of a joke there is nothing which breaches the codes of acceptability. Despite its obscene content, The Aristocrats proves itself to be a flawlessly crafted joke with a snappy, two-word punch line and a middle which is open to the interpretation of the comedian. Perhaps this is why so many humorists (including Robin Williams, Doug Stanhope and Sarah Silverman to name but a few) have taken the brave decision to construct their own renditions of the joke. World-renowned mime artist Billy the Mime has even created a silent version of The Aristocrats, and magician/comedian Eric Mead has fashioned a version of the joke which is told entirely by a deck of playing cards (the numbers 6 and 9 and an inverted Heart card feature a great deal in this particular adaptation.) But it is the efforts of American comic Gilbert Gottfried which are perhaps the most notorious and impacting of all renditions of The Aristocrats. Executed during his performance at the Hugh Heffner Comedy Roast just three weeks after the events of 9/11 (which itself had already accumulated a plethora of distasteful jokes, despite the rawness of its recent happening), Gilbert launched into the most graphic and unrestrained rendering of the joke ever to be told in mainstream entertainment. And whilst gasps of horror and grimaces of disbelief were rife amongst the audience members as he described in eye-watering detail the logistics of a father abusing his infant daughter, a deeply cathartic laughter was in fact the most prominent and resounding reaction from the studio spectators. The absolute vulgarity of the material, coupled with Gottfried’s total sense of irreverence, made for a stark moment of realisation in which the American public understood that humour can be found in anything. Against the backdrop of 9/11, the joke served as a poignant reminder that laughter is perhaps our only defence when faced with what we find most disturbing. But, as The Aristocrats makes starkly clear, the true art lies in the manner in which you craft that vulgarity into a comic relief that can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of the tragedy at hand.
FROM MARX TO MASON... ...the Roots of Jewish Humour I WORDS: Sinéad Murphy
t can be argued that there exists no culture on earth which is without its own personal brand of humour. Stylised perfectly to act as both a reaction to their surroundings, and as an ongoing commentary regarding their position in the wider scope of society, the comedic traits specific to racial collectives are so much more than a simple anthology of witty observations and acerbic remarks based on a sense of cultural awareness. Rather, culturally-specific comedy serves as a window to the inner tensions and outer concerns of a people, and it is this cultural consciousness - coupled with the brutal honesty with which it is often delivered - which allows us as outsiders to use cultural humour as a means of better understanding the different ethnic groups which simultaneously surround yet allude us. And Jewish humour is no exception to this rule. It is perhaps the most exemplary and distinctive form of cultural comedy to emerge from the streets and take its place amongst established comedic themes. But before it held the moniker of cultural phenomenon, Jewish humour was a very private brand of comedy, passed from Jewish man to Jewish man in the fortresses of 19th century eastern European marketplaces, synagogues and homes. It was a bittersweet grumbling of their historic trail of repression and persecution, and as such allowed them to make light of what they feared and resented most, whilst in the blissful solitude of one another’s company. But Jewish street humour was soon sustained and enriched by new texts from writers and playwrights such as Mendele Mokher Seforim, Sholem Aleichem, I.L Peretz and Abraham Goldfaden, who took the grievances that echoed around their Jewish communities and turned them into lasting literary classics. These carefully considered modifications of marketplace gripes soon began to feed the comic banter of the Jewish daily exchange from which the texts themselves were first inspired, and so began an unbreakable cycle of self-awareness and self-deprecation fuelled not only by the Jewish community as a private collective, but by the reactions to Jewish humour and the popularisation of racial stereotypes in mainstream culture. Of course, Jewish humour as we know and understand it today could only exist as a result of the unimaginable misery to which the race has been exposed. It is humour born of suffering, but rather than dwelling on their own misfortunes or allowing themselves to succumb to embitterment, Jewish comedy serves not least as a coping mechanism against the opposition that has met them since biblical times, but as a shield of self defence and a means of brushing remarks of anti-Semitism from their ebony-draped shoulders. And whilst Jewish suffering did not begin and end with the Holocaust (nor did the Holocaust diminish the comic Jewish spirit), the tragedy of the event certainly marked a moment of irreversible change regarding the manner Jewish people were able to laugh at themselves, and at the treatment they received. Pre-World War II Jewish humour was a thoroughly internal affair, in which the Jewish joke was the insiders joke. Much of the comedic content winding its way through the street ethers was written and recounted in Yiddish, religious allusions were rife and familiar, and the fears and frustrations expressed in the comedy were shared
in showbiz. It was the role of the ‘Tummler’ (the Jewish term for MC which loosely translates to ‘noisemaker’), to act as social director and keep the visitors entertained with jokes, songs and shtick. Professor Jack Kuglemass, curator of the Let There Be Laughter! Jewish Humour in America exhibition at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies says that, “The concept of the Tummler was very important to the evolution of Jewish humour, and a lot of those Tummlers made their way into television in the 1950’s, some of which eventually ended up as the star of their own shows. Sid Caesar being one of the most notable examples.”
universally amongst the Jewish populous. However, once the cultural landscape had been altered by the end of war and mass persecution, the outsider status of the Jewish people eased, and Jewish humour became far less self contained. Instead, their humour quickly evolved into a tool by which America could be depicted to the Americans, as told by those who existed on the periphery of mainstream culture and were exposed to (although not with as much vigour as the pre-war days) ongoing prejudice at the hands of white, Christian America. The comedic themes of Jewish humour continued to evolve and consider matters that could be appreciated by an audience wider than their own cultural group, such as Judaism vs. Christianity, the inner conflicts between Jews, and the torment of adhering to Jewish tradition or assimilating with Western culture. But they never deviated far from grounds of personal belittlement, and as Freud once commented on the Jewish sense of humour, “I do not know whether there are many other instances of a people making fun to such a degree if its own character.” The notion of the ‘mainstream Jewish comedian’ (who would later shape this kind of self deprecation into a finely crafted art) found its roots in the upstate New York Borsch Belt - a holiday region inhabited in the seasonal periods exclusively by Jewish families. Think Butlins, but with more chicken soup and Volvo’s. Although largely defunct now, the Borsch Belt served as a mecca of leisure and entertainment for New York Jews from the 1920’s to the 1960’s, and the recreation rooms which were frequented by the holidaymakers of an evening were the platform from which many Jewish performers found their place
Sid Caesar, along with Lou Goldstein, Mel Brooks and Red Buttons are but a small selection of the many Jewish comedians who not only began their careers as Tummlers, but who also had to contend with the rapidly changing landscape of American popular culture. During the 1920’s, when the Borsch Belt was establishing its popularity with the Jewish community, it was not uncommon for Jewish actors and Jewish language to be featured in films and television programs, as mainstream entertainment had not yet been ‘claimed’ exclusively by the Americans. As Professor Jack Kuglemass comments, “There were no restrictions, entertainment was a very open affair, and there was no one who got there before the Jews saying ‘You can’t get in.’” But by the 1940’s, the sphere of Hollywood was growing with striking rapidity, and films were being manufactured with a more general audience in mind. Consequently, Jewish performers were made to ‘de-Jewdise’ (act less Jewish), in order not to alienate any of their now-expansive viewing audience. However, in a display of resilience which has now become synonymous with the Jewish spirit, many of the Borsch Belt-come-mainstream-performers defied this racial dilution by slipping Yiddish words into their routines - one of the earliest examples being The Marx Brother’s song Hooray for Captain Spaulding which featured in their 1936 film Animal Crackers. The song contained the word ‘Shnorrer’ (“Hooray for Captain Spaulding, The African explorer, Did someone call me Shnorrer? Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!”) which is a Yiddish term for beggar, and served as a poignant reminder to other Jewish performers that their cultural identity need not be lost to the Americanisation of Western entertainment. Since taking the cue from brave acts of the 1930’s like The Marx Brothers, Jews have continued to dominate the world of comedy in every area of media, from standup to television, literature to film. They have cultivated mainstream forms of cultural satire (think Lenny Bruce and Jon Stewart), self-flagellation and audience flagellation (Woody Allen and Jackie Mason), nurtured American literary humour (Philip Roth), sustained television comedy (Milton Berle, Larry David) and dominated stand-up comedy (Jerry Seinfeld) with the biting social commentary that only a repressed people can master.
“I do not know whether there are many other instances of a people making fun to such a degree of its own character" - Sigmund Freud
THE SHELF LIFE OF MAD MEN WORDS: Harley
ne of the most intriguing aspects of Mad Men is the plethora of literary references littered throughout the story, be it a book sitting on a shelf, a novel mentioned in passing or one read by a character. Whether or not these books are chosen for an explicit reason is unclear, but there are interesting interpretations to be made when it comes to the reading material of Madison Avenue and beyond. In the season one episode ‘The Hobo Code’, head honcho Bert Cooper hands a shell-shocked Don Draper a $2500 bonus ($18,000 in today’s terms). While Don tries to collect his thoughts, Cooper points out a book on his shelf: Bert: “Have you read her? Atlas Shrugged, that’s the one!” Don: “Yes, yes it is.” Bert: I know you haven’t read it. When you hit 40 you realise you’ve met or seen every kind of person there is. And I know what kind you are. Because I believe we are alike.” Don: “I assume that’s flattering?” Bert: “By that I mean you are a productive and reasonable man and in the end completely self-interested. It’s strength, we are different. Unsentimental about all the people who depend on our hard work.”
Rand’s controversial 1957 novel served as a vehicle for the writer to champion her philosophy of objectivism. Such principles she advocated included ‘ethical egoism’, the belief that a moral agent should do what is in their own self-interest, and should not sacrifice this to aid other’s self-interests and well-being, ‘rational selfishness’, the principle that an action is rational only if it maximises your own self-interest, and the ‘sanction of the victim’, defined by fellow philosopher Leonard Peikoff as “the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of evil, to accept the roles of sacrificial victim for the ‘sin’ of creating values.” Bert Cooper certainly seems like a man who takes pride in the appearance of his office, from Rothko’s Number 12 painting hanging above his settee to the famous no-shoes rule that he strictly enforces. He decision to include Atlas Shrugged in his modest book collection by the window was surely a decision not taken lightly by him. So we can be confident that he holds Ayn Rands’s views dearly, and even implies later on that he knows her personally. Cooper loosely adopts Rand’s principles into his own working practices, displaying an unsentimental streak that would make Ayn Rand proud: firing an employee for leaving gum on the floor, dragging fellow partner Roger
Sterling into the office to please a client with Sterling only weeks removed from a heart attack, and dismissing Pete Campbell’s outing of Don as a fraud. But Cooper isn’t the only character that embodies Randian ideals in the show. Many of Don Draper’s actions are examples of rational selfishness; ones which seem to serve only him with little regard for the others in his life. He seems to have no friends, and is only his true self when with Anna Draper, his first ‘wife’, who knows and is comfortable with his real identity. His life of living a lie amongst strangers provokes a him against the world mentality, one which serves to boost his self-centred approach to life. So rather than being a direct manifestation of Ayn Rand rational selfishness, it is instead a result of his feelings of insecurity and detachment from the world he lives in. The first episode of season 2 finds Don at the doctors for a physical. After being admonished for drinking and smoking, Don heads to a midtown bar. Seated next to him is a man reading Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency. Don remarks:
Don: “Makes you feel better about sitting in a bar at lunch. Makes you feel like you’re getting something done.” Stranger: “Yeah, it’s all about getting things done.” Don then points to the book his neighbour is reading: Don: “Is it any good?” Stranger: “I don’t think you’d like it.” At the end of the episode, Don is seen reading a passage from the poem ‘Mayakovsky’, before mailing it to an unknown recipient: Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern. The country is grey and brown and white in trees, snows and skies of laughter always diminishing, less funny not just darker, not just grey. It may be the coldest day of the year, what does he think of that? I mean, what do I? And if I do, perhaps I am myself again. In that specific episode, Mayakovsky seems to speak about Don’s insecurity over his position at the company. Young minds are on the verge of superseding the old guard at Sterling Cooper, which operates as a perpetual threat throughout the series, but is a particularly potent force in this episode. New characters Kurt and Smitty are
brought in to revive a flagging Mohawk Airlines campaign and inject it with some youthful vigour. It wasn’t only Don who was shifting nervously in his seat; you could sense the notable disquiet among the other existing employees. Maybe the last paragraph of Mayakovsky speaks for Don coming to terms with his need to regain his youthful side and adopt a modern approach to his business? After his medical check up and failed affairs in the previous season with beatnik Midge and store owner Rachel Menken, Don is perhaps looking to start life with a clean slate. With the benefit of hindsight we the viewers know this failed to materialise. While clearly reflecting on Don’s immediate situation, O’Hara’s book is a neat summation of the existential themes running through Mad Men. The whole show features characters meditating over emergencies and ruminating on the problems and failings in their respective lives, masked by a need to keep up appearances. Their respective crises are what drives the narrative along. The O’Hara references don’t end with that episode: The season finale ‘Meditations in an Emergency’ is a veritable feast of characters fraught with anxiety and conflict, all set amidst the apocalyptic backdrop of the Cuban missile crisis. But the season’s penultimate episode reveals who Don posted the book to – not Rachel Menken as most would have suspected, but his first ‘wife’ Anna. She remarks that ‘Meditations in an Emergency’ reminds her of Don. And only she knows the real Don Draper: Dick Whitman. If Atlas Shrugged symbolised the politics of Mad Men and ‘Meditations in an Emergency’ represented the
existentialist woes of Don Draper, then F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story collection Babylon Revisited speaks about the crushing loneliness and melancholy of his stoic ex-wife, Betty. In the season 2 episode ‘The Benefactor’, Betty’s slightly overbearing horse riding companion Arthur mentions Fitzgeralds ‘A Diamond as Big as the Ritz’, referring to his fiancee’s nepotistic wealth and persistent unsatisfaction with life. In the next episode Betty is shown reading the very same book, and presumably the story that Arthur mentioned. In an afterword to the 2000 edition, James L. W. West III of Pennsylvania State University said that the stories “embody lessons of ambition and disappointment, idealism and disenchantment, success and failure and redemption, that are central to the American experience”. Betty could well be reading the book in an attempt to impress Arthur Case, but it is fitting in another sense that Betty chose this as her reading material. The short stories in this collection feature tales of the upper class societies of America, engaging in tempestuous relationships and grappling with the need to be accepted by their peers. She aspires to be the rich, elegant women featured in Fitzgerald’s writing, but is unaware of the other, less desirable similarities between her and his characters. The show also holds striking parallels with Fitzgerald’s magnum opus The Great Gatsby: the con artist who forges a new identity to cast away the shame of his humble upbringing, the unhappy marriages and the emptiness of pursuing wealth, a theme that is consistently prevalent in Mad Men.
“The whole show features characters meditating over emergencies and ruminating on the problems and failings in their respective lives”
BRINGING CENSORSHIP TO BOOK WORDS: Sammi Cartwright
“Mummy… can I get this, please?”
t’s a perfectly reasonable request, no? It’s bafflingly polite as well, a small child looking up at his mother with puppy dog eyes. Despite the fact he said please, after flicking briefly through the comic book the mother tells the child to put it back where he found it. The boy’s eyes trail slowly down to the floor in disappointment, head low. For a moment, all is lost. The battle’s done, and he shifts uncomfortably as if she’s never said no to him before. And then it happens. “But why not?” He’s not necessarily challenging his mother’s power, but instead demanding to know the reason behind her decision. So, squatting down to be on a more equal level with her son she explains that the content is too graphic and violent for a boy his age, and tells him that when he’s a little older, she will reconsider. You think, due to his young age, that he may have a tantrum, slamming his tiny fists into his mother’s knees. Or not. “But, mummyyy…” he whines. “It doesn’t have an age circle on it. Doesn’t that mean it’s okay?” “No, darling. That’s just for films. This is mummy’s decision.” With the recent news of David Cameron’s comments on his intentions for the music video (which is currently not subject to classification under the Video Recordings Act 1978 or 2010) to sport age certificates to protect children from provocative and over-sexualised content, you can’t help but wonder what’s next to be under the microscope of the government. We’ve all been brought up with the age certification on films decided on by the British Board of Film Classification. We know that the BBFC rate things based according to what may, or may not, be appropriate for a certain age group. We know about that handy little advisory rectangle on the back of DVDs beside the rating that tells us what content might be offensive to enable us to make an informed decision. A lot of us might even know useless trivia about the UK’s film certification. For example, we know that Four Weddings and a Funeral is said only to be a ‘15’ certificate because of the eleven times Hugh Grant says ‘fuck’ in his first scene of the film. Or more recently that Human Centipede II was banned, forced to recut, resubmitted and then finally required to agree to a massive 32 cuts before the BBFC could let it through with an ‘18’ certificate. Catherine Anderson at the BBFC says, “Surveys show the majority of people want film censorship/classification and find it useful.” She’s right; film certification is all very familiar, it’s generally accepted, and overall appreciated. What if the spotlight is next shone upon books, comics and graphic novels, for example? On the graphic novel front, you have Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore’s iconic
Watchmen graphic novel, whose film counterpart was classed as an ‘18’ certificate because, according to the BBFC’s informative website, there are a number of scenes in the film that “focus on strong detailed violence and it’s gory result.” Yet the graphic novel, too, depicts the same type of violence.
nymphomaniac” or perhaps even “This book may contain triggering material”. That’s not the way that books or comics work. You go into a book with an idea of the basic plot, but no guidance on what it may contain to inform that story. So, based on that alone, who’s to say that books wouldn’t be next in the line of fire?
Perhaps a more studied example, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is classified as an ‘18’ certificate which restricts its sale to any below that age, but what of the Anthony Burgess book it is based upon? The content is the same, yet it suffers no similar scrutiny. Anderson states regarding both of these examples that a possible reason for this is that, “Moving images perhaps have a greater immediacy than still images and certainly more so than the written word.”
Jon Howells, a representative of one of the UKs biggest book retailers, Waterstones, took the time to debate this issue. He stated, “I’m bemused by the concept of a classification system for books,” and went on to say that, “Some publishers put age guidance on their titles to help buyers, but there’s no film type classification system, and I must admit I have never heard anyone ask for one. It would smack of censorship.”
However, others would disagree. Alex Pardee, a Californian artist who worked on the conceptual art for the 2011 Zack Snyder film Suckerpunch, said in an interview with Juxtapoz magazine, “As cliché as it sounds, our imaginations are so powerful that no physical representation of something that we imagine will do it justice.” Almost everyone has seen a film based on a book that they love where the settings, scenes and characters they’d imagined were nothing on the images they’d had in their minds. Why should this be isolated to settings and characters? Surely the violence of the written word can be imagined in much greater detail than a film could ever produce visually, or than actors or CGI artists would ever dare put on a screen. Even if they could produce it, or even if they dared produce it, the BBFC would never let it through - a good example being the recent Human Centipede II film. The cuts that were made are detailed on the BBFC website, but do words rather than images make this any less shocking? It’s disturbing to read, and the consequential imagery put in your head by the words is also unsavoury. But for now, we can’t see the footage; we can’t know if our own thoughts were more graphic and imaginative than the cells of the film itself. Perhaps in future, when we have become even more desensitised to graphic and sexual violence than we have already become in the last forty, they’ll allow a directors cut in the same manner that some films banned in the early 70s have now been passed with no cuts. For example, Last House on the Left was refused a certificate in 1972 but passed uncut in 2008. Continuing on the idea put across by Anderson at the BBFC that moving images have more immediacy than the written word, let me ask you this. Have you ever read a book where you actually wished that there had been that little rectangle that DVDs have on the back stating ‘adult themes’, ‘sexual content’, or even just ‘violence’? Sometimes reading a blurb isn’t enough to let you know the full nature of the content of the book. The blurb won’t say, “Oh, by the way, there’s a lot of adult content in here that you might not be comfortable reading”, or “Don’t read me whilst travelling in case people look over your shoulder and think you’re a
The idea of this seeming like censorship is true enough, but then one could ask: “Isn’t film certification censorship?” People may appreciate the BBFC’s work, but could that not also be because it’s been around for years and we do not know any different? Anderson sticks up for the BBFC, saying, “What types of media should be regulated and how they should be regulated is a matter for government to decide,” but also informs that, “Printed material is not subject to pre-vetting or classification on the BBFC model, [but] it is still subject to the law, including the Obscene Publications Act.” This may cover the publication of a book, but it does not cover who can then buy that book if it is in accordance with the law. Howells states, regarding the prevention of inappropriate sales, that, “Our booksellers know to use their common sense when selling books to children.” But when confronted with the scenario of someone under the age of 13 buying a book like A Clockwork Orange or Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy, he was forced to admit, “There would be nothing to stop [them] from buying it.” He quickly became defensive, stating, “It’s so hypothetical – I’ve never heard of a ten-year-old buying a book like that.” Admittedly, it may be a far stretch, but when you consider the ten-year-old who has just given birth in Columbia, what’s to stop one buying an inappropriate book? Nothing. A parent won’t necessarily read an entire book before determining whether or not it is appropriate for their child either. All it would take is one reported incident where a child was involved in a violent or deranged crime and the content of a book was implicated for the government to reconsider the freedom involved in book-buying. Glenn Romanelli, editor-in-chief of WatchmenComicMovie.com, states quite simply, “I don’t know if the ratings systems really keep kids away from anything. But if films have ratings, I don’t see why comics and books shouldn’t have them as well.” Do you want certification for books? Is it only fair to have ratings on comics or books in the same manner as film certification? Should certification be a guideline rather than a law? Email your opinion to us at 6degreesmagazine@gmail. com with your answers.
WHEN INDIE GOES MAINSTREAM
WORDS: Matthew Tansley
here have always been certain independent films that gain a more mainstream release and get more notice than others. For example, The Artist (2012), went on to win five out of the ten nominations it received at this years Oscars, while Martha Marcy May Marlene (2012), only received a short-lived limited release. Perhaps it is more about timing, strategic marketing and the social issues that are going on at that time, rather than relying on the film just being good. If we take a look at the conventional over-hyped The King’s Speech (2011), which went on to win four out of twelve nominations at that years Oscars, one of the reasons behind the films mainstream success was because of the events that surrounded the film during and after the release. Prior to the release of The King’s Speech , the world received the news that Prince William and Kate Middleton were engaged, and in April that year did so at Westminster. Also in 2011, people were wondering what the Queen had planned for her Diamond jubilee that was coming up the following year. So before, during and after the release of the film, all everyone could talk about was the Royal family, so releasing a film which was about King George VI at that particular time is the likely reason behind the film’s success. Commenting on the social issues surrounding the film, film blogger Regina has said “, I suppose it definitely would have helped that everywhere anyone looked in the media at that time, the royalty was there, so they have more reminders and it’s almost like a brainwash effect”. She says that the film would of still been successful due to it being “a good film”, but agrees that it might not of experienced the same level of success if it hadn’t came out during that time. An example of strategic marketing would be the success of Paranormal Activity, where this unknown, low-budget film became a worldwide hit within one year and lived up to its tag line “don’t watch it alone”. After a successful festival run in 2007, Paramount Pictures decided to pick it up and after a new version of the ending was shot, it got a limited released in thirteen towns across America, with twelve selling out. Shortly after, the director Oren Peli created a website where people could “demand” where the film showed next, the first time a major film studio had used viral marketing. After the counter hit over 1 million requests, it soon got a world wide release and managed to make over $190million (£119million) from a $15,000 (£9,000) budget. However, sometimes this way of strategic marketing doesn’t always work. It didn’t work for the high-budgeted Katherine Dieckmann film Motherhood, which starred Uma Thurman and Minnie Driver. The people behind
Motherhood decided to release the movie in one cinema during its UK première, in the hope it would create a buzz similar to Paranormal Activity. However, on opening night it made £9, with a total of £88 on its opening weekend with only eleven viewers in total and one upon opening night. Overall however, the $10million (£6million) budgeted movie made just over $700,000 (£400,000) in total and it was obvious that an advertising catastrophe had happened, because people didn’t bother telling other people about it. Another film that used strategic marketing to gain a buzz was the 1999 Halloween released cult classic The Blair Witch Project, by directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez. It used the tag line “based on true events” and claimed that the film was real found footage of three student filmmakers who went missing in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. The campaign went one further by producing missing posters with pictures of the students, and made the actors who played themselves in the film sign a contract which ensured they kept quiet to give the film a more real effect. Another film that did this was the less frightening Olatunde Osunsanmi’s The Fourth Kind, staring Mila Jovovich, which claimed it was based on “actual case studies”, and claimed the footage shown during the film was “real”.It also failed to credit some actors in the film and made them sign a silence contract (like Charlotte Milchard, whose information during the release of the film was deliberately hard to find) to ensure the realness of the film was truly felt. This ended up working for the film, as even though it only grossed slightly over $30million (£18million) more than its $10milllion (£6million) budget, it created an internet frenzy, with people desperately trying to find out if it was real or fake. Speaking to Director and Producer Steve Piper from the award winning British independent film production company Coffee Films, he explained that the most obvious example of timing being a key point in a movies success was seasonal movies, because “releasing a film about Christmas in July makes no sense, but equally, releasing a horror film in July also doesn’t make a lot of sense, because people are in sunny holiday happy mode and a dark grisly horror film doesn’t fit that mood”. So it seems appropriate to market a scary film during the Halloween season because you will get a wider audience. Releasing a film during the Halloween period surely worked for films like Paranormal Activity which have became a must-see every Halloween. However, the American horror film Cabin In The Woods was released in April and opened to positive reviews and made over $19 million (£11 million) on its opening weekend, out of its £12 million (£7 million) budget. Though claimed as a “game changer”, the likely reason behind the Easter release was because director Joss Whedon also had his anticipated
film Avengers Assemble coming out a few weeks later. Steve Piper also agrees that social issues can help a film’s success, saying, “especially in a documentary or topical film, you want to get it out there at a relevant time, we have already seen a major Titanic TV Series and a 3D release of the Cameron film”, during the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the ships doomed maiden voyage, which have both been relatively successful. He concluded that “recognising these links and their longevity of interest can tell you a lot about how a film will perform at different times”. In January 2012, we saw the anticipated film The Iron Lady released, and of course people had mixed views of this film as it focused more on the dementia aspect of her life, rather than all of her accomplishments. Upon its release, it was undoubtedly going to create a form of buzz within Parliament, with David Cameron, speaking publicly about the film, saying, “I wish The Iron Lady hadn’t been made yet and focused more on her leadership skills rather than her health”. So it was apparent that this film already had some controversy behind it, which as we know, will make people want to go see the film for themselves. Also in early 2012, we were starting to resolve issues that caused a recession back in 2009, a clash with the EU, and a strain of mass unemployment, which Margaret Thatcher had to deal with herself back in 1980. So along with the film creating a stir within parliament and similar situations that had occurred when Thatcher was in power, it was unsurprising that the film grossed over $107million (£67million) from its $13million (£8million) budget. It would be safe to say that timing is very important with a film’s release, but whether or not social issues going on around the time of release help a films success is a matter of opinion than fact. Talking to independent film enthusiast film advertising marketer Jack, 34, from Norwich said, “I wouldn’t necessarily say that it was vital to the success of a film, but I would definitely go so far as to say that it helps”. He then went on to explain that during the release of Gus Van Sant’s Milk, the issue with Proposition 8 (trying to eliminate rights of samesex couples to marry) was surrounding the media and “perhaps that too, wouldn’t have been as successful it it weren’t tied to something going on in the world at the time that the media was focused on”. Not all films need strategic marketing, or social issues to become a major success, like Justin Kurzel’s 2011 Australian hit Snowtown. Even though it is a matter of opinion, it is hard to deny that a certain film would not of been as successful if it was not for some of the help it had like timing ot strategy issues. As Piper from Coffee Films has stated, “people routinely discount all sorts of things like timings or even the weather which can all have an effect”.
DAVID LYNCH’S WOMEN 30
WORDS: Melanie Battolla
avid Lynch’s whole universe, natural and supernatural, is shrouded in mystery. In his 30 year career, Lynch has been plumbing in the human subconscious and psyche to a level and depth that the world of cinema has never seen before. The director has depicted through the years a reality in which appearance is quite trivial, but actually hides a sometimes horrid, degenerated and rotten core. Lynch’s last film was back in 2006, with the anathema Inland Empire. What followed were a few short films and features on the animated series American Dad!, but in terms of his cinematographic career, the director is certainly on a prolonged hiatus. Instead, Lynch is now fervently involved with his musical career. In late 2011, Lynch released his debut solo album Crazy Clown Time. The album is an exact musical transposition from the visuals of his movies, boasting a collaboration with Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. His musical experience continues even in 2012, starting with remixes for Zola Jesus and Skylar Grey. Certainly, the most important collaboration in terms of musical partnership is with the sensuous and dark Chrysta Bell. This “gipsy siren” – as she describes herself – has collaborated with Lynch for a debut album that took 14 years to be completed. Bell is almost like an experiment for Lynch, which came to its completion and debut with the album This Train. Chrysta recalls the process for the production of the album “He had a vision for every piece before we got there, and he was able to massage whatever it was that I was going through that day into what he envisioned. We eventually developed this kind of telepathic energy”. If you look through the lines you may notice that Lynch has a keen attraction for mysterious women, and this is why he works for and with many of them. Anne Forest , on here “The Secret Life of Lynchien Women”, says; “His own investigation, that of the female spirit, has gone deeper and deeper. To him, women are creatures full of secrets, full of mystery”.
In Blue Velvet for instance, Forest underlines how Dorothy Vallens is “the complete victim, which the true voyeuristic subject by all definitions should be”. The ladies of Lynch’s work are exposed here through the cracked and blurred lenses of the dark director. These women all come from the same mould; they are in essence, all the same. Forest states that “together they all form a beautiful downward spiral, a chain in which each link is a step taking Lynch closer and closer to the core of his subject matter”. David Lynch sees his heroines as ageless femme fatales inspired by film noir, which is evidenced in filmslike the seminal Blue Velvet. These beautiful women are set in a location that is itself a fictitious work of mystery. See Twin Peaks: The main protagonist Agent Dale Cooper, seeing the blossoming and copious amount of beauties, states in an ecstatic moment of awe “in the grand design, women were definitely drawn from a different set of blueprints”. Twin Peaks, a world of secrets and horrors, is the natural landscape for sensual temptresses of all kinds. The complete opposite could be said for another of Lynch’s works, The Straight Story. The movie, which depicts the journey of an old man taken by his tractor, has no mention or showcase of any Eves or poisonous babes. The whole movie centres on an older group of people, and maybe it should be noted that this was a Disney Movie. Could it be that the company didn’t want to stain their reputation with the inclusion of some of the more caustic features of Lynch’s work? Film critic Philip French says that the movie “centres on a real man, but has a moving performance by Sissy Spacek as his slightly handicapped daughter”, the only real main ‘young’ character of this movie. Another sort of “different” approach to women can be seen in The Elephant Man, one of Lynch’s first works, which for film critic Philip French is a work of art in it’s own right. “The Elephant Man is a masterpiece, a great film that captures what is most extraordinary about the Victorian era, and while its hero, Dr. Treves, is of course male, so are its cruellest villains”. The women embody a series of virtues and it is possibly the only time that
women are seen under such a light, where biblical themes and morality create these glistening and pure characters. These women though are doubly gifted. On one hand, they are filled with beauty and mystery, and their head is crowded with dreams. On the other hand, they are doomed to suffer a series of unfortunate events and an uncertain future. In most of Lynch’s work, the women are both temptresses but also victims of a gruesome and grizzly destiny that awaits them. In Lynch’s work the woman plays the role of damsel in distress in the hands of darkness. Being at the same time untouchable and vulnerable makes the viewer perceive the women not as victims, but actually as unfortunate pawns in the game of destiny. These women, symbols of America’s underbelly, are also scarred by another frightening trait. They all seem to be crippled by a sort of madness, which makes these untouchable figures of beauty grittier and for some reason, realistic. See for example Blue Velvet’s Dorothy Vallens/ When surrounded by a disgusting environment, she ends up losing her marbles. Also Laura Palmer, from the series Twin Peaks and the spin off film Fire Walk With Me personifies the rotten reality through her visions and nightmares. These women always seem to be in the wrong side of town. They are babes in the woods that are just in need of a hero and protagonist to come and save them. Most of the time though, that never seems to happen, or at least it is a very rare event. The protagonist of Lynch’s stories is actually a personification of Lynch himself. Lynch is a curious voyeur, and in his work these main characters have the ability to see this fragility slowly destroy these females’ dreams and aspirations. In Blue Velvet, Dorothy according to Lynch “is shy and hates herself. The wigs and makeup and everything were because she wanted to look like a doll – perfect – to hide her madness”. The earth angels that crowd the Lynchian imaginarium seem to be completely subjected by a cruel male authority, are completely helpless in their hands. These women are
tortured, raped and molested. More than once Lynch was accused of misogyny and because of his passion for noir, many pointed out a resemblance to a sort of dated retro sexism. Philip French remembers reviewing Lynch’s debut movie Eraserhead, “it’s about a man’s deep-seated fear of his own sexuality, his hatred of women and the terrors created by the thought of procreation. This seems now a matter of fact. But I feel it has more original element than I then thought. The hatred of women I’d certainly modify”. The thing is, watching one of Lynch’s works you can’t seem to feel empathic for these women, as you would expect if it was any other director’s work. This happens because these females seem to eventually embrace the darkness that first surrounds them and then lurks in their souls. Laura Palmer seems to be completely at ease in the frightening Red Room, sitting on a couch, dressed in a black velvet dress. For Forest, Laura is incredibly calm because for her “life is death. Death is life. Death is peace”. These women become devil women, who are completely at ease with their evil reality, and actually this seems to only accentuate their beautiful and dangerous attire. Their characters therefore have depth and complexity, and are not simply pretty dolls. They are made up as femme fatales, described by Lynch as “perfect works of art”. They reflect a classic beauty that
recalls the divas from the golden age of cinema. Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks just seems to have slipped out of a pin-up magazine. Like the Hitchcock blondes, the Lynchian women are part of the same category of temptresses. Their makeup and clothing is always flawless, nothing too flashy and over the top, but at the base of this apparent calmness, there is a certain instinctiveness that guides their actions and life. However, Mulholland Drive is a different kind of movie. In this film, there no sign of any search of male sexual domination, as can be seen in most of Lynch’s work; an example being Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield in Lost Highway, who, Hunt claims “has been brought to life to be a mystery, to symbolize the unfathomable in all women”. There is in fact a Sapphic relationship between Diane Selwyn and Camilla, making them appear more like two evil and dark Succubi that lust over each other. But in the tragic ending of the movie, the trait that characterises most of Lynch’s women, the dreaminess, is the cause of the ultimate distress for both of the females, one of which – Diane - decides to end her life abruptly. This intimate relation is for French one of the best depictions of females by Lynch, making this double act the critic’s favourite Lynchian women.
Finally, we get to Chrysta Bell, the personification of a 21st Century Lynchian female. Bold features and a curvaceous figure make Bell a perfect temptress, luring in her velvet reign all types of men with her siren voice. Lynch says “Chrysta Bell looks like a dream and sings like a dream. And the dreams is coming true”.Her lyrics are dark and touch themes of death, emptiness and lonelines. It is almost as if her album This Train is a transcription of Laura Palmer’s secret diary. These women are all bound, in life and death, in a ring of death and darkness. Lynch has created a circle of witches which is bound to attract and lure in viewers for many years to come. Hunt finally adds “Lynch wants to look at a woman and minutely study her. The theme and driving force in all his movies is obsession, in every aspect and impulse”. These women are the core of his whole work. French sums up “I’ve come to see that Lynch is no misogynist but an artist who understands the resilience of women who in his work combat the hysteria and fatalism induced in Kafka’s heroes who inhabit a similarly nightmare world”. These women are mostly bound to a tragic destiny, but none of them fear it.
“Together these women form a beautiful downward spiral, a chain in which each link is a step taking Lynch closer and closer to the core of his subject matter."
AVERTING WISH FULFILLMENT WORDS: Alex Cull
2012, the very mention of this most ominously anticipated year brings to mind countless connotations of apocalyptic terror; from oceans rising and nuclear war, out into the cosmos and the possibility of an extraterrestrial impact. These scenarios have been common subject matter for video games over the years. What could be more exhilarating than facing up to one’s maker and coming out of it alive, and what’s more, having saved the world? Not a lot, it’s one of the most potent iterations of wish fulfillment. Video games not only have the ability to make our innermost desires or nightmares a (virtual) reality,
Space Invaders – Taito – 1978 – Arcade
It doesn’t get much simpler than this, it doesn’t get much more effective either, though. A widespread phenomenon on its introduction to arcades in 1978, Space Invaders has gone on to become a fundamental part of the gaming lexicon; these days it’s a byword for the amusement offered by coin-guzzling, oversized arcade machines the world over. And with good reason too. It’s a simple enough premise – as alien spacecraft slowly descend towards Earth, you are charged with shooting skyward and destroying the crafty mares – but it works to stunning effect. If only our world was as two-dimensional as it is presented here then we could count on a legion of arcaderavaged gamers protecting the skies with aplomb.
Bank Panic – Sanritsu Denkei – 1984 – Arcade
Human nature; it’s a funny thing. In our day-to-day lives, we happily go to our jobs, return home, eat, sleep, arise the following day and begin our accustomed routine all over again. Introduce a little chaos or disorder however and it’s amazing how quickly things turn ugly. Bank Panic is the ultimate preparation for this. Released in the mid1980s, it perfectly satires the greed and egocentric nature of the time and its abundant yuppie culture; acting almost like a video game equivalent of the 1987 film Wall Street. In the game, your role is that of an ordinary bank clerk who must protect his business from crooks and criminals who appear through one of three doors, while avoiding innocent civilians. Perfect training then, for guarding your home from the many marauders, hoarders and looters that an apocalyptic event would surely throw up.
but they can also be great enlighteners; teaching us important lessons to apply to the real world - gospels of teamwork, consideration for the environment and the functioning of our social fabric. Here then, are twelve instances of games that offer essential morals and advice to turn to should the most grave of circumstances become reality, along with simply being great fun to play – twelve games to learn from, to swear by and to wield in the face of encroaching adversity.
Midwinter – Maelstrom – 1989 – Amiga, Atari
1989 was a hugely important year in the history of the 20th century; it heralded widespread political unrest and saw numerous revolutions across Soviet-controlled Europe, the fall of the Berlin wall, and the Tiananmen Square protests. It’s amazing then that Midwinter, released that same year, was able to look beyond the present and be so rooted in the future. It’s not, however, surprising. Hugely influenced by the Cold War in which it was born, Midwinter is a game marked by its time. It presents a daring and unique take on a world plunged into impact winter by a meteorite crashing into Earth. You, as the game’s protagonist, are tasked with reuniting the disparate factions of mankind to fight for a greater good. While it foreshadows the later popularity of eco-disaster movies, it should be enjoyed as it is; a game who’s impressive scope is only matched by its enlightened social commentary.
Pilotwings – Nintendo – 1990 – SNES
Right now, you may be asking yourself what a simple flight simulator, released by Nintendo as a launch title for their nascent SNES in 1990, is doing in a list such as this, concerned with far more serious circumstances. Well, you’re missing the point entirely. Utilising the SNES’ now dated, but revolutionary at the time, Mode 7 graphics system, Pilotwings did something that very few flight simulators have done before or since: made it fun. Only adding to this was the fact a number of modes and choices of vehicle were available; from light planes and helicopters to skydiving and even a rocket-powered jet pack. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator series may have the technical edge, but for sheer enjoyment, variety and adrenaline, Nintendo’s offering and its subsequent sequels soar just that little bit higher.
Ecco the Dolphin – Novotrade – 1992 – Megadrive
If global warming is truly destined to cause unprecedented sea level rises and levees to break worldwide, there can be no better preparatory experience than Ecco the Dolphin. A complex, challenging and beautiful platformer released for the Sega Megadrive during the genre’s golden years – the early 1990s. As the game’s titular character, you must not only swim, but also think your way to freedom, navigating complex mazes and solving dexterous puzzles, all the while keeping a close eye on your oxygen levels. Masking Ecco’s rather harsh difficulty were astounding, colourful backdrops and wonderfully ambient music. If anything’s going to make a life aquatic a more tolerable idea, it’s this charmingly serene gem of platform design.
Fallout – Black Isle – 1997 – PC, Mac
A popular concern that comes into play whenever a dystopian future is posited is that of resource management. From 1984 to The Book of Eli, the idea of who should control what and the power inherent to this is an area rife for discussion and debate. Fallout, set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland following countless wars over oil and uranium, opens up the dialogue for what is arguably the most precious resource of all, drinking water. wwIn essence Fallout is an RPG; your character is charged with finding the equipment necessary to supply his colony with clean water and must explore a vast, barren and dangerous world to do so. From irradiated mutants to nuclear war, it’s brimming with quasi-scientific fear mongering but beneath this B-movie veneer is a game with a real moral to relay.
“Twelve games to learn from, to swear by and to wield in the face of encroaching adversity.”
7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – Nintendo – 2000 – N64
9. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker – Nintendo – 2003 – Gamecube
Nintendo and innovation have always been two fairly closely associated terms when it comes to gaming; so much so, in fact, that the term ‘ninnovation’ has actually cropped up here and there. Majora’s Mask is the perfect precedent for this. One of the darkest points in the company’s revered Zelda series, it sees you battling against time, and even travelling through it, to prevent the Moon colliding with the Earth. It’s a claustrophobic and nerve-rattling experience; you must traverse a wide and mysterious land called Termina, unraveling its secrets and defeating countless, impressive foes, under the everimposing gaze of an encroaching moon. Simply for that tenseness as you note said moon growing larger and larger in the sky as it approaches, it’s obligatory psychological preparation should we face an extraterrestrial impact in 2012.
It’s testament to the importance of the Legend of Zelda series that it features twice in this list. With its 2003 iteration The Wind Waker, the franchise hit new heights in terms of the sheer scope of its adventuring. It also offers some damn interesting social commentary. It tells the tale of how the Zelda games’ native land of Hyrule was sealed away and swallowed by a great sea to protect it – and its powerful treasures – from evil intentions. Considering it was released at a time when global warming furore was all the hype and many were concerned over the issue of rising sea levels, the parallels are striking. But, to only be intrigued by The Wind Waker for its social discourse is to miss its point entirely. There is no more liberating feeling in gaming than the first time you set sail on its vast oceans, exploring numerous islands and unearthing long lost secrets and folklore. Along the way, you’ll meet an endearing and fascinating cast of characters, all gloriously cel-shaded to almost Disney-esque levels of animation. A high water mark – quite literally in this instance – in a series ripe with them.
How appropriate that this list finds its penultimate entry exactly where it started: in space. Sins of a Solar Empire, though, is in a completely different realm to Space Invaders, 30 years before it. Where we were once firing blindly into the night sky, attempting to take down as many extraterrestrial marauders as possible, here we are learning to fight and barter with them on their own ground in an impressive space-strategy game. Sins marks the ascension of mankind from the victims of invasion to the perpetrators of it and it’s a fascinating proposition. Not only are there huge space battles that place you at the helms of an impressive fleet to behold, but there’s also a huge universe to explore – and conquer – and intergalactic politics to pursue. Should our planet come to an untimely end in 2012, we’d better be praying there are other worlds out there like those established in Sins.
Resident Evil – Capcom – 2002 – Gamecube
On its initial release in 1996, Resident Evil almost singlehandedly invented the survival horror genre. ‘Survival’ being the operative word here. Its 2002 remake, however, was where it mastered it. You find yourself placed in an eerie mansion with more frights, zombies and social commentary than a vintage George Romero flick, and it’s your job to escape it. On the way to achieving this goal, you must decipher countless puzzles, juggle limited supplies and become a sharp shot with your weapon of choice; after all, every bullet counts here. It’s a refined and realistic experience, save for some god-awful voice acting, and there are plenty of lessons to be learned here to help you think on your feet. Particularly useful if ‘survival horror’ was to become ‘survival reality’ - it’s an invaluable doctrine in our post-millennial society.
Civilization IV – Firaxis – 2005 – PC
There’s an oft-quoted phrase in popular culture that only cockroaches would survive a nuclear holocaust. Well, should a small group of hardened humans stumble out of the debris of this, or any other similar disaster, look no further than Civilization IV for a guide to rebuilding society. The highest masterstroke in a series comprised of them, Civilization IV dared to introduce the idea of culture to its simulations, allowing you to understand the way in which societies develop and rule beyond simple war, settlement and technological advance. Developing your own civilisation from scratch and guiding it into outer space is a hugely rewarding experience, and you might just learn something handy too.
Sins of a Solar Empire – Ironclad – 2008 – PC
I Am Alive – Ubisoft – 2012 – PS3/Xbox 360
There’s a reason why The Omega Man retains a great deal of cultural importance to this day; Boris Sagal’s 1971 film (based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson) tells a tale of mankind’s self-imposed destruction and the post-apocalyptic society that springs forth in its wake. The underlying fact that we’ve done this to ourselves, sparks in the viewer feelings of unease, remorse and, above all, terror. I Am Alive - a survival horror game that took developers Darkworks and Ubisoft almost four years to develop – has a similar message to relay. It follows Adam, a survivor following a worldwide cataclysm, as he tries to reunite his family. In the process he must fight off survivors and mutants alike, collect resources such as food, water, petrol and medicine, and explore a dilapidated city landscape, exploiting it to his benefit. As an engrossing and informative experience, I Am Alive might just live up to its title; it’s a pure survival skills 101.
ALBUM REVIEWS Blood Red Shoes - In Time To Voices At a time when guitar music no longer seems to take centre stage in our musical climate, conditions really couldn’t be better for a new Blood Red Shoes record. The Brightonbased duo – comprised of Laura Mary Carter and Steven Ansell – have so far released two excellent albums, and their third effort In Time to Voices is further evidence of their ability to build on these impressive foundations.
WORDS: Tom Willmott
In contrast to their previous two full-lengths though, they have left behind what was a dense, lo-fi sound and opted instead for a slicker, ‘bigger’ production. This is most evident on In Time’s opening, eponymous track; which, from an organic two-minute build up, plunges into Sonic Youth-esque territory. Following on from this, ‘Lost Kids’ and most recent single ‘Cold’, showcase the duo’s skill in trading off their vocals – one of the distinctive features of their output to date.
Another notable aspect of In Time is the degree of experimentation in the recording process – something the band has not indulged in before; the atmospheric tones of ‘The Silence and the Drones’ and the folk-oriented ‘Night Light’ being particular examples of this. Nor have they forsaken their noise pop credentials, as can be heard in ‘Je Me Perds’, a 90-second blast of ear-shattering vocals and guitar, akin to Dinosaur Jr. Meanwhile, ‘Down Here in the Dark’, perfects the quiet-loud formula of Pixies, all the while retaining a clearly pop structure. Blood Red Shoes have really found their feet on In Time to Voices, marking the high point of their discography so far. It’s a triumph for them to nail their own unique sound and not be bracketed with other grunge-worshipping acts that remain stuck in the 90s. May other bands of their ilk be warned, you face tough competition here.
Gossip - A Joyful Noise On A Joyful Noise – the fifth album from dance-punk trio Gossip – the US band, who made their name with 2007 single ‘Standing in the Way of Control’, have teamed up with Xenomania founder Brian Higgins. Higgins’ famous back catalogue contains production work with pop acts including Sugababes and Girls Aloud, and songwriting credits with Cher. He’s a man who certainly has extensive pop and dance credentials – something that constantly makes its presence felt on A Joyful Noise. It’s certainly well produced – almost immaculately so – and sounds far more polished than anything they’ve released to date. With such clean production values though, there’s a sense of the loss for the raw authenticity that had once made Gossip exciting. There’s also something immediately a little too safe with A Joyful Noise; it’s almost as though the band decided to venture further into pop, but in doing
so have managed to leave behind the dancier tracks that heralded so much of the initial excitement around the group. It’s a challenge in itself to pick a stand out song from the eleven on A Joyful Noise; their presence is fleeting and unmemorable. Gossip have stuck to their well-tested formula for songwriting, but without heavier, more dance orientated tracks, the album as a whole almost blends into a singular 44-minute mush; a grey, amorphous blob, if you will. As a middle-of-the-road pop album, there’s nothing severely wrong with A Joyful Noise; when compared to their prior output though, it all feels a little flat. It’s a rather bland offering from a band that has the potential for so much more.
WORDS: Kelly Jones
Breton - Other People’s Problems Every once in a while a record comes along which perfectly encapsulates the spirit of London at a certain time. Bloc Party managed it in 2005 with the reverb-drenched sparkle of Silent Alarm, while Burial achieved a similar feat two years later with the hauntingly lonely Untrue. A brief glance at the cover art for Other People’s Problems - the debut album from South-London electronic-indie group Breton - reveals similar intentions. It depicts the sort of Heygate-esque housing estate synonymous with urban deprivation and gangland violence in the nation’s capital, but posits the image in such a way as to bring out its sense of foreboding and mourning in equal measure. The fact they’ve chosen to name themselves after one of the big daddies of Surrealism only adds to any implications of profundity.
WORDS: Alex Cull
Other People’s Problems consistently reinvests in these themes of inner-city fear and isolation. Much like Burial before them, they ply their trade in a great deal of recycled electronic textures, rehashing countless clanks and bleeps
as a reflection of all that’s left in the wake of our push for constant industrialisation – see the aforementioned Heygate Estate for one such example. Let’s get one thing straight though – in terms of its use of sampling, this is far from Varèse; hell, its pretty far removed from Burial. Breton – as can be seen on the sample-heavy but melodically conscious ‘Edward the Confessor’ and ‘Wood and Plastic’ – utilise these found sounds as accentuate features rather than full-blown centrepieces. Skewed guitars and meditative synths still very much rule the roost here, and make for a record that’s far more Foals than Foucault. Through its thinly-veiled premises of the loneliness and imposing nature of urban life, Other People’s Problems (note the fairly removed title), ultimately falls short of being truly representative of London. Granted, the city is still badly scarred from last year’s riots but there’s a damn sight more hope in the air than Breton would have you believe.
Actress – R.I.P.
he abstract expressionism of Darren Cunningham is what ostensibly separates him from other music producers of his ilk; he is an individualistic auteur operating outside the autonomy of a circumscribed genre or scene, oscillating between sounds and styles across the entire electronic spectrum. In the past few years he’s released everything from slo-mo hip-hop (Gershwin) and glitchy techno (Rainy Dub) to his psychedelic Shangaan Electro transmissions. The minute the parameters are set and defined, they are unceremoniously tossed aside when the next 12” hits the racks.
WORDS: Harley Sherman
It’s this cerebral quality that sets Actress apart from the cattle market of cookie-cutter electronic producers. The explosion of dubstep has been met by sharp decline in overall standards, and an equally quick rise in the knuckleheads latching onto the bandwagon and creating substandard imitations of the likes of Burial, Mala, Skream etc. While Actress may be indirectly associated with dubstep, it is the very dissolving of genre identification that has seen him spearheading electronic music’s postmodern canon, one that has no definitive boundaries. Like any album worth its salt, an Actress LP requires the listener to give the ideas and concepts space to settle in their minds; there is a thick, murky surface water that one must navigate before the beating heart is discovered and let loose. That being said, upon initial listening R.I.P has a rather hollow, sparse aesthetic compared to the pulsing meta-techno that he made a name for himself with. The beatless dissonance of album opener ‘RIP’ is an unnerving beginning, and deviates from the one constant
in Cunningham’s music, that pounding four to the floor beat. The thirst for a rhythmic pulse is sated by the arrival of ‘Marble Plexus’, a shuffling, cagey number that spits venomous pellets of white noise, before settling back down again with the majestic utopia of ‘Uriel’s Black Harp’. Things don’t get any calmer with ‘Jardin’. Cunningham tries his hand at modern classical, utilising a sparse, meandering piano and bursts of static that deftly undercuts the sharp intensity of the rest of the album. The forays into ambience and noise are works of art on their own, but also serve another purpose by accentuating the off-kilter techno that we all love him for, which provide the highlights for the remainder of the album. The crowning moment is undeniably ‘Shadow From Tartarus’, a grinding, macabre slice of dystopian paranoia, with sounds submerged in a knackered ocean silo that imprisons any trace of humanity left. With the complex conceptual framework that Cunningham has placed this effort within, it is perhaps presumptuous to make steadfast opinions of R.I.P, such is the density and intellectual grandeur of the LP. Even at eight or nine listens it feels like the surface has barely been scratched. But gut instinct occasionally prevails, and this feels like a magnum opus for Actress, and one that has raised the bar inexorably high for the wannabes and pretenders. Sometimes it is better to aim for the jugular and simply say that this is the best album of the year, and the world is highly unlikely to find a worthy contender to challenge for the crown. It is a delightfully jarring and incongruous listen, yet all the better for it.
Battles – Dross Glop
emix albums are almost always tricky business. When done right, they can be welcome reinterpretations, breathing fresh life into beloved musical moments by reconstructing them from the ground up. In the wrong hands though, they run the risk of leaving fans feeling violated and bands embarrassed. It’s a tough tightrope to walk at the best of times. With its stellar cast of contributors ranging from modern dub granddaddy Kode9 to much hyped US hip-hop collective Shabazz Palaces, the high level of expectation surrounding Dross Glop – a collection of remixes of Battles’ 2011 album Gloss Drop – is understandable. Sadly, on many levels it fails to deliver. ‘Ice Cream’ is given a total makeover by Brian DeGraw (of New York experimental trio Gang Gang Dance) to the point that it bears little similarity to its source material. Gone are its chiming, churning guitars and feel-good party vibes, and in their place is an army of tribal rhythms and squeaky synths. The only lasting imprint from the original track is its skewed vocal line, which is only fleetingly present itself. It poses the question: at what point does a remix become so far removed from the song it interprets that it becomes a pointless venture, a creation of its own accord that doesn’t warrant its association to the original? Battles are, after all, still the focal point of this collection, and should be the backbone that holds it all together. This lack of a uniting identity punctuates Dross Glop as a whole. Shabazz Palaces’ take on ‘White Electric’ demonstrates the level of creative freedom they were
given, utilising one element of the track – in this case, the guitar line – and taking it somewhere entirely new, leaving their mark with some interesting experimental rap verses. It’s certainly one of the album’s more inspiring moments, but again it feels out of place. Kode9’s future house recreation of ‘Africastle’ and The Alchemist’s foreboding, sinister take on ‘Futura’ also warrant high praise for expanding the dimensions of their respective originals. These higher points are marred by the collection’s weaker moments though. The Field’s uninspired minimal techno version of ‘Sweetie & Shag’ bears little resemblance to the chugging guitars and seductive, breathy vocals of the original, and has barely an ounce of its attitude. Kangding Ray’s reimagining of ‘Toddler’ is equally disappointing. Granted it did have sparse subject matter to start with – the Gloss Drop version was comprised of a single guitar line – it feels bloated and unnecessary, a drawn out and tiresome dubstep jam inserted to fill out the album’s tracklisting. It’s perhaps unfair to expect too much of a sense of consistency from a remix project such as Dross Glop, particularly given the wide variety of contributors involved. We all relate to music and find inspiration from it in different ways, and that inherent subjectivity is abundant here; each artist has warped and skewed their respective track into a sculpture of their very own. It’s a collection that certainly warrants a passing interest, but look for anything more substantial and you may well be left disappointed – especially if the originals were close to your heart.
WORDS: Natasha Emmerson
LIVE REVIEWS Bombay Bicycle Club, Alexandra Palace, 28/04/12 WORDS: Ed Hewison
Bombay Bicycle Club’s eclectic live presence swiftly courses between the folky acoustics of sophomore album Flaws through to synth-led encore ‘Shuffle’ – taken from their most recent outing A Different Kind of Fix. Tonight’s show at Alexandra Palace was the second of two successive London dates and demonstrated a swift change in approach. Gone are the acoustic guitars favoured on the aforementioned Flaws; replaced largely by their electronic counterparts, a decision made in tandem with the group’s most recent releases. All in all, not a bad move seeing as these twenty year-olds are too young to be rooted to their bar stools for acoustic sets.
Steadman and MacColl to share grin as if saying to each other, “they love us, they really love us!”
The most striking aspect of the performance was the jagged, uncompromised movement and dancing displayed by frontman Jack Steadman. At one moment, he’s tentatively hunched over to caw into his mic, the next thrashing away at his guitar strings. Although not a natural showman, it is easy to appreciate the lack of pretence in his stage persona. It’s a virtue echoed by his surrounding band mates – particularly Jamie MacColl who looked astoundingly calm, laughing and smiling throughout. Regular guest of the group Lucy Rose had a sweetening female influence on the once Bombay ‘boys only’ Club; she seemed adorably limited in what she felt she had licence to do. When drafted to the front of the stage for the relaxed ‘Leave It’, she appeared to shun the spotlight, desperate to keep attention on Steadman’s quirky presence. Lighters were out, and the audience were reduced to near-silence by the Steadman’s distinctive falsetto mingling with Rose’s harmony atop a series of drawn-out, peaceful chords. The effect was like a mild sedative on the otherwise energetic audience.
Bombay Bicycle Club show all the traits of a great live band not yet fully realised; they have the energy, the talent and the eccentric charm, but there’s still a way to go to fully hone their live set. However untamed they may be though, they’re clearly having a blast and learning a little more about themselves each time.
While the set certainly had its weaker moments – take, for example, the gimmicky drum solo mid way through ‘Ivy and Gold’ or the overused throw-all-the-ingredients-into-thepot climaxes. These song endings are uncharacteristic of most indie bands, but the allinstruments-in approach taken on tracks such as ‘Evening/Morning’ wound up sounding closer to poorly executed post-rock.
Shortly after, the thundering opening bass guitar of epically proportioned single ‘Always Like This’ peaked the night. Even though they must have played this song innumerable times, it didn’t seem any less poignant for band or crowd – who rejoiced at the bouncing bass lines and cries of “I’m not whole.” At the end of the show, a girl’s bra – scrawled presumably with her name and mobile number – was thrown onstage, prompting
Sarah Gillespie, The Vortex, 26/4/12 Words: Tina Edwards
“You’ve been misinformed,” sung Anglo-American singersongwriter Gillespie, in her first track of the night, ‘In the Current Climate’ – her somewhat dampened recordings perhaps not preparing some of the audience for her fierce performances and active thirst for political change. While Gillespie’s vocals soared – with backing at times from young Emma Divine – her stage presence was demanding to say the least. Joined by renowned multi-instrumentalist Gilad Atzmon, it appeared at times like watching a battle. Titillating banter between Gillespie and Atzmon inbetween (and even during) songs made for an entertaining show. With virtuoso Atzemon having produced Gillespie’s latest album, it certainly appeared as though they were sharing the glory at times. Atzmon’s fast fingers upon the soprano sax on ‘How the West Was Won’ – written about a seemingly innocent man in Guantanamo – allowed for him to share the limelight with drummer Enzo Zirilli. With a tantalising drum solo (by hand), he later impressed with
his creativity, stiffly grating a stick over the crash for an unsettling, dissonant squeal. ‘The War on Trevor’, a 15-minute suite inspired by Variations on a Theme by Joseph Hadyn, ensured that all eyes were on Gillespie once again. “Your love was like digesting dynamite” she sung, with a combination of American twang and London drawl. The second half of the show delivered ‘A Million Moons’ – an ‘anti-love song’ according to Gillespie – to a loud cheer from some of her female followers. Favourites such as ‘Cinematic Nectar’ and ‘Lucifer High Chair’ were welcomed with warm rapport, while Gillespie’s cover of Count Basie’s ‘Nobody Knows you When You’re Down and Out’ showed that sensuality has not been lost in modern blues. Despite Gillespie’s wide vocal range and lyrical power having shone bright, she best be prepared for her fellow band members to steal her spotlight.
Film Review: Monsieur Lazhar
Film Review: Silent House
Director: Philippe Flaradeau Starring: Mohamed Fellag, Sophie Neilisse, Emilien Neron.
Director: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau. Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens.
Monsieur Lazhar follows an Algerian immigrant – hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom – as he attempts to help his newly inherited students deal with their grief, all the while slowly coming to terms a recent loss of his own. Unsurprisingly – given its nominations at this year’s Academy Awards – it manages to be simultaneously moving, smart and sensitive. In spite of its independent credentials, it does feel like a softened remake of a raw, more compelling story, however. All in all though, it stands out as a timely examination of violence in modern society, set through the eyes of those who can’t control it.
Chris Kentis and Laura Lau – the directorial team behind 2003’s Open Water – are back with Silent House; a horror/thriller, which takes the audience on a tension-filled, real-time journey experienced in one uninterrupted shot. Like REC (and its US remake Quarantine) before it, it’s a Latino chiller given an American makeover. This Hollywood re-jig though, manages to lose whatever claim to individuality the original held and – despite a powerful enough context behind it – disappoints greatly. It’s hard not to feel that, here at least, Kentis and Lau have wasted leading actress Elizabeth Olsen’s gift for well-rounded roles in psychological thrillers.
WORDS: Matthew Tansley
Film Review: Avengers Assemble WORDS: Sammi Cartwright
ust what is Marvel’s Avengers Assemble? Well, it’s a pun-filled script with more pop culture references than you can shake a stick at, an ensemble cast bound to send fans swooning in all directions, and an epic 3D war between our favourite Marvel superheroes and Thor’s adopted brother, the ill-begotten and misguided Loki. Starting with the activation of the Tesseract – an energy source of unknown potential – and Loki’s consequent theft of it from beneath S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury’s nose, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble takes you on a journey from desperation to hope, calling upon Earth’s (and Asgard’s) mightiest heroes to save the day. It sounds all hunky-dory, wrapped up and straightforward, but the reactivation of Fury’s Avengers Initiative is far from a walk in the park. Clashing personalities, egos the size of planets, and varying superpowers makes for very a very volatile team; “We’re not a team. We’re a time bomb,” says Dr. Bruce Banner – A.K.A The Hulk – during one of many spats the team experiences. The film takes its time setting up the final showdown – the destruction of a large percentage of Manhattan – exploring the
explosive relationships between the superheroes. This sees Iron Man and Thor in a battle of super-strength that only ends at Captain America’s interruption; and Thor – as Loki’s brother – trying to defend his actions, forcing Black Widow to remind him that Loki’s killed eighty people in two days. Thor responds comically; “…he’s adopted.” There are many more wars of wit once aboard the Helicarrier before the Avengers are finally united by the death of a mutual acquaintance, and forced to come together to stop Loki. The comedy in Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is bound to be what people continue to talk about as they leave the cinema in detailed discussions of the best bits. A few favourites include The Hulk’s perfectly-timed impromptu punching off-screen of Thor, and Iron Man’s flattery of Bruce Banner; “I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.” For anyone put off by the five ‘pre-movies’ (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger), it’s possible to watch Marvel’s Avengers Assemble without having seen them. It’s helpful, but not a necessity; there’s enough back-story revealed
in the duration of the film to enjoy it without any prior introduction to the franchise. Joss Whedon is the director, writer and mastermind behind the inexplicably large helm of this ensemble cast film. It features the return of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston as Thor and Loki respectively, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/ Hawkeye, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Joining the cast for his first time playing Bruce Banner/The Hulk is Mark Ruffalo. Before this review turns sycophantic, let’s sum up. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble has something for everyone to enjoy. There’s action for families and big kids, comedy for every age, Scarlett Johansson in a ridiculously tight outfit for the men, and enough male eye candy for any woman to leave the cinema a little flustered. Assemble!
Game Review: Trials Evolution
Game Review: Mortal Kombat
Format: Xbox 360 Developer: Microsoft Genre: Driving Release: April 18th PEGI: 12+
Format: PS Vita Developer: NetherRealm Studios Genre: Action Release: May 4th PEGI: 18+
For a newbie to the motorcycle world, Trials Evolution is no easy ride. With inconceivably hard tracks to follow and shards of metal waiting to smash your player in the face at every turn, you may well struggle to complete a full race on the first few attempts. Keep at it though and – of course – it’s just like riding a bike; once you learn you never forget and once you get hooked you never get off.
Marvelously macabre with a bloody array of fight styles and character speciality moves, Mortal Kombat returns and once again you’ll struggle to put it down. Throw in a revamped control system and a robust, in-depth story mode and you can’t help but be impressed with this reboot of NetherRealm’s seemingly immortal franchise.
WORDS: Hannah Whyte
Game Review: Street Fighter X Tekken Developer: Capcom Format: Xbox 360/PS3 Release Date: March 9 (maybe put ‘out now’ instead) Genre: Fighting PEGI: 12+
Two battle-hardened warriors step into an arena. In one corner is Street Fighter, Capcom’s tough-as-nails brawler, one of the best-selling game franchises of all time and celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012. Opposing it is Tekken – Namco’s younger, darker, more fluidly styled series – lauded by gamers and real-life fighters alike for its realistic appraisal of the martial arts. With Street Fighter X Tekken, the two most established daddies of the combat world cross swords in a hyperactive, over-the-top thrill ride; the question is, however, will either escape with their dignity intact?
And what an enticing package it is. You begin the game with an overwhelming selection of 38 different fighters to choose from, and with 12 more downloadable characters available in the near future and a further 5 exclusive-toPS3 combatants on offer too, there’s little chance you’ll be running out of brawling options anytime soon.
The arcade mode’s re-playability is hampered though by ungodly loading times and a distinct lack of unlockables. As mentioned earlier, all the available combatants are either offered to you from the beginning or can be downloaded. So, where is the sense of reward for all the blood, sweat and tears spilled across numerous ruckuses? Truthfully, it’s sadly fleeting. While it may be unfair to expect a masterpiece of storytelling to keep you involved – let’s face it, in most fighting games a plotline is just a thinlyveiled vehicle to accommodate the brawling – it would, at least, be nice to have something more gripping than what is on offer here. It’s as if the mere thrill of humiliating your opponent on the battlefield should be enough to sustain your interest. And there aren’t any better proving grounds for this than in versus mode. After all, what could be more satisfying than pounding a friend to within an inch of their life through a few placed combos and Hadoukens - in the game, that is…
There’s also not much of a likelihood you’ll get tired of seeing all the fighting either. Every bulging bicep and bloody recoil is gloriously animated in a distinctly celshaded manner, adding a cartoonish joy to the ultraviolence engulfing your screen. The backgrounds are just as lovingly crafted. Whether you’re battling in a skate park covered in neon-tinted graffiti or under the bright lights of a Japanese carnival, every feature is eye catching to the extreme. The attention to detail is also staggering and there’s even room for cameos in stages from the many minor characters of either series – keep an eye out for Tekken 2’s infamous fighting dinosaur Alex in the backdrop of the Dino Crisis-themed stage. Combine this with a soundtrack that’s equal parts head-banging metal and pumping, lucid techno, and you’ve got, potentially, one of the most absorbing, sugar-fuelled fighting games of all time.
The bread and butter of any good fighting game is found in its multiplayer mode, and it’s ultimately where a lot of its replay value can be extracted from. This is of particular importance in a title such as SFXT where there’s a distinct lack of unlockables to extend the lifespan of the single player experience. The problem here though is that the game’s multiplayer options are marred by a notable absence of variety; it’s likely to offer a few hours of passing entertainment with a group of friends, but ask for any more and you’re likely to be left disappointed. The limited set of options - which barely pan out beyond simple tag team fights - mean things quickly become repetitive and unsatisfying. Re-playability is slightly improved by a wide selection of characters for each combatant to choose from, but again this can only eek out a bit more enjoyment, and is not enough to redeem how underwhelming it all feels.
However, there’s nothing more integral to the make-up of a good fighting sim than its actual gameplay. So, with this in mind, how does SFXT handle once you’ve delved beneath its blaring soundtrack and dazzling visual design? Well, sadly, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
Within a few hours of playing SFXT, it quickly becomes obvious how shallow of an experience it is. A great deal of priority has clearly been placed on the game’s visuals – which are exemplary – but in many other areas, it’s far from fleshed out. The huge character roster isn’t enough to distract from an uncomfortable and clunky control system, particularly when using the Tekken fighters. The storyline – while somewhat excusable for a fighting game – fails to compare to the more subversive experiences available in other recent brawlers (see the astounding Dead or Alive: Dimensions for 3DS). It ultimately feels far more rooted in style than in substance, and when you’ve got two such respected and established franchises involved, this just isn’t good enough.
t was certainly a ballsy move on the part of both Capcom and Namco to allow two of their most prized possessions to meet in such a way. Surely pitting two distinct franchises in direct competition will showcase the weak points of one against the other. It’s a decision of mutual admiration and respect though; first comes Street Fighter X Tekken, designed by Capcom in the 2D style of the former, while sometime in the near future, Namco will take the reigns of Tekken X Street Fighter, using the engine they developed for Tekken 6 in 2009. But, it’s the Capcom iteration that we’re dealing with for the time being…
On first inspection, the controls for most fighting games are likely to feel alien and unfamiliar – these are, after all, complex combat sims that take a good while to fully understand – and SFXT is no exception. It’s also an uneasy sensation feeling Tekken characters adapted to the Street Fighter way of doing things; they suddenly feel far clunkier and less realistic than they do in their native franchise. Fortunately, the game’s arcade mode offers a variety of difficulties, from the inherently simple ‘easiest’ level through to the brutal ‘ultra hard’; so, there’s something for everyone here.
WORDS: Alex Cull
NEW BA Hons & MASTERS’ COURSES AT UCA EPSOM 2012/2013 When it comes to studying, Epsom offers a range of courses centred on the cutting-edge world of fashion, graphics and new media at undergraduate and postgraduate level. We have introductory courses in art and design together with specialist qualifications in fashion, music and lifestyle journalism, digital new media and graphic communication, our academic courses are kept relevant and up-to-date through strong connections with industry. Our links with employers - ranging from small, niche players to large and wellestablished multinationals - add real value, giving our students access to influential individuals, to the challenge of live projects and to London-based work placements. At Epsom, you will find would-be fashion stylists working alongside budding graphic illustrators, menswear designers and web developers. Students really flourish in this melting pot of talent and, over the years, have regularly scooped major national awards, including Graduate Fashion Week, D&AD and RSA Design Direction prizes. Some key facts: • Home to a multi-million pound Library & Learning Resource Centre • Campus bar and café hosts regular events and themed nights • Student halls of residence are on campus, which is based close to the town centre • Epsom is only 17 miles from London by car and only a 30 minutes train journey
Specialist resources and support We encourage originality and innovation and give students the freedom to challenge convention and break boundaries with flare and panache. On-campus resources include a multimillion pound library and learning centre stocked with relevant, specialist materials and the Anglo-Japanese Textile Centre, which has produced world class exhibitions on cultural identity and practice. Studies aside, a dedicated Student Services team and chaplaincy provide Epsom students with support for all aspects of their lives and can offer advice and guidance on a range of issues, including finance, welfare, disability support and English language.
MA Fashion & Lifestyle Journalism
What modern, culturally conscious individual doesn’t buy or browse through a copy of magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair, i-D, Wallpaper or Rolling Stone at least once a month? Through an explosion of glossy lifestyle magazines, readers today subliminally explore the contemporary blending of fashion, music, design and popular culture. This course allows you to enter this rapidly expanding world, contributing to new models of journalistic dialogue and criticism providing commentary which triggers and reflects today’s debates. You should have critical writing and analytical skills from your undergraduate studies which may be in a range of disciplines.
BA Hons Music & Lifestyle Journalism
Can you picture yourself working as a Music Journalist, interviewing musicians from the current music scene, writing record reviews, capturing the atmosphere of a live music gig, or commenting on music and cultural trends, while exploring music in a wider cultural context and developing solid journalistic skills? If this is what you want to do with your life, then this is the course for you. September 2012 will see the start of a new BA Honours degree course in Music & Lifestyle Journalism at the University College for the Creative Arts at Epsom. This exciting new development will sit along side the already highly successful BA (Hons) Fashion Journalism, and is founded on the flourishing expansion of the media and cultural industries based around music, entertainment, style and lifestyle genres. It is designed for students who wish to specialise in music journalism for the lifestyle, culture, media and communication industries. It will provide you with a broad-based creative background and practical, technical and professional expertise in written and alternative forms of media. Through theoretical study you will also acquire a reflective and critical insight into media issues relating to contemporary culture and music. As a graduate you will find employment in the music and lifestyle-related media. This could include modern style publications such as: • i-D or Dazed and Confused which seamlessly blend the areas of style and music • music-focused magazines and newspapers like Rolling Stone, Q, Mojo, Kerrang, Mixmag, Observer Music Monthly or NME • specialist ‘niche market’ magazines (for example, Acoustic Guitar, Songwriter Magazine or International DJ) • in-house publications like HMV Choice; • any number of men’s or women’s glossies, newspapers and supplements which include music coverage, or the plethora of internet websites that now focus on the music industry. For more information please contact: University for the Creative Arts at Epsom Ashley Road Epsom, Surrey KT18 5BE Tel: +44 (0) 1372 728 811 Fax: +44 (0) 1372 747 050
UCA MUsiC JoUrnAlisM DEGrEE sHoW PArTY PrEsEnTs THE lAUnCH oF GrADUATE MAGAZinE
(GUEsTlisT onlY FroM 6PM - 8PM: EMAil UCAMlEXHiBiTion@GMAil.CoM)
AFTEr 8PM liVE sET FroM
WiTH sUPPorT FroM DoUG sUrE AnD DJ sET FroM CATHoliC DisCiPlinE (8PM - 2AM, £3 on THE Door)
THUrsDAY 7 JUnE THE BooK ClUB 100-106 lEonArD sTrEET, lonDon nEArEsT TUBE: olD sTrEET
Mongrel is a place where the exploration of our collective interests is indulged with the same fervent passion that has fuelled our study fo...
Published on Jun 14, 2012
Mongrel is a place where the exploration of our collective interests is indulged with the same fervent passion that has fuelled our study fo...