J O C K S & N E R D S
J O C
K S & N
LO N D O N
FATHER JOHN MISTY
Why politics and despair make for Pure Comedy
Brighton’s auteur hits Hollywood
Death, beauty and the search for peace
DON MCCULLIN Planche, pain and power with the British champion
PLUS Eddy Grant / Sócrates / Pink Floyd / Cosey Fanni Tutti
43 C O N D U I T S T R E E T – 4 H A R R I E T S T R E E T – H A R RO D S , K N I G H T S B R I D G E M E N ’ S TA I L O R I N G
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OL IVER PE OPLES BO UTIQ UE - 151 SLOANE STREET, LO NDO N
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P a n o r a m a
LEWISHAM WRESTLING CLUB On average, two knife crime incidents occur daily in the south-east London borough of Lewisham, according to its police force. Muladi Badibengi, a youth worker and the founder of Lewisham Wrestling Club, is making it his business to tackle this problem. His club offers a physically demanding outlet for young people that also provides discipline to keep them out of jail. “I want to talk to you about the knife you’re carrying in your belt or pocket or shoe,” he writes on the club’s website. “The one you got from your mum’s kitchen [...] or robbed out of the camping shop [...] If you use it the chances are you will kill with it [...] Let the story they tell of you be that you exceeded expectations [...] that you didn’t drown. Don’t spend your days looking to be a ‘badman’ – try to be a good one.” Badibengi’s solution is quite simple: join the club and prove yourself on the mat instead. Since opening, some of his students have represented the UK, including six-time British champion Chloe Spiteri and youth champion Christ Tshikeva, who competed at the Commonwealth Games. There are also regular youth workshops with Lewisham Council, aimed at educating kids about alcohol, drugs and knife and gun crime. “This place offers a new way of thinking and an opportunity to grow,” says Badibengi. “There was a guy who was in prison for 10 years for knife crime, he killed someone in a nightclub. He joined us and has stopped doing crime. Now he’s got a girlfriend, a job and he’s one of our coaches.” lewishamwrestlingclub.org.uk
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BRIEF PINK FLOYD: THEIR MORTAL REMAINS
earlier Peter Blake had done his cover for the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s.That album set us all thinking in a lateral way – what else can we do and how else can we approach this. That ultimately led us do things like putting a cow on the cover for Atom Heart Mother with no mention of the band or album.” Hipgnosis went on to design Pink Floyd’s most acclaimed album sleeves, perhaps the best known of which is The Dark Side of the Moon. “We had a meeting with the band at Abbey Road and the keyboardist Rick Wright said, ‘Why don’t you do something a little simpler rather than your usual surreal covers?’” says Powell. “We happened to have a French book about physics in our studio. Inside there was a photograph of a glass paperweight on a table and the light from the window was refracting onto a piece of paper. And that was it.” Pink Floyd were recording their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, at Abbey Road Studios when classical music promoter Christopher Hunt and the group’s management discussed their ideas for Games for May. With a penchant for avant-garde theatre, Hunt was the perfect partner
“In the future, bands are going to have to offer more than a pop show. They are going to have to offer a well presented theatre show,” proclaimed original Pink Floyd frontman Syd Barrett shortly after the band’s groundbreaking Games for May concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967. The group had already been pushing the boundaries of live performance with their heady shows at the city’s legendary psychedelic club, UFO. With Games for May they redefined what audiences would expect from a live rock show, with a quadrophonic sound system, which was similar to modern surround sound and was operated by a panning control device – the Azimuth Coordinator – which half a century later is part of a major retrospective, The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains, at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. The exhibition is curated by Aubrey Powell, who co-founded album cover design company Hipgnosis with Storm Thorgerson in 1967. An old friend of the band from their school days in Cambridge, Powell was a regular at the group’s early concerts. “When Pink Pink Floyd, 1969 Photograph Storm Thorgerson © Pink Floyd Music Ltd Floyd started in London they were playing small places like the [All Saints] church hall in Powis Square and then of course around 1966, the UFO club,” says Powell. “They were very avant-garde. It appealed to the hip underground scene made up of people that were starting a cultural revolution. They would have long, rambling electronic pieces of music threaded between pastoral lyrics that would go on for half an hour. Then they would have this psychedelic liquid light show. It really was unique.” Hipgnosis’s first cover would be Pink Floyd’s second LP, A Saucerful of Secrets. “We came up with that montage taken from Marvel comics, old chemical books, with a tiny infrared picture of the band,” says Powell. “A few months
B r i e f for the group to create their revolutionary live performance. “Their shows by this stage were full of experimentation and also confrontation,” says Powell. “In Games for May, they had a tar monster which was this man dressed in black who ran wild through the audience spraying what looked like piss from a bottle onto the audience.” While recording The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the group had been working with their engineers on a four-speaker set up and asked Abbey Road technician Bernard Speight to create a system for their live show. “The Azimuth Coordinator was intrinsically important to the group’s early sound,” says Powell. “Apart from their incredible visuals, the sound quality they developed was way ahead of its time.” WORDS ANDY THOMAS The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains opens at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London SW7 on 13 May vam.ac.uk
ROGER MAYNE In 1956, Roger Mayne turned the corner into a neglected street in London’s North Kensington. The photographer had recently finished shooting an artist’s enclave in St Ives in Cornwall and was at a loss for a project that would fulfil him and let him find a new aesthetic. In Southam Street, he found both. In its crumbling slums, he found a kind of beauty and decaying
Raleigh bicycle factory, Nottingham, 1964 Photograph © Roger Mayne/ Mary Evans Picture Library, courtesy of the Mary Evans Picture Library 24
splendour that would draw him back for the next five years. He returned regularly to photograph the candid behaviour and interactions that flourished in 100 yards of abject poverty: boys playing football on the street and women gambling on the steps of terraced houses. In one of the most deprived areas of the country, only a few miles from Buckingham Palace, he found humanity. The Photographers’ Gallery in central London is hosting the first major exhibition of Mayne’s work in 20 years. His Southam Street series forms the show’s centrepiece, alongside a number of original pictures and installations that have not been seen for decades. A self-taught photographer, Mayne’s early work involved shooting covers for Penguin books, including Colin MacInnes’ novel, Absolute Beginners. In the mid-1950s he spent time in St Ives where he met abstract artists such as Patrick Heron and Terry Frost. “The scene provided Mayne with his earliest encounter with abstraction and helped develop his taste and understanding of fine art,” says Karen McQuaid, a senior curator at the Photographers’ Gallery. These ideas bled into his work, which soon showed a propensity for high
contrast, tight compositions and unexpected scales and layouts. McQuaid suggests that the communal nature of the scene steered Mayne’s interest in human behaviour. He was also influenced by Italian neorealist cinema – a movement that documented working-class struggle – evident in his decision to reject the picturesque in favour of slickly dressed teddy boys and bleak slums. “His aim was to broaden his and our understanding of what photography could deal with in terms of subject matter and aesthetics,” says Girls dressed up for a ‘teenage night’ at a Sheffield Club, 1961 Photograph © Roger Mayne/Mary Evans McQuaid. “Mayne’s practice Picture Library, courtesy of the Mary Evans Picture Library became a discipline by which like a cello, a nod to his lover’s profession and he could discover the world around him and engage with Casanova’s own prowess with an instrument. people.” None more than the residents of Southam Street. “Rather than being a straightforward romp, we Mayne had a rigid upbringing and was no doubt attracted look at each relationship and what the themes to the raucous energy of the children on the street, according and ideas are,” Tindall says. “Casanova says that to McQuaid. Mayne said that he photographed Southam a woman is a distinct and individual pleasure each Street because he felt it reflected “a positive way of life”. time. So we find a way to identify that and make The series caught British society at a turning point. A few them unique. And that becomes exciting, because years after Mayne completed his project, Southam Street of what you can do with a dance language.” was bulldozed, the slums replaced with Erno Göldfinger’s As well as his self-professed tally of 122 lovers, brutalist Trellick Tower. In this developing, postwar Casanova – born in Venice in 1725 – played Britain, Mayne captured shifts in race, class, gender and violin in a theatre, spent time in the army and the generational relationships. church, was an actor and playwright and penned “He makes it quite clear in his writings that he did not a 12-volume memoir, Histoire de ma vie (Story of want to present preconceived notions about his subjects,” my Life), which detailed his conquests as well as says McQuaid. “He wanted to impart no moral or political the intricacies of 18th-century society. standpoint.” But even if he didn’t choose to, his work was as “Which parts of this exciting life do you pick?” political then as it would be now. “Issues around migration, asks Tindall, who spent 15 years dancing with racial integration, social housing, the planned urban Northern Ballet, the last seven as a principal, before environment and youth culture all find interesting parallels transitioning to the other side of the stage. This and stubborn echoes today.” intimacy with his cast, many of whom he trained WORDS CHRIS GAYNOR and danced with for years, helped alleviate any awkwardness in some of the more graphic scenes. Roger Mayne is at the Photographers’ Gallery, London, “We’d already earned a trust between each other,” W1 until 11 June he says. But he also relied on techniques taken from thephotographersgallery.org.uk Venice. “Masquerade played a huge part in making CASANOVA: A BALLET BY KENNETH TINDALL everyone comfortable with their bodies. It’s really When telling the story of Giacomo Casanova in dance, a interesting for me as a choreographer. It gives them choreographer has to come up with a lot of original ways to a confidence because they feel hidden, in some show sex. For Northern Ballet’s new take on the story, Kenneth degree, even though it’s a little bit of leather around Tindall has lead soloist Giuliano Contadini play one partner their face. They’re hidden almost from themselves J &
B r i e f footballer. He used his fame to spread democratic ideas, first within the Brazilian football system, then wider society. But his personal credo echoed a different sage. When the Italian press asked about his off-field frolics, he paraphrased René Descartes: “I smoke, I drink and I think.” “My first memory of Sócrates was watching the 1982 World Cup,” recalls Andrew Downie, author of Doctor Socrates: Footballer, Philosopher, Legend, who also translated the footballer’s unpublished memoir. “The joy on Sócrates’ face when he scored against the USSR in the opener, as well as in the fateful defeat to Italy in the second group stage, was unforgettable.” As his nickname suggests, Sócrates was a medical doctor, football being a pleasant distraction. Though he grew towards socialism, his early politicking had more selfish aims; at his first professional club he agitated for reduced training, ostensibly so he could study but, more often than not, also to party. He was raised by a well-read revenue inspector (his brothers were christened Sófocles and Sóstenes) in a house full of books, many political. He was 10 when the military launched a coup and his father burned those containing ideas that could be deemed inflammatory: Marx, Engels, Gramsci. Only later would Sócrates realise their significance. Indeed, when first pressed on his politics, Sócrates spoke in support of the ruling junta. “His home city of Ribeirão Preto was conservative by nature; dissenters were tortured or killed,” says Downie. It was only after his transfer to Corinthians in 1978 that his views changed. “After a few years, he got to know influential leftists who opened his eyes to the gravity of the situation and that was when he started to speak out.” In objection to the concentração, the tradition of isolating the team before a game that he saw as treating players like children, Sócrates founded the Corinthians’ Democracy. He believed everyone from the kitman to the president should vote on every aspect of how the club was run. It was partly an attempt to influence the club’s pre-match alcohol ban, but whatever his ulterior motive, the policy worked and Corinthians won the championship in 1982 and 1983. As the middle-class graduate saw how uneducated and disenfranchised many of his teammates and fellow countrymen were, the Corinthians’ Democracy grew in scope and influence.
Northern Ballet’s production of Casanova Photograph Joe Strange
and it gives you the permission to play a character.” Though there is an orgy – “It wouldn’t be Casanova without one of those” – the ballet explores not just sex, but also tensions between moral decadence and conservative thought. “It was the age of enlightenment in any knowledge – kabbalah, science, geometry – but if you went against the church, you were arrested as a heretic,” says Tindall. “So you have this decadent period where anything sexual was going but jump social class, or mess with the wrong ideas, and you were deemed a heretic and immediately arrested.” Casanova’s peripatetic life, which saw him travel from Venice to Paris and Vienna, was mostly in flight from the authorities. In 1755 he was sentenced to five years in prison for moral decadence, but escaped with a priest by carving a hole in the ceiling of his cell then fleeing across the palace roof. It’s a scene that poses challenges more conceptual companies would shy away from, but which Northern Ballet embraces. “They’re well-versed in narrative ballet,” says Tindall. “That is absolutely their core mission – to keep bringing new titles and new works and keep the story alive in ballet. Not making it just abstract.” WORDS TOM BANHAM Casanova: A Ballet is touring the UK until 13 May northernballet.com
DOCTOR SÓCRATES Blame nominative determinism, but Sócrates was always more philosophical than your typical 26
Soon Sócrates was leading out else scurried around the team while wearing flashes while he stood of yellow, the colour of the imperiously in the Diretas Já (Direct Elections middle of the park,” Now) campaign for a free says Downie. “He swore presidential ballot. Sócrates that he played every became one of its most visible single game like it was and vocal supporters: at a a Sunday kickabout.” campaign rally in 1984, with His penalty ‘run-up’ an offer from Italian team was two leisurely steps. Fiorentina on the table, he To everyone except vowed in front of a million his Italian teammates people that if the deputies voted – who he once greeted Training at Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, 1985 to amend the constitution and at his house by cutting implement the ballot, he wouldn’t leave his beloved country. off their ties with his garden shears – Sócrates’ When the vote narrowly failed, the military having dissuaded not especially socialist work ethic was part of his 113 congressmen from attending, Sócrates despondently charm. He expected lesser players to put in more packed his bags. miles because he didn’t have the stamina. “But But his political energies didn’t translate to the pitch. His his teammates were usually happy to do the playing style of one-touch passes and back-heels was devised spadework,” says Downie, “because he could partly to avoid running and opposition challenges. “Everyone win them games and bonuses with his brilliance and because he never lorded it over them. Even if World Cup finals, Spain, 1982 he’d scored a hat-trick, the first thing he’d do in a post-match interview was heap the credit on them.” Brazil’s 1982 loss to Italy is regarded as the greatest World Cup match ever and also seen as the point at which football as the beautiful game succumbed to win-at-all-costs cynicism. But Sócrates refused to let his democratic ideals die: he lobbied even after his retirement, writing columns about politics in newspapers and magazines. “It’s no exaggeration to say that his input was critical in helping Brazil make the eventual transition from dictatorship to democracy,” says Downie. “Sócrates encouraged footballers to use their power for worthwhile causes, but few of them ever listened. It’s a tragedy, especially in times like these.” Sócrates’ passion for politics was matched by his passion for drinking and womanising (he once caught four flights in one day just to spend an extra hour or two with his mistress). He refused to address his alcohol problem despite cirrhosis that led to chronic digestive haemorrhaging, and died in 2011 aged 57. But he lived life to the full, with no regrets, which is why he was so loved. That, and his swagger. “Anyone who saw him play will never forget him,” says Downie. “He was quite simply the coolest footballer who ever lived.” WORDS JAMIE MILLAR The book Doctor Sócrates is out now simonandschuster.co.uk J &
B r i e f THE JAPANESE HOUSE
5.5m in 1952. A year later, Kiyoshi Seike’s House for Prof. K. Saito explored free space with open-plan and mobile units that drew from shinden-zukuri, a 10th-century architectural style that allowed for the free arrangement of furniture. Function was another important theme in this period and concrete, introduced in the early 1900s, inspired architects to tackle the country’s persistent earthquakes. Japanese homes were traditionally wooden and lightweight, so when tremors struck, they could be rebuilt. Kiyonori Kikutake used reinforced concrete to create solid, immovable homes. His Sky House in Tokyo was raised on four pillars to make it earthquake-proof and impervious to flooding.
Since the Second World War, Japan’s economy has experienced both miracle growth and decades of stagnation. It industrialised almost overnight, but low birth rates and an ageing society mean people increasingly live alone, cut off from their families – this ‘kozoku’ (loneliness group) is predicted to make up more than 30 per cent of the population by 2035. The country has also been buffeted by a series of natural disasters. These shifts have bred a unique style of architecture, explored in the exhibition The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 at London’s Barbican Centre. The family home became the focus for Japanese architects over the past 70 years and offered them a gateway to creative freedom. “In Japan, designing a house is not just training for a younger architect,” says the exhibition’s curator, Florence Ostende. “The single family house remains an absolutely pivotal building type for O House, 2009, designed by Hideyuki Nakayama Photograph © Mitsutaka Kitamura Japanese architects, who continue to design them right through their career.” Before the Second World War, 80 per cent of Tokyo’s population rented. But even before the war this number was falling, as members of the new middle class bought land in suburban areas. The arrival of European modernism saw local architects challenge their country’s architectural traditions. Sutemi Horiguchi was an early figurehead of modern Japanese architecture, rejecting Japan’s historical affiliations with China. For the Japanese modernists, the epitome of residential architecture was the 16th-century sukiya style, which borrowed the informal and asymmetrical elements of the tearoom and used rustic materials including mud walls and bamboo. They admired the sukiya home for its simplicity, beauty of materials, harmony with the natural environment and use of modular units. When Horiguchi visited Europe in 1923, when the likes of Le Corbusier and Bauhaus-founder Walter Gropius were emerging, he discovered that the elements of sukiya were mirrored in contemporary western architecture. The war had caused a major housing shortage. Conversations around tradition were supplanted by those about space. Some played with the concept of the minimal house – Makoto Masuzawa built his home with a square plan of 5.5m by 28
When Japan’s economy began to boom in the 1950s, land became a reliable asset in the face of inflation. As more of Japan’s middle-class became homeowners, architects struck up new conversations. In the 1960s, Kazuo Shinohara countered modernism’s emphasis on practicality with the mantra “The house is a work of art”. In 1961, his Umbrella House in Tokyo was built with a simple square plan and a pyramid roof. From the interior, its open ceiling and exposed beams looked like the inside of an umbrella. Shinohara’s progressive designs influenced a new wave of architects, who no longer felt the pull of modernism. Known as the Shinohara School, among them was Kazunari Sakamoto, whose house Machiya in Minase, built in Tokyo in 1970, played with the idea of the closed box. Created with a limited number of openings and no front door, it emphasised the internal environment. Its fortress-like appearance ran in opposition to the traditional open-plan Japanese house and seemed to reflect an increasingly isolated society. In the 1980s, the term ‘kodokushi’ (lonely death) was coined to describe elderly people who passed away and often weren’t discovered for weeks. When Japan’s recession hit in the 1990s, the many workers forced into early retirement exacerbated the problem. Sakamoto’s house encapsulated this phenomenon – isolated individuals seeking shelter from the outside world. In London, where home ownership is at its lowest level in 30 years, younger audiences may wonder what they could learn from this exhibition. “In a situation like London, this might seem an impossible luxury,” says Ostende. “However, the exhibition is not just about architects, it’s also about how the rituals of domestic life – eating, reading, bathing, decorating and so on – can become creative acts.” WORDS EDWARD MOORE The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945 opens at the Barbican, London, EC2 on 23 March barbican.org.uk
PERSONAL SHOPPER At the beginning of the film Personal Shopper, Maureen (Kristen Stewart) wanders around a dark house, calling out for her deceased twin in a quiet, drawn-out voice. While scenes like this are
terrifying, as the plot unfolds we find our expectations of arthouse cinema and horror conventions challenged. “Horror is the word we use when we want to discuss movies that generate anxiety or fear,” says the film’s director, Olivier Assayas, a French auteur inspired by master filmmaker Robert Bresson and Marxist philosopher Guy Debord. “But this notion doesn’t belong to cinematic genres, it belongs to the human
Kristen Stewart in psychological horror Personal Shopper, 2016 experience in general – something you use horror to describe.” Assayas plays with the tension between the material and spiritual realm, and when a sinister presence emerges, the film suggests that it might be Maureen’s subconscious. “I think that what we call ghosts, the supernatural, is something within ourselves,” he says. “When we are alone in the middle of an empty house, what we fear is not what is outside of us but what is inside.” Set in Paris, Personal Shopper follows Maureen just after the death of her twin brother Lewis. By day, she is a shopping assistant to a demanding model and designer. At night, she visits the neglected house she and Lewis grew up in, calling out to him and hoping he fulfils the promise they made – if one of them dies, they would try and contact the other from the afterlife. Personal Shopper is Assayas’s second film with Stewart, following 2014’s Clouds of Sils Maria, in which she played a similar role as an assistant to an ageing film star. But Stewart told UK website The Upcoming that Personal Shopper was an emotionally draining experience. Did the production have the same effect on Assayas? “When you make this kind of film, you are physically and psychologically involved,” he says. “It’s not harmless. Even if you try to protect yourself, it is sometimes scary.” At the point Maureen seems to make contact with Lewis, she is hounded by threatening texts from an unknown number, suggesting she has opened herself up to a dark force beyond her control. Yet while Assayas plays with horror tropes – such as the message “I know you” – he is not trying to scare the audience. Instead, he reconstructs our relationship with the unknown. Maureen comes across accounts of the artist Hilma af Klint, who said she channelled spirits to create her bright-coloured, J &
B r i e f geometric paintings, and writer Victor Hugo, who participated in hundreds of seances while exiled in Jersey. By aligning Maureen’s struggle with these inspirational figures, Personal Shopper suggests that ghosts can also have a positive and creative nature. “In a world that is increasingly materialistic, there is little space left for anything else,” says Assayas. “We can’t just live with that and nothing else, so we all believe there is something better within us. I don’t follow the idea that what is visible is good, and what is invisible is evil. When you really get close to the unknown, there is something that opens up. Then it is a dimension that isn’t scary any more but something that can bring you more than whatever the material world gives out.” By stepping into our own darkness, we might reach the light. WORDS EDWARD MOORE
Prince performing at the Lyceum, London, 1981 Photograph © Tony Mottram courtesy of rockarchive.com
Personal Shopper is out on 17 March filmsdulosange.fr
PRINCE: DIG IF YOU WILL THE PICTURE In March 2016, publisher Spiegel & Grau announced that it had commissioned Prince’s memoir, set for release at the end of 2017. A month later, the artist was found dead in his Paisley Park home at the age of 57. It will therefore be left to other writers to create their own portraits of this most enigmatic musical genius. New York-based writer Ben Greenman’s monumental analysis of Prince’s work is his biggest undertaking yet. “Prince has been an obsession of mine both as a fan and as a critic since 1982,” he says. The title Dig if You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God and Genius in the Music of Prince alludes to the complexities of an artist who defied musical genres and transcended pop culture. “I didn’t want to write a straight biography because Prince was relentless at looking into issues of race, sexuality, spirituality and self,” says Greenman. “Also, rather than a narrative story, I think the book is like an autobiography of a generation, because so much of what Prince did created milestones of the time.” When Prince Rogers Nelson signed to Warner in 1977, it heralded the arrival of an artist well in advance of his 19 years. “Right from the very start he took the received notion of something and challenged it, and asked audiences to 30
challenge it,” says Greenman. Recorded in Sausalito, California, at the Record Plant studio, his debut album, For You, saw him write all the songs and play all 27 instruments himself. The follow-up, Prince, spawned the single ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’, which sold over a million copies. But if people thought Prince would follow this up with a more commercial release they would have been underestimating the vision of the 20-year -old. “On the title track of Controversy, Prince sang ‘Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?’ and this was the early template where he expressed his duality,” says Greenman. “Most artists at the time expressed their sexuality simply, but with Prince it was far more complex.” Throughout his career, Prince not only shared vocals with women (Lisa Coleman of Wendy and Lisa joined his band the Revolution in 1980) but
wrote songs from their perspective. “By the time acrimonious relationship with the music industry that he was doing Sign o’ the Times in 1986, he had eventually saw Prince change his name to an unpronounceable developed this female-voiced character called symbol, swamp Warner with contractual obligation records, Camille,” says Greenman. “On ‘If I was Your refuse to have his music available online, and release an LP Girlfriend’ he’s like this androgynous-type character through an English newspaper. “It’s direct marketing and and we are not sure if he is male or female. That’s I don’t have to be in the speculation business of the record an incredibly complicated song.” industry,” he said of the 2007 release, Planet Earth. While The album 1999 was the first Prince record his subsequent albums wouldn’t achieve the heights of that Greenman bought, in 1982. “The thing that his golden period, Prince would continue to diversify and attracted me to Prince was the taboo breaking,” eschew pigeonholing, as displayed on the dubstep funk of his he says. “I was a kid growing up in the ordinary penultimate album, Hit n Run Phase One. suburbs of Miami who wanted my artists to be As he grew older, Prince headed towards what Greenman risk-taking and dangerous.” Alongside ‘Billy Jean’ calls “an explicit reckoning with his own faith”. Brought up by Michael Jackson, ‘Little Red Corvette’ was the as a Seventh-day Adventist, he became a Jehovah’s Witness in first music video on MTV to feature a black artist. 2001 after an introduction by Sly and the Family Stone bassist “It was very important,” says Greenman. “It was also Larry Graham. His relationship with religion was always a powerful thing using all these pop music formats complex, but became even more so after his conversion. He to address a variety of important issues.” later made comments on gay marriage to The New Yorker that The video was shot as if it was a live performance. ostracised many of his original fans. But when he died, many “When it came to his live shows, rather than of those fans would prefer to remember the artist who wrote the choreographed performances of Madonna or line: “I’m not a woman; I’m not a man; I am something that Michael Jackson, his shows were rock shows,” says you’ll never understand.” Greenman. “It was people like Carlos Santana and WORDS ANDY THOMAS James Brown, who were arguably better live than on record, that inspired him. On stage Prince was The book Dig if You Will the Picture: Funk, Sex, God able to show his virtuosity as a musician, showman, and Genius in the Music of Prince is out in April dancer and seducer of the audience.” faber.co.uk It was the album Purple Rain that would well and truly launch Prince to the status of international HOUSE STYLE: FIVE CENTURIES OF FASHION It’s tempting to think that fashion has never been more pop icon. “I think he wanted to release something overexposed. But long before the front row selfie, pictures that would get him a billion fans across the world,” of clothes helped high society consolidate and amplify its says Greenman. “I remember seeing the video power. In 1897, a photographic portrait studio was one of the at a friend’s house and being blown away. That main draws at the Duchess of Devonshire’s historical ball. It video used clips from the film [Purple Rain]. That captured hundreds of women in elaborate fancy dress, from movie was a gigantic part of his persona, with the the heroines of Greek mythology to clothes that he wore and his Jacket designed by Daichi Miura, owned by Venetian masquerades and even living whole look.” the 12th Duke of Devonshire Photograph royals from the European courts. Perhaps the most Thomas Loof The costume ball, which was thrown ambitious of all his LPs to mark Queen Victoria’s diamond from the 1980s, Sign o’ the jubilee, arrived at a time of exuberant Times was followed by his decadence. The industrial revolution most mythical. Scheduled had minted a newly affluent section for release in November of society and its women mirrored the 1987, Prince shelved The aristocracy in having as much wealth as Black Album instead. “The leisure time, throwing themselves into theory was that he thought fashion. Contemporary accounts reveal it was evil, and so he went that the moment invitations went out, back into the studio and two London’s galleries were inundated with weeks later came out with women studying courtly costumes. They Lovesexy,” says Greenman. then engaged in fervent competition for The Black Album was the best dressmakers and seamstresses. just one example of an J &
B r i e f to make a show that was woven into the house,” says Burlington. “Not where you just shoved a mannequin into the side of the room.” Rooms reflect the themes they contain – wedding gowns, christening outfits and mourning dress are housed in the chapel; in the library, there are paper objects including letters but also an early Hussein Chalayan dress and a Christopher Kane piece inspired by the leaves of a book. “Modern things are with old things. It’s inspired by the nature of the space.” The clothes on show are also those worn by the people who lived there. “It’s their rightful home,” says Burlington. Stella Tennant and Deborah As a family that has always had Devonshire, Chatsworth House, 2006 Photograph © Mario Testino an expansive view of fashion, the Devonshires’ wardrobes provided some The results were extraordinary: a princess of Sheba, draped in unexpected finds, from Helmut Lang’s latex designs silk with an enormous fan; Britannia, complete with shield and to ornate 18th-century gowns embroidered in silver trident; a pair of shepherdesses in intricate, bejewelled corsets leaf and a set of jumpers owned by the Duke of complete with matching crooks. Devonshire, with the hand-knitted advice to “Never “It took place in 1897 but a few of the costumes still exist,” Marry a Mitford”. “It shouldn’t all be grand couture,” says Lady Burlington, a former model who joined the says Burlington. “It should be authentic.” Devonshire family when she married Bill Burlington, the WORDS TOM BANHAM photographer and present duke’s son. She has spent the past six years sourcing them for an exhibition on the family’s House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion opens fashion history, which launches this year at the ancestral home. at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire, on 25 March For House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth, which chatsworth.org she has co-curated with US Vogue’s international editor-at-large COSEY FANNI TUTTI: ART SEX MUSIC Hamish Bowles, Burlington dug into the family’s enormous “These people are the wreckers of civilisation. archive. “It’s so substantial in terms of letters, drawings, They want to advance decadence.” So said scrapbooks. And no one had ever looked at it in terms of Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn in the fashion,” she says. “Some textiles and clothes have been kept Daily Mail after witnessing Coum Transmissions’ but we also wanted to research ones that hadn’t been kept but Prostitution show at London’s Institute of were still connected.” Contemporary Arts in 1976. It helped that the Devonshire House Ball had been so well The show – whose participants went on to form documented. “A few of the costumes still exist, because they pioneering industrial music band Throbbing were so elaborate and they were in a number of museums,” Gristle – included nude photographs, used tampons, says Burlington. “We’ve got them all together and brought jars of bodily fluids and live striptease. Participant them back. We’ve also got 400 pictures of the guests. So that’s Cosey Fanni Tutti combined her work as an how we knew what people were wearing and where to look.” avant-garde artist with that of a pornographic The ball is only one point in a history that stretches from model and striptease artist. Fairbairn’s infamous Georgiana Cavendish – an ancestor of Princess Diana known quote provided the title for Simon Ford’s 1999 book as the 18th century’s ‘Empress of Fashion’ – to 20th-century on Coum Transmissions and Throbbing Gristle. socialites the Mitford Sisters and supermodel Stella Tennant, And while fans wait for a second edition, Cosey granddaughter of the 11th Duchess of Devonshire. Through Fanni Tutti has published her autobiography, one family, the show explores how fashion and its role in Art Sex Music. society has developed since the 16th century. Cosey Fanni Tutti was born Christine Carol As the exhibition’s title suggests, Chatsworth House is not Newby in Hull on 4 November 1951. She escaped simply a space but an intimate part of the show. “We wanted 32
from her strict father through music, when her achieved global recognition in 1973 after they appeared in a uncle would bring around his guitar and harmonica. touring fluxus show called Fluxshoe. Other early sonic memories included the discordant Their performances became ever more extreme. “This is noise coming from her father’s workroom as he not art, this is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen, and repaired radios. Encouraged by one of her teachers, these people are sick,” proclaimed performance artist Chris her first serious creative outlet was art. Burden, after witnessing an enema of blood, milk and urine On leaving school, acid and dope took priority being licked off the floor at a performance at the Los Angeles over her first job as a laboratory assistant. Now Insitute of Contemporary Art in 1976. on the dole and living with her friend, she was It was at this time that the group started to seek a new introduced to Genesis P-Orridge in 1971. A radical direction for their art. They returned to music, forming thinker on the outer edges of the counterculture, he Throbbing Gristle with Chris Carter and releasing music founded Coum Transmissions while living in north on the label Industrial Records. Their first LP was The London’s Transmedia Explorations commune in Second Annual Report and was every bit as shocking as the late 1960s. Inspired by the dada and fluxus art Coum Transmission’s live shows. On ‘Slug Bait’, against a movements, Coum challenged the norms of British dark electronic score, Genesis P-Orridge recites a recent society through subversion and confrontation. murder case from the viewpoint of the psychopathic killer. It was after P-Orridge moved to Hull in 1969 A much easier listen, their best known album 20 Jazz Funk and met up with friend John Shapiro that Coum held their first happenings. Their home was an artists’ commune in an old fruit warehouse on Hull Docks they named the Ho-Ho Funhouse. It was a time of cheap housing and easily accessible grants and welfare, and the fact that their subsequent Prostitution show was subsidised by an Arts Council grant further outraged the Daily Mail. In Hull in 1971, Newby Cosey Fanni Tutti met the collective. She performing Womans Roll, was soon to move into the Air Gallery, New York, 1976 commune and change her © Cosey Fanni Tutti name to Cosey Fanni Tutti. Her work with Coum began by building props and Greats is widely regarded as one of the most influential of all designing costumes as the group’s focus changed post-punk electronic records. from music to performance art and theatrical When Throbbing Gristle split up in 1981, Tutti and happenings. “Coum was musically based and took Carter set up the Conspiracy International label through the form of acoustic improvisations, just anywhere, Rough Trade, and began working together as Chris & Cosey. then more abstract scenarios started creeping in and Prescient LPs such as Heartbeat and Trance still sound like we made entire environments for enjoyment,” she the future more than 30 years on. told writer David Bourgoin of the happenings, one WORDS ANDY THOMAS of which began by the audience crawling through a polythene tunnel to get in. Art Sex Music is out on 4 April After much police harassment following a faber.co.uk notorious gig at Hull’s Gondola Club, the collective moved to east London, setting up camp in a Cosey Fanni Tutti and Genesis P-Orridge feature in events commune in Hackney. Encouraged by figures such for Hull UK City of Culture 2017, until 22 March as the avant-garde author William Burroughs, they hull2017.co.uk J &
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The Ceremony of Separation show, autumn/winter 2015-16, by Comme des Garçons Photograph Paolo Roversi, courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
REI KAWAKUBO EXHIBITION Rei Kawakubo, the founder and elusive figurehead of Comme des Garçons, is the kind of fashion designer who makes the term seem insufficient. She is often the first name mentioned when you ask why a designer started out. “Seeing her work gave me the impression that everything was possible,” Ann Demeulemeester told Another magazine in 2009. “That it was the beginning of the future of fashion.” What appears on Kawakubo’s runways often tests the definition of fashion; a recent show included a dress made entirely from sleeves. But over almost half a century, her view of fashion has evolved beyond garments. She has said that it is only one pillar, albeit the most visible, of her self-expression. And wherever that self-expression leads, the industry follows. After her 1982 ‘Destroy’ show in Paris, which confronted the decade’s excesses with models daubed in war paint and dressed in black, other designers pivoted away from colour. Dubbed “Hiroshima’s revenge” by the press, the collection shocked not only because it looked so bedraggled, but because it seemed to arrive unconnected to anything else in fashion. It was a statement born from one mind, in an industry that moves as a pack. Ever since, Kawakubo has been fashion’s lodestar: 34
she leads the way from afar. She an elusive figure at fashion weeks and makes sporadic appearances even at her own shows, preferring to send her husband, and Comme des Garçons’ CEO, Adrian Joffe. Her presence beside a nascent designer’s runway is an endorsement that trumps even Anna Wintour’s. After Kawakubo appeared on the front row of Gosha Rubchinskiy – a brand that Comme des Garçons now operates – its eponymous designer swiftly became one of the most talked-about figures in menswear. Famously, Kawakubo has never attended the fashion industry’s most glamorous and self-congratulatory night, the annual Met Gala at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, in May this year she will not only be present, but welcoming the guests – flanked by the unexpected figures of Katy Perry and Pharrell Williams – to open the exhibition Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between. Perhaps it was the only way for Wintour, who has organised the event since 1995, to convince Kawakubo to turn up. It’s certainly a novel move from the museum, which has an unspoken policy not to host solo shows on living designers, since a 1983 show on Yves Saint Laurent veered from exhibition into advert. But the institution has a go-getting new curator in Andrew Bolton, who believes “fashion is a living art”. Kawakubo is uniquely apposite for this kind of show. Though she rejects the idea that fashion is art – as she told the The New York Times, art is passive and sold to one person, whereas fashion should invite participation – she is undeniably an artist. Her work makes the conceptual solid. It reflects and reshapes culture. Through 120 mannequins displayed without physical barriers between the clothes and their audience – no ropes, no glass – Art of the In-Between explores these dualities, as well as intersections between east and west, tradition and the avant-garde, male and female. Gender fluidity is having a moment in fashion, and Kawakubo has done more than most to drive it, embodied by her brand’s name (which translates as ‘like boys’). Comme des Garçons’ womenswear is not often sexy or form-fitting. It masks rather than accentuates, disrupting the male gaze. Is a cocoon of gingham fabric a dress or a suit? Both or neither? Just as contradictory is how Kawakubo has parlayed esoteric designs into a multimillion-dollar brand. The clothes that appear in Comme des Garçons’ runway shows are often unwearable, but the brand’s Play range, with its signature heart with staring eyes, is ubiquitous. Kawakubo’s most important legacy might be that a brand can conquer the world yet preserve its soul. WORDS TOM BANHAM Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York on 4 May metmuseum.org
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T H E S I G N AT U R E C R A F T S M A N M A D E F R O M O N E P I E C E O F P R E M I U M L E AT H E R , B Y H A N D , BY R . M . W I L L I A M S M AST E R C R A F TS M E N I N A D E L A I D E , S O U T H AU ST R A L I A
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DELIVERI N G SA RTO R I A L E XC E L L E N C E clementsandchurch.co.uk
Photographs Mark Mattock Edited by Edward Moore and Chris Tang
BERLUTI X OLIVER PEOPLES Andy Warhol was famouly a fan of Berluti loafers, so itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fitting that the French brand has included his signature frame shape among a trio of pieces it has created in collaboration with Oliver Peoples, the Californian sunglass designer. Out now
VILEBREQUIN SUNGLASSES After 46 years, Saint-Tropez swimwear specialist Vilebrequin has brought out its first sunglass line. The 24-piece collection completes the poolside look. Carl Zeiss lenses are housed in premium metal and acetate frames and each pair is worked on by 200 pairs of hands, from the Frenchmade spring hinges to the logo stamped on each of the titanium nose pads. Out now
CORINTHIAN Between 1882 and 1939, Corinthian FC was the model of fair play – if a player conceded a penalty then the goalkeeper would step aside, since a gentleman would never commit a foul. Its squad included England cricket captain C.B. Fry and England football skipper William Oakley, who played in tailored shorts and white shirts – Real Madrid wear the shade today in their honour. The club has also inspired a new British fashion brand, Corinthian, whose garments draw on the team’s gracious style. Its first collection includes an overcoat, cable-knit sweater, henley and a take on the original Corinthian FC shirt. Out in July
L o c k e r MONTBLANC TIMEWALKER Montblanc has tweaked its Timewalker range, giving what was a basic sports line an automotive overhaul. The new range features movements by Minerva, which made racing watches for 148 years before being bought by Montblanc in 2006. That heritage means the new chronographs are accurate up to 1/1000th-of-a-second. The logo on the dial hasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t changed, but a Minerva arrow on the seconds hand hints at the racing legacy within. Out in June
JOSEPH CHEANEY & SONS It takes around eight weeks to make each pair of shoes at Joseph Cheaney & Sons. It still cuts and closes its uppers in its factory in Northamptonshire, as it has done since it was founded. Now celebrating its 130-year anniversary, the shoemaker has opened a new store in Covent Garden. Joseph Cheaney & Sons, 25 Henrietta Street, London, WC2
TOM DIXON WASHING PRODUCTS British furniture and lighting designer Tom Dixon is known for reviving the interiors brand Habitat and his work is displayed in museums including Londonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s V&A and MoMA in New York. This year, his eponymous brand launches a collection of accessories that, along with waterproof lighting and bathroom storage containers, includes washing-up liquid, soap and hand balm. Out now
STUTTERHEIM SUMMER FABRICS Alexander Stutterheim’s rainwear is a tribute to his fisherman grandfather. On rediscovering an old raincoat, the younger Stutterheim sought to replicate it and designed a range of coats, jackets and accessories in rubberised cotton. It now adds a water-repellent cotton and a rubberised cotton that weighs 30 per cent less than his grandfather’s original. Both are lightweight enough for spring and summer. Out now
VAULT BY VANS X OUR LEGACY In the ’90s, Our Legacy’s Swedish co-founder Jockum Hallin was a fan of the speed, power and aggression of LA’s hardcore punk scene. The movement placed little emphasis on style – Black Flag singer Henry Rollins wore a uniform of black T-shirts and trousers – but had a distinct look. Our Legacy’s collaboration with Vault by Vans aims to capture this with a collection of apparel and footwear, including a reworked version of contemporary favourite the Half Cab Pro. Out now
HEIMPLANET MOTION SERIES Heimplanet’s first product was an inflatable tent, inspired by American architect Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, which took only one minute to pitch. It has now translated that design nous to backpacks. Its Motion Series backpacks feature a foam back panel, based on Fuller’s domes, which improves airflow and reduces pressure points while carrying, plus a stretchable, spandex outer layer that increases storage space. Out in April
L o c k e r LEICA M10 Leicaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s M-System launched in 1954 with the M3, which took the rangefinder and viewfinder of previous cameras and added a new, bayonet-type lens mount. Half a century of incremental improvements followed, but in 2006 the line underwent a wholesale reimagining. The M8 was Leicaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first digital
M-System camera and introduced live view, video, and two hypersensitive monochrome cameras. The M10 adds extra functions to the traditional ISO setting dial, which allows the user to adjust the shutter speed, aperture and focusing, without having to fiddle with a menu. Out now
AERIX DUET SPEAKERS The Duet, from Taiwanese audio brand Aerix, consists of a single speaker split into two cubes: one is for high notes, the other for bass. When combined, they produce 360-degree audio by compressing airwaves downward, towards an acoustically designed aluminium base. The result is crystal clear sound delivered into every corner of a room. Out now OBLURE BALANCE TABLE LAMP Spanish designer Victor Castanera’s Balance lamp, for new Swedish lighting brand Oblure, toys with concepts of gravity and time. It contrasts LED lights with black spheres, each seeming to perch impossibly on tilted steel boards, to create harmony through opposition. Out now
AGNÈS B. STYLISTE BOOK As Agnès B. enters its fourth decade, founder Agnès Troublé has published a book, Styliste, to celebrate its legacy. She opened her first shop in 1975, on the Rue du Jour in Paris, and the label still produces most of its clothes in France. Troublé designed clothes for John Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction as well as numerous musicians, from Patti Smith and David Lynch to Yoko Ono and David Bowie. The new book includes design sketches and press clippings as well as photographs by Troublé, Peter Lindberg, Jean Baptiste Mondino and Bruce Weber. Out now
KOVAL PEACH BRANDY Since 2008, Chicago’s Koval has distilled whiskies in such small volumes that each bottle can be traced back to the individual barrel it was aged in. It now adds a brandy matured in the same way, with flavours of peach, tea and bergamot cut with peppery notes picked up from the wood. Named Susan for President, the bottle pays tribute to co-founder Sonat Birnecker Hart’s aunt, who once jokingly campaigned for President of the World. The floral pattern adorning the gold foil label is inspired by Susan’s campaign cards. Out now 44
L o c k e r DUFA REGULATOR A â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;regulatorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; watch divides the hours, minutes and seconds hands onto separate dials. Originally, they hung in watch workshops, with the clear minutes hand helping watchmakers keep their work accurate. DuFa is a Bauhaus-inspired watchmaker, which was revived last year, and its regulator cleaves tight to that aesthetic, with clean lines and a minutes hand curved to fit beneath the domed glass. Out now
BELSTAFF X SOPHNET Seventy-four years separate the founding of British motorcycle brand Belstaff and Japanese streetwear label Sophnet. But both share an interest in designing clothes that last. Their new collaboration reworks Belstaffâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s biker favourites, swapping leather for lightweight but still weatherproof nylon, in eye-catching prints. Out now
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AUDI R8 SPYDER The R8 was Audi’s debut supercar, and an immediate rival to the German brand’s compatriot, Porsche. As befits a supercar, Audi has now added a version with a retracting roof. The power remains unchanged – it will reach 62mph in 3.6s and, should you take it anywhere without a speed limit, will hit 197mph – but the view is now much improved. Out now
CUBITTS X SUNSPEL Cubitts takes its name from three brothers – an engineer, a politician and a master builder – who did much to rebuild 19th century London. Each sunglass model is named after a street in King’s Cross, an area the trio overhauled in the 1850s. Cubitts has now collaborated with Sunspel, which was founded only a few years after Lewis Cubbitt completed the King’s Cross station, on a three-piece collection. Out in April J &
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ROLI BLOCKS Blocks, the latest product from music tech brand Roli, makes music production simple and accessible with modular units that can be connected to form kits. The Blocks system centres around the Lightpad, which allows users to create beats and melodies by striking, sliding and pressing its surface. Out now
BULGARI AQUA ATLANTIQUE Bulgari’s original Aqua fragrance launched in 2004 and blended seaweed and citrusy notes. Its latest is equally nautical, with citrus accords and ambergris – a substance secreted from a sperm whale’s digestive system, which is much sought after for its sweet, earthy fragrance. Out now
CHUCS X LAND ROVER BEN AINSLIE RACING This summer, the new Land Rover Ben Ainslie Racing team will make its debut in the America’s Cup. It was conceived by Ainslie, whose four Olympic golds make him the most successful sailor in the Games’ history. He won the Cup for Oracle Team USA in 2013 as their tactician and hopes that this new team will wrestle the trophy back for Britain, for the first time in 166 years. To kit out the crew, Chucs has designed a collection including suits, polos and shorts, designed to be worn both on and off the water. Out now
TUDOR PELAGOS LHD Watchmaker Tudor has reworked its Pelagos diver’s watch, by flipping the crown from three to nine o’clock (LHD stands for ‘left-hand drive’). The makeover nods to the brand’s military heritage – in the 1970s, Tudor made bespoke versions of its watches for the French Navy’s left-handed divers. Out now J &
L o c k e r R.M. WILLIAMS Founded in 1932, R.M. Williams built its name on footwear crafted for the Australian outback. LVMH bought the brand in 2014 and brought in Dunhill designer Jeremy Hershan to add apparel: think outdoorswear crafted from premium but practical fabrics. All of which will be on show at the brand’s newest store in central London. R.M. Williams, Berwick Street, London W1 open in May
MACKINTOSH X PORTER YOSHIDA Mackintosh is known for its military-grade rubberised coats and Porter Yoshida is famous for its MA-1 flight jacket-style accessories. Their first collaboration includes a rucksack, shoulder bag and tote made from Mackintosh’s rubberised cloth, which makes each fully waterproof. As well as the silhouettes, Porter details come in the form of a camouflage print and the the MA-1’s signature orange lining. Out now
PENHALIGON’S SAVOY STEAM In 1870, William Penhaligon set up his perfumery and barber’s over a Turkish baths (also known as a hammam) on London’s Jermyn Street. As he lathered up customers, exotic fragrances would drift into his shop. Inspired, he created Hammam Bouquet in 1872, which aimed to replicate this experience. A century and a half on, Penhaligon’s complements the original with Savoy Steam, which pairs the scent of fresh roses with geranium, rosemary and incense. Out now 50
P R E T T YG R E E N . CO M J A P A N / A O YA M A / S H I N J U K U M A R U I M E N / V E N U S F O R T / N A G O YA P A R C O / O S A K A / S A P P O R O P A R C O / F U K U O K A P A R C O U K / L O N D O N / M A N C H E S T E R / L I V E R P O O L / S H E F F I E L D / N OT T I N G H A M / N E W C A S T L E / B R I G H TO N / C A R D I F F / E D I N B U R G H / G L A S G OW / L E E D S / B I R M I N G H A M
Words Hamish MacBain Photographs Deirdre O’Callaghan Fashion Director Mark Anthony Bradley Styling Laura Mazza
FATHER JOHN MISTY The outspoken musician – whose latest album Pure Comedy is eerily prescient of the Trump administration – dissects the madness of the music industry.
Jacket and shirt by Etro; sunglasses by Ahlem.
F a t h e r
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M i s t y
Jacket by John Varvatos; T-shirt by Simon Miller from Barneys New York,
Beverly Hills; scarf by Saint Laurent from Barneys New York,
To anyone for whom Josh Tillman has begun to seem like a man who only exists as an endlessly outspoken interviewee, or a perpetually imploding onstage ranter, his new album as Father John Misty, Pure Comedy, will be nothing short of a revelation. In contrast to I Love You, Honeybear – the ramshackle, sarcasm-dripping record that broke him, in both senses of the word – it is brimming with sensitivity and soulfulness, as much as his usual anger and dissatisfaction with the modern world. It is also an album that is going to ask a lot of people, in terms of their attention. Often drumless, often floating without a backbeat, two of its songs stretch over the ten-minute mark, with the first of these, ‘Leaving LA’, being easily the best thing he has done (and by his own admission, perhaps ever will do). Stretching over the same length of time it takes for Tillman and his wife, Emma, to drive from their home to the freeway, it consists of a single melodic phrase repeated over and over again, with each line digging deeper into his past and his psyche. It features childhood memories such as, he says, “choking on the candy, and hearing ‘Little Lies’ by Fleetwood Mac, and having my basically abusive mother who had me over her shoulders screaming for someone
to help me, and realising in some weird way that she loved me, and hearing this stupid music playing while I thought I was dying, and realising ‘This is all a joke’.” The song also addresses, as a large proportion of the album does, his feelings for the musical landscape in which he finds himself, one that is full of “LA phonies and their bullshit bands” who “sound like dollar signs and Amy Grant”. “You can hear it all over the airwaves,” runs another line, “the manufactured gasp of the final days.” It is the sound of a songwriter, and more importantly an artist, who is wholly dissatisfied with the surroundings in which he has to exist, but completely unwilling to change for anyone. Ever. Pure Comedy is also an album that addresses the turmoil that is life in a world led by Donald Trump. Or at least seems to. It is a political album, certainly, but not as much as it is a personal one. The reality is that lines such as the title song’s “It’s like something that a madman would conceive” were written a long, long time before the current president was elected, back when it seemed like an almost laughable prospect. But perhaps that is the sign of a truly great artist: to be writing simply what flows out of you, and for it to subsequently chime with the times.
How did you feel coming towards the end of the Honeybear lifespan, getting so much acclaim and taking you to quite a high level of fame? I had about a year in me before the seams started to show a little bit. But your description of how the end of that album cycle felt bears truly zero resemblance to the way I felt. I just felt exhausted. I felt there were some things happening in the collective imagination that were really disturbing to me, and my personal life was in a bit of a shambles. But like you said, fame.
It seemed to be something that jarred with you slightly, all that attention for attention’s sake. It’s totally fine. Fame, you can’t quantify it: it’s not like a trait unto itself. It has no characteristics.
This album feels like a reaction to that, to what you’ve experienced over the last couple of years. ‘Leaving LA’ is absolutely a reaction to that – if you don’t pick up on that, I actually have nothing to add.
It’s definitely the centrepiece of the album. I hear that you’d been writing that song for three years. There was one whole year where I just had the first four lines. I kept singing them over and over and over again, and I had no idea what the song was supposed to be. I had to wait on life, for it to be what it was supposed to be. ‘Leaving LA’ became a mission, I guess, to destroy the folk song. Because the folk song in the modern context is animated by a certain mystique, and I think it’s a form of lying. If you break down most modern folk songs you’ve got a bunch of lying, like, ‘You don’t live on a farm.’ Or whatever. It’s a pretty uncharitable view, and it’s not leaving much room for fantasy or whatever else, but by the end of that song I wanted there to be nothing left: zero opportunity to romanticise me or anything that I do.
There is a line that stuck out for me in that song: “At some point you just can’t control whatever people use your fake name for.” You shut down your Instagram and Twitter at the end of last year. Was the sensationalist side of that something you were getting sick of? It’s more just the feeling of powerlessness, and this encroaching instinct to self-edit, which is really depressing. It’s a categorical loss of innocence. But that line is very liberating: the
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realisation that I’ve come to terms with the fact that I had to answer this question endlessly for the first few albums, which is like, ‘Who is Father John Misty?’ or ‘What’s the difference between you and Father John Misty?’ or ‘Does having an alter ego make it easy for you to write?’ And I swear up and down all the time, there is no fucking Father John Misty. This isn’t a cartoon character. I don’t think you could listen to any of my music and not realise that I’m singing from my own experience and from my heart and that it’s very personal to me. But I think that red herring was just too strong. It’s a failed experiment, like when I started the whole joke that I was going to give myself a false name like Bob Dylan or David Bowie or Nina Simone or whoever, but that mine was just going to be really patently fake. But it turned out to be a monster. It turned out it was just too seductive for people to think of me as a charlatan. Maybe in some ways I am, but I think a lot of the time people just have a hard time believing that my instincts are what they are and that it’s some kind of premeditated con job or something. What I had to realise is that he is more real to people than I am: this person is animated by the thoughts of thousands of people who are all contributing to this idea of this person. And I have to just make peace with that.
Record labels are like governments, and you want a small government: you don’t want them telling you what you can say.
It’s good you realised this, because as you say, when people do have that instinct to self-edit it can be extremely detrimental to art and to songwriting – if people are having to think about how people are going to perceive certain things. Right. It’s detrimental for everyone. It’s horrible when language and dialogue gets impoverished so critically by what is ultimately fear: a fear of retribution from the mob. And that’s what we are. Our shame brains. [The writer] Jon Ronson talks about this masterfully. There are better people than me to describe this phenomenon, but I see it just as well as anyone else.
But still, the opening line of, say, ‘Total Entertainment Forever’ – “Bedding Taylor Swift, every night inside the Oculus Rift” – when you’re putting lines like that down, the thought must run through your mind, oh god, people will pick up on this and it’s going to be endlessly quoted? For sure. But music is and will always remain a place of total liberation. I edited, like, one drug reference out of my last album just because it was more trouble than it was worth, but other than that? No. And look, it’s like, if Barack Obama rather than Taylor Swift rhymed with Oculus Rift then that might have been the lyric. Who else rhymes with Oculus Rift as beautifully as Taylor Swift does? And it’s a really good opportunity for someone to use their critical mind. When someone hears that line they can go one of two ways. They can go, “This is some kind of covert slut-shaming, this is living proof of the patriarch in everything that we do, think and say.” If that’s the world that person wants to live in, then that’s fine. But the other option is to realise that it is ultimately that I don’t want that to happen to Taylor Swift. I don’t want anyone to become human capital for entertainment. That’s tragic to me. And that’s the whole point of the song.
Coat by Ann Demeulemeester from Barneys New York, Beverly Hills; trousers by Dries Van Noten; vest by Dries Van Noten from Barneys New York, Beverly Hills; bracelet, model’s own. Speaking of human capital for entertainment, I read an interview with you recently where you said that, after the success of Honeybear, you started getting lots of major label people turning up and telling you it was time to move your career to “the next level”. Was there any curiosity or temptation to investigate that route?
Oh yes, absolute curiosity. I didn’t see anything on that side of the fence that tempted me per se, but definitely my morbid curiosity demanded that I go and meet with everybody. It really came down to the distinction between pragmatism and ideals, and
my latent middle-class values meant that I did spend a lot of time trying to make that decision pragmatically. I’ll be giving up these things, but I’ll be gaining these things, and I’ve got to think about my future and blah, blah, blah. But really I was far more satisfied to make the decision based on my ideals, which is like, these people are douchebags
and I don’t belong here and this is just not for me. It was as simple as that. It was an instinct. And I’ve been working with Sub Pop and Bella Union and my producers for five years. I kept saying, “I don’t want to go to some new label and meet 12 new Steves. I want to work with the people who I work with and people that I love.”
And you wouldn’t have been able to make a record as uncompromising and singular as this one. No. Labels are like governments, and you want a small government: you don’t want them telling you what you can say. You want a small label. And
country have. And you do a disservice to the human race, I guess, if you want to take it up to its furthest extrapolation. Music doesn’t have to just be entertainment. It can serve some other purpose. I’ll just say that I knew when you pulled the curtain back on that world that it was...
…worse than you ever could have expected?
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If you write your own music, you’re protective of it. You’re less prone to commodify yourself in the most pornographic way imaginable. I’ve seen a lot of smart people – a lot of talented, principled people – in an instant be coerced into abandoning all their best self-interests, creatively or otherwise, by this magical phrase: “Time to go to the next level.”
It’s really depressing watching an artist you’ve loved, and seeing the discomfort on their face once they’ve made that decision. Yeah, and why does the music always suffer? It’s because ideals manifest themselves materially, and if you give up your ideals that’s the fucking human dynamo of anything you are going to do creatively. It’s that kind of bullshit where you think you can suspend your ideals, suspend what you know in your heart and still make great music. You need those ideals, you need the integrity of those ideals. If you can’t make a hard decision in that situation, which is just stupid bullshit, how are you supposed to make those hard decisions in your creative life?
You had some involvement with various bits of writing for other people: very high profile people such as Beyoncé. Did that have any benefit for your own songwriting? I didn’t experience it all that much, but I didn’t get that much satisfaction from it. And I didn’t have to compromise at all. I’ve never done a writer’s circle, where you get into a ring with six other people. I don’t do it that way. I write songs for
people and then I take them to them and they either like them or they don’t and then that’s the way it works. But I did get to see quite a bit of how the sausage is made and I will say that after that experience, these questions that used to be in my mind – how can these people do this silly bullshit, this dehumanising bullshit, that comes with being a pop star – I realised that it’s because they don’t write their own music. If you write your own music you are protective of it. It has dignity and it’s important to you to maintain that dignity, so you are less prone to go commodify yourself in the most pornographic way imaginable, because you have this protective instinct over this thing that you have journeyed deep into the speculative darkness to create. If you don’t do that, you are willing to do anything. And the word ‘write’, the word ‘writing’, has become so impoverished in that industry: where people don’t even know what it means any more. It’s like how in American culture people who earn dividends from market shares say that they earned their money. You didn’t earn your fucking money, come on. And it’s the same thing with writing in the pop world, it’s like, you did not write this. You tweaked two words and then you have basically a dividend system in place. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but I do believe that it has a snowball effect when music gets created that way. It then gets exploited, it then gets commercialised, and then that is more or less the only spiritual substance that a lot of people in this
Oh it’s mind boggling. There are situations where it is like, if you guys don’t have any songs, there are no musicians here, there are no instruments here, and there is a critical deficit of imagination in the room, then what the fuck are we doing in a recording studio making an album? It’s like a painter getting a committee together and going, “Well what do you think about this: should there be blue in this painting?” And someone saying, “Well, there is blue in the other painting.” And that’s what we’re talking about: this culture of fear, that fear of reaction. If you don’t believe that’s the number one criteria in how pop music gets made, you’re kidding yourself. A very smart person figured out that artists, real artists, are a pain in the ass, and they are a very rare commodity, and that it was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain the business model based on this very scarce, very volatile resource of the real artist. And technology and the industry and everything has now all coalesced and progressed under the idea that you don’t necessarily need a talented person to make popular music. You just need someone desperate, and then this whole narrative about “following your dreams”.
So to come away from those experiences, and then to make an album like Pure Comedy, that must have felt good. This is probably the finest album I’ll ever make. I stopped drinking for two years while I was writing this album. I stopped doing drugs. It was really important to me to cultivate an internal silence.
What was not drinking like for you? It was just a practical consideration. I had a lot harder time sleeping, so I was writing a lot in the middle of the night. But I just had this instinct that I was going to make something fundamentally different to what I had made before, and that the
F a t h e r process was going to be different. This is the first time that I ever wrote lyrics down when I was writing a song. And so I’d say 75 per cent of the writing took place without an instrument in arm’s reach. I am convinced that if the process had looked any different it would have been a completely different record. There would have been some sloppiness that would have infected it, and that sloppiness has been good in the past: it’s given vitality to some of my other music. But this thing, it just wouldn’t work. If I had made this record the way I made the other records, it would have been an album full of first draft lyrics, which weren’t that great.
It also does feel – and I’m sure you’re going to get this a lot – eerily prescient in some ways. It was really creepy when the Trump election went down: all of a sudden this record felt very literal in a way that I was honestly uncomfortable with. Prior to that, it felt sort of timeless. It was not meant to be so explicitly about the time in which we live.
People should probably understand that you would have had to bash it out pretty quickly if you were reacting to the Trump election. But whatever the stupidest perception of the album is, it’s the one that will monopolise at least 50 per cent of the coverage of it. So
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that’s just bound to happen. But I’m not anxious about that, it just took me by surprise. When I wrote the line “Where did they find these goons they elected to rule?” I was thinking Hillary Clinton was going to be our president.
To me, the themes in it relate more to the detachment of the people who are leading rather than any specific leader. If I were to try to locate something about this record that sets it apart, or that is indicative of my growth as a writer, it’s that I’m always setting up these little unexpected deviations, and in the past I’ve used those opportunities maybe for a cruel joke or something routed in despair. But the last line of the song ‘Pure Comedy’ is “That random matter, suspended in the dark, I hate to say it but each other’s all we’ve got.” There were 15 different ways to end that song. I spent months just trying to work out how to bring that song home, and opting for something hopeful was a new thing. It’s sort of like irrational hope, but that’s really
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important. By and large, I don’t believe that there is any such thing as cynical music. Music is such an inhospitable place for cynicism because it requires such an effort of faith and an investment in beauty. And that’s not a good place for cynicism to grow. If there is anything about this record that I think is interesting, it’s that it is coming into this time, and that the message of the album is that as human beings we keep stepping on the same rakes, we keep slipping on the same banana peels, over and over again and that we have to admit that. We have to admit that to ourselves, but there’s still reason to hope and you have to be able to hold those two ideas in your head at the same time. And if you can’t, then you’re bust. But we are turning into children, and as our culture becomes increasingly more immature we are going to find ourselves ruled by literal children. If you look at the Reddit shit and the trolling and the internet stuff, those by and large are children, and they are shaping our world because they realise how ridiculously binary we are. If anything, when I think about America today, it’s like we’ve got these two siblings who have been living in a room, been sharing a room for too long, and they now know exactly the way with the least amount of effort required to make the other person reveal everything silly and hateful and stupid about themselves with very minimal work. Both sides
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Until we recognise the only reason things are the way they are is because all of us want them that way, we are fucking lost. of the American experiment showed their whole hand over this last year.
As an outsider, it does often seem like America is now just two groups of people shouting “Idiots!” at each other a lot. But on this album, it doesn’t feel like you’re taking sides. It feels like you’re just pointing out that this needs to be addressed. Right. When ‘Bored in the USA’ came out, some people co-opted it as some kind of liberal battle cry. And I’m just like, no, you have missed the point
completely. If you look at that song and see it as a fiery screed against big banks and whatever else they said it was about then you’ve missed it completely. I don’t write anything that’s even vaguely political that isn’t about total complicity for everyone. Until we all recognise that the only reason things are the way they are is because all of us want them that way, we are fucking lost. There is the issue with women, which was an interesting one. Liberal women, basically, have this very hateful attitude towards women who voted for Trump that’s like, “You are just a fucking idiot, you couldn’t see – you couldn’t see what a blatant attack that was on your own self-interest. And now you’ve ruined it for me too and blah, blah blah.” And when it comes down to it, what a lot of liberal women are talking about were these stories like “Grab them by the pussy” or whatever, while conservative women – and bear in mind I’m not espousing either of these views, I’m just trying to illustrate this total miscommunication – a conservative
woman is going, “Have you ever been around a man before?” They are saying their source of strength comes from a world view wherein they say, “I am not under any illusion about how men are, how men can be.” The strength of a conservative woman is saying, “I’m going to overlook that petty bullshit in favour of what’s important, like immigration, taxes, defeating Isis,” whatever it is. A conservative woman can say, “I’m going to put that aside, and I’m going to be an American before I’m anything else, including a woman.” That’s a conservative’s perspective. And then a liberal’s perspective is way more binary. It’s like a sexual thought, a sexual indiscretion is tantamount to a complete and total lack of morals. It’s: “You cannot lead women if you think about women that way.” Which is totally valid. I agree with both sides. I also happen to think that this guy is categorically unfit to lead in a way that it’s boring to even expand on. But neither side wants to acknowledge the other. It’s just like, I’ve smoked before and I’ve not smoked before, and when I’m smoking I cannot imagine life without smoking and when I am not smoking, smoking seems like the most vile thing in the world. That’s perspective. The album Pure Comedy is out on 7 April fatherjohnmisty.com bellaunion.com
Photographs Lee Strickland Fashion Director Mark Anthony Bradley Model Adam Senn Location Eddingston Ranch and Hawkins Ranch, Texas
Texas Wrangler Adam Senn lives the glamorous life you’d expect from a man who’s modelled for Gucci and Valentino and stars in the US television show Hit the Floor. But his roots are more rustic. Though born in Paris, he was raised in Texas and learnt cowboy skills at his family’s ranch. He keeps in touch with this way of life by visiting his friend, John Peden, at the historic Hawkins Ranch. “As native Texans and avid outdoorsmen, we shared a mutual respect for the natural landscape,” says Senn. “John surprised me one day with a book his great aunt wrote: The Hawkins Ranch in Texas.” It detailed the state’s first female ranchers, four sisters who ran Hawkins in the 1930s. Senn now plans to turn their story into a film. instagram.com/adamsenn
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Photographs Gavin Bond Fashion Director Mark Anthony Bradley Words Chris May Grooming Lee Machin at Caren Agency using Tom Ford Styling Assistant Chris Gaynor Production John Parkinson Agency johnparkinsonagency.co.uk Location Duke of London dukeoflondon.co.uk and Romance of Rust romanceofrust.co.uk Motorbike 1939 500cc Vincent-HRD Comet courtesy of Speed is Expensive speedisexpensive.com
Luke Evans still remembers the moment he fell in love with musical theatre. He was eight years old and perched on a family friend’s knee, in his parents’ terraced house in the Rhymney Valley, in South Wales. His parents were Jehovah’s Witnesses and among their religious friends were two sisters, who were living in a caravan in the family’s garden. The pair loved musicals and earlier that year, one of them had travelled to London to see Phantom of the Opera. She returned with the soundtrack recording, a lavishly packaged double album with production shots of Michael Crawford and the rest of the cast. Evans sat on his honorary aunt’s knee and listened to the music, while she pointed to the photographs and told him the show’s story. When Crawford sang ‘The Music of the Night’, Evans had a kind of epiphany. The town of Aberbargoed did not boast a rich musical theatre tradition. Until Evans’ name began to pop up at the top of film posters, it was most famous for once having Europe’s
largest coal slag heap. Evans was a small Jehovah’s Witness who loved to sing, in a town whose mine had just closed. He was treated in the way young boys always treat anyone different. This both eased the decision to quit school at 16 – a job would pay for singing lessons – and steeled him for his chosen career. After getting used to having doors slammed in his face in his local community, facing the whims of casting directors was easier to bear. By the age of 17 Evans had left behind his religion and his home. From singing in Cardiff he won a scholarship to the London Studio Centre in King’s Cross. He spent most of the next decade climbing the ladder of West End musicals until, in 2008, he made an acclaimed debut in the straight
play Small Change at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden. Its success encouraged him to audition for the 2009 film Dorian Gray. He missed out but his tape began to circulate and he was cast in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role in his first feature, Clash of the Titans. Evans worked this break with the zeal of a theatre actor who knows how rarely they come. Films of varying quality but increasing profile followed, until in 2012 he landed a starring role in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. After a decade of work, he was an overnight sensation. Even after 22 films in six years – most recently Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise and Tate Taylor’s The Girl on the Train – Evans refuses to slow down. This year he stars in Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, returning to the acting/singing with which he began his career. And he takes top billing in both Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – about a love triangle involving the man who created Wonder Woman – and Meredith Danluck’s indie drama State Like Sleep.
Rejection spurred him on, whether as a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on doors in South Wales or as a musical actor gunning for straight plays. But after starring in the Hobbit, High-Rise and now Beauty and the Beast, it’s Hollywood that’s calling.
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Did you have a happy childhood? Very happy. My mum is only 19 years older than me and my dad only 21 years, so it was a young family and we were very close. We still are. My parents became Jehovah’s Witnesses in their late teens, so I was born into the religion, and I was brought up in a warm and loving family with good principles. We lived in a little village, close to my grandparents, who are still very much in my life. It was a wonderful childhood apart from one thing. I was an only child and quite small and I got bullied a lot at school. You only have to be a little bit different in the valleys of South Wales when you’re a kid and you stick out like a sore thumb. I wasn’t the only one at school from a Jehovah’s Witnesses family, but we were a minority and we were different – we stuck to each other and we didn’t go to assemblies in the morning. It’s not a confrontational religion, we’re totally pacifist, we don’t get involved in wars or politics, we don’t vote – see, I’m still saying “we” but I haven’t been a Jehovah’s Witness for 23 years – so if you were approached by someone being aggressive, you would walk away. That might work if you were an adult, but as a child in a school playground, they just keep coming. I didn’t know how to protect myself. So rather selfishly, I always wanted an older sibling, who could stick up for me. I wish I’d had a bit more aggression in me then.
Were you scarred by the bullying? Luckily, I wasn’t. From a young age I’d accompanied my parents doing house-to-house canvassing, and when you get doors regularly slammed in your face you develop a thick skin. If it had continued it could have scarred me, but when I was 13 I started hanging out with two brothers who were a few years older than me, just old enough to drive, and we used to cruise around at weekends, not doing anything bad, just having fun. That got me through a difficult patch. Bullying
is a horrible thing. Tragically, a lot of kids don’t know that it is only temporary, that it will end.
Was there much music in your home? I’m not sure whether Jehovah’s Witnesses approve of it. Oh yes, there was plenty of music, and my mother took me to musicals, too. The first one was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Bristol Hippodrome. By the time I was 11, she was taking me on the bus to London to see musicals. At home there was church music, soundtrack albums from the musicals and pop, though I knew more about 1950s and 1960s pop than the decade I was growing up in. We had a record player and my dad had a load of 45rpm records which he kept in a sort of elongated toast rack, and I was allowed to play them. I remember singing along to the Seekers’ ‘The Carnival is Over’, Ricky Valance’s ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’, the Drifters’ ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’, stuff by the Beatles, Petula Clark. I think that’s where I first got a taste for finding my voice. I also enjoyed mimicking people, pretending to be someone else. When I was six, I had to have all my milk teeth taken out in one go, under general anaesthetic, and as a get-well present my parents bought me a tape recorder on which I recorded my own radio shows. We’ve still got tapes of me imitating [newscaster] Gordon Honeycombe. I’d interview my parents, I’d do recipes and talk about the news. There are reams of it. One of the people on them is my great aunt and she died in 1993. She was very proud of me – she didn’t have any children of her own. And I often think if there was one person I would like to have alive now it would be her, because it would be fascinating for her to see what’s happened to my singing. Even at six, there was a performer in there wanting to get out.
And starting singing lessons when you were 16 was your first grown-up step towards making that happen?
You only have to be a little bit different in the valleys of South Wales when you’re a kid and you stick out like a sore thumb.
I wanted to learn how to sing properly. I’d been told by a teacher in my final year at school, “You’ve got a real instrument there.” She said if I ever wanted to have singing lessons, her friend was a singing teacher. I kept the phone number and when I left school I gave her a call and had my first lesson. It was on the cusp of leaving home. I got a job in Cardiff working in River Island and I used to save money and on Wednesday evenings after work I would go to Louise Ryan and have a singing lesson. Sometimes this little girl would be leaving when I arrived or arriving when I left. It was Charlotte Church. She must have been nine or ten. Eight months later I applied for a scholarship to the London Studio Centre. By this time I was living in Cardiff, working as a mail boy in a bank. One week I took two days off and went to London on the bus to audition for the scholarship, which I won. I sang and I acted, but they gave it to me for my singing. My voice was still raw but it was advanced for my age. I had a very lyrical voice, I could move from tenor to falsetto to chest voice and back to my head voice.
How did your parents feel about you moving to London? You had only just turned 17. They worried, of course. Their lives were more contained and they didn’t have ambitions like I did. My dad had a very good job, he was a self-employed builder and bricklayer, and they liked their lives as they were. They were very cautious, they are even now. The last thing my dad said to me a couple of days ago – because he knows I’ll soon be off travelling all over the place, staying in strange hotels and meeting new people – was, “Be careful.” But I think it was clear from a very young age that I had dreams. So when I left home and found a scholarship, my parents had already started to see that their kid was beyond his years in independence, was ready to spread his wings. So they supported me, and they did that extremely well, especially considering I was their only child and so precious to them.
You spent eight years in West End musicals before getting your first role in a straight play, and then on to the movies. It’s not a transition many make. How did it happen? I was playing Roger in Rent and I was
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I always thought someone was going to say, ‘Sorry mate, we’ve got the wrong person, this isn’t right for you.’
in the process of changing agents. The guy I was going to move to said, “I can see you can act without having to sing and it would be wonderful to see you do that.” Words I wanted to hear. I thought maybe he meant I could do some TV or a commercial, not a play at the Donmar Warehouse, which to me was the Holy Grail of theatres – as a musical-theatre actor, I thought they’d never let me through the door. But he thought I would be perfect for Small Change, which was about two workingclass guys in Cardiff and their relationships with their mothers. He couldn’t put me up for it himself because I was still under contract to my old agent, but he suggested I wrote a letter to Anne McNulty, the Donmar’s casting director, introducing myself and saying I was Welsh and 28 years old. So I bought a card at a shop at Seven Dials, right next to the Donmar, and left it at the stage door. I said I was playing Roger and I could get her some tickets and it would be nice to meet her if she had a few minutes. I didn’t mention Small Change because I thought that would be too on the nose. I didn’t hear anything for a week, by which time I’d given up hope. But then she called and apologised for the delay and said she’d been in rehearsals for this play Small Change and she’d like to meet me. So we met for half an hour or so, and she said she’d like me to meet Peter Gill, Small Change’s writer and director. I remember him looking deep into my eyes, as though he was looking into my soul, and I think he saw that I fitted the character, that I was that person in the story he’d written based on his own life. It was a brave thing for Anne to do because I had no straight plays on my CV. And this is the Donmar. I owe her a massive debt of gratitude. Small Change was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had, out of all the things I’ve done. I was working with a writer/director, which works really well for me, and with three incredible actors, Lindsey Coulson, Sue Johnston and Matt Ryan.
They’d all done wonderful things. It was a pivotal moment in my life.
And it won you the Evening Standard award for best newcomer. Did they know you’d been treading the boards for eight years? I didn’t mind. I was just so grateful for being given the chance to do the play. I wanted to be brilliant at it and I knew I was working with a calibre of actors that I’d never had before. And I got so much intimate time with the director, which I’d never had before. I relished everything about it. It all happened so quickly and it was such an important moment, but it was gone in a heartbeat. Three months and it was over. I always thought someone was going to come up and say, “Sorry mate, we’ve got the wrong person, this isn’t right for you.” I wanted to do straight plays and films but I thought that because Small Change had happened late in my career it was just going to be a one-off and then it would be back to musical theatre. Though I do love telling a story through song. Maybe it’s the Welsh bardic genes kicking in. It could be.
Was there a prejudice in the London theatre world against actors from musical theatre? Definitely. You weren’t taken very seriously. I don’t think it’s as bad now and I hope I’ve broken some of the boundaries. Not everyone can do it, but I don’t think actors should be fenced in if they can do it. There may
be things I can’t do, but until I find those things, I’ll carry on exploring. My versatility is something I relish. Being diverse in what I do and the different scale of the productions, from big budget Hollywood movies to indie films, is part of the fun of it. And in America, there are really no barriers between each medium. American casting directors came over to see Small Change and offers followed. I was once taken to the Ivy twice in the same day.
Did you find it hard acting for the camera? You hadn’t been taught that at college. I learnt on the job, and I was lucky because on my first film [Clash of the Titans] I was working with two of the best – Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. I got to see them bounce off each other and sometimes incorporate me, and I watched in awe and astonishment at how small and quiet they could be. I wasn’t used to that, I was used to playing to the back row of the gods. I’m still learning. That’s a wonderful thing about acting – it’s a craft and you keep getting better at it. I watch films now completely differently from how I watched them before Clash of the Titans. Even a really dreadful film might have one performance in it that you can learn from. Just watching someone who knows how to use the camera, use a pause, use nothing, and give so much. It also helped that at the Donmar I’d learnt something about being relaxed and letting things happen sort of impulsively rather than to a rigid plan. I can do that more freely and lucidly now. It comes with experience, confidence, strength of character and also a lot of prep. Then being able to throw it all away when you come to set and think, “I’ve done what I can to prepare, now I’m going to react to you, whatever you throw at me, expected or not, I’m going to react in the moment.” You can tell when actors don’t do that. You can see when they’re not really listening to what the other character is saying because they’ve worked out how
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Despite all the Hollywood movies, you still live in London. Has there been pressure to move to LA? There was early on. My American team were like, “It would be great if you were here, you could do lots of meetings and if they needed someone straight away you’d be around.” But in that first year after Clash of the Titans I had done five films and it didn’t feel like it was slowing down. So my reply was that if I wasn’t working, fair enough, but I’m working and I’m busy and my friends are here and I’m happy where I am, so moving doesn’t make any sense. They kept on about it for a couple of years and then I bought my house and that was the end of it. My dream, ever since I was a kid, was to live in London. If I’d been offered a scholarship at any college in London I’d have come. Right from coming up on the bus with all the old ladies to watch musicals. My heartbeat increased the second we came over the Hammersmith flyover and saw those giant planes coming in, close enough to the see the wheels underneath. In the valleys, all you saw was a vapour trail high in the sky. Those memories have never left me. Still today, as I drive home from Wales, I look out when we go past Heathrow and I remember that image so poignantly – and the thought that in London I’d see more people in ten minutes than I’d see in a whole week in our village. I compare everywhere
to London and London always comes out on top. I travel a lot today, an extraordinary amount, but London is my home.
Have you managed to hang on to your old friends? I’ve made new friends, obviously, but the ones I see when I come home are people I’ve known for 20 years or so. And as lovely as it is to talk about what I’ve been doing it’s also lovely to hear about what they’ve been doing, whether it’s working in an office or whatever. Life has to stay real and I’ve never understood why success has to change who you are. I think a lot of people move to LA because with the fame they can create a new persona there. I don’t want to. I would hate that. I’ve never understood why success and money and fame means you have to become a different person. You see it happen a lot in this industry. Egos are massaged, you’re told you’re amazing, that you‘ll always be a superstar. They’re often empty words but unfortunately actors can get a taste for them. If they’re said to the wrong sort of person they go straight to their heads and they become monsters, thinking that everything they touch turns to gold and that everything they say is important and needs to be heard and that an award means they’ve got a place in heaven.
You’re without a partner right now, I believe. How hard is it to retain a personal life with all the long hours and travel your work demands? It is difficult to have a relationship in this business. Ask any actor and they’ll probably say it’s hard. It’s difficult to find someone who can understand your career and the weird fame thing and put up with all the travelling. There are a lot of sacrifices involved. But I’m a nester and I try to spend as much time as I can in London. Last year wasn’t too bad actually, I was probably here for four or five months. This year is going to be different, there’ll be a lot more travel. I’m going to Atlanta next week and then will
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basically be away until September. After Atlanta I’m in New York for a while, then I start the Beauty and the Beast press tour, which will take me to London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Then I go to Australia. Then I go to Budapest to do The Alienist. It’s based on Caleb Carr’s novel about the hunt for a serial killer in Lower East Side New York in 1896, and it’s going to be a 10-part TV series. It’s my first venture into television. I’m playing a goody for a change.
As an actor, what are you aiming for? To entertain? To enlighten? On a personal level it’s about the challenge, finding a role that will challenge me. On a bigger level, it is about entertaining and maybe educating an audience about something, making them feel something that they might never have felt themselves – loss, murder, heartbreak, discovery, realisation of something massive. For instance, I just played William Moulton Marston in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. He was an extraordinary man and it was fascinating to get under his skin. He was a Harvard psychology professor, born in the late 19th century, and he was one of America’s first, vocal, male feminists. Behind closed doors he and his wife had this polyamorous relationship with another woman. They all lived together and Marston had two children with each of them. He created the character of Wonder Woman and drew from both women
Marlon Brando and James Dean had this reactionary energy that wasn’t pre-planned. It was in the moment, and if you asked them to do it again they wouldn’t be able to. I love that.
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to do so. I didn’t know about him before and many people who see the film probably won’t know him either. So to do that film, which I hope entertains and informs, is great. Hopefully, it will show people that love can take many forms.
Compared to Beauty and the Beast, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is relatively low budget, and presumably your fee reflects that. It’s great the way you juggle blockbusters with smaller, arthouse projects. A big fee is always nice, I’m not going to lie. Coming from a working-class background, it’s good to feel safe and secure financially when you felt very much the opposite before, worrying how to pay the bills. The first thing I did when I could afford it, before I bought my own house, was pay off my parents’ mortgage, and I bought them the house next door too, which they rent out. But I think if you choose jobs purely on the basis of the fee you’d have a very unhealthy career and probably quite a short one. Because you lose the love if you’re looking for the money – you’re in it for the wrong reasons. You want to look for roles that challenge you, directors you want to work with and a story or a genre that you’ve not previously stepped into. Then you’re doing it right. It will keep you fresh and it will bring some energy that you can transfer to the role. Another good thing about being in big movies is that I have a public identity which I can use for really positive things. For instance, I work with the Prince’s Trust, meeting teenagers and people in their early twenties who are still suffering from when they were bullied at school, and trying to help them move on. And a year ago I became an ambassador for Save the Children, who do extraordinary things and really change lives. It’s been a remarkable experience. I recently went to India and spent time in the slums of Mumbai. I went to some of the schools that Save the Children have been funding there, where they also help train
the teachers. I can tell people what I saw and what I learnt, using the profile that I’ve gained through films in a positive way. So the make-believe world that I mostly work in becomes more than that.
It’s a sad moment, because the Americans I know are very loving, generous, inclusive people, and the person who is representing them on the world stage does not reflect any of their interests or beliefs.
What is your take on the increasingly conflicted society in the US and Europe, and the struggle to maintain generosity of spirit and liberal values in the face of autocratic conservatism? One of the first things Trump’s team did on moving into the White House, for instance, was take down the page about LGBT rights.
The power of the people does not always have an immediate effect politically, it’s a slow burn, but when we feel as disjointed as we do now, it’s unifying when so many people come out to march and protest. Men, women, children, all races, all ages, coming together. Protest reminds you that you’re not alone and, though you might be a minority and you might have world powers against you, there’s a lot of people who are on your side. And I think that, as that Mexican wall starts to be built and as climate change and all the other reversals start to kick in, the protests will become larger and they won’t be minorities any more, there’ll be tens of millions of people marching, and things will change. But we can’t become complacent and just wait for things to get better again, we need to raise our voices.
It is an extraordinary moment in our history. I’m very aware of what’s happening in America. I spend a lot of time there, I get paid in dollars, some of my closest friends are in America, and it’s awful to watch the extreme speed with which Trump is trying to delete and reverse all the positive unification that Obama stood for. I’m not saying everything Obama did was perfect, but his presidency was about including minorities and addressing climate change and not ignoring the facts. I didn’t think I’d live to see a leader of the free world who is so ignorant and dismissive of facts and who is trying to take things back to the 1930s. Some of the things Trump says and some of the people in his cabinet send shivers down my spine. I pay tax in America, I have a company there, I have a social security number, so while I might not live there I think I’m entitled to an opinion about what is going on.
What is heartening is the scale of the opposition to Trump in the US, on the streets and elsewhere.
What do you think of nationalism generally? You can get more done as a group than you can alone. Strength in numbers works on many levels. You’re never lonely if you’re with other people – well, sometimes you are, but let’s not get Freudian about it – and there’s a strength when there’s a togetherness. I was born a European and what I love about it is that it doesn’t matter what country I go to or what language they speak or any other cultural differences. What matters is that we are all Europeans and we work together as a unit. And now we’re separating ourselves at a time when I feel that unity is even more important, when we need to have each other’s backs. On the morning after the EU referendum I woke up in Glastonbury, surrounded by hippies, and everybody was crying.
Do you have any remaining career ambitions?
You want to look for roles that challenge you, a story or genre you’ve not previously stepped into. It will keep you fresh.
I’ve always wanted to do a run on Broadway. But more than that, I’d like to have children. I’ve wanted to adopt for quite a while. It must be really rewarding to impart your knowledge and your life experiences in a positive way, so that your nurture and love can be carried forward. But how I do it at this point in my career, being so busy and travelling so much, has to be thought through. Do they stay at home or come on the road with me? I don’t know yet. Right now I don’t think I can even have a goldfish in my life. But it’s something I definitely want to happen, and I don’t want to wait too long to do it because I don’t want to be an older dad. I would like to be young enough to kick a ball with them, teach them how to swim. Luke Evans plays Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, out on 17 March. He plays the lead in Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, in production, and stars in the first season of The Alienist disney.com tntdrama.com
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Designed by Theis and Khan Architects, the Lumen United Reformed Church in Tavistock Place, London, won an RIBA award in 2009. It blends the spiritual and the secular; ecclesiastical elements such as stained glass windows surround the Ray of Light, a conical column that bisects the main hall and serves as an area of seclusion and contemplatation.
Words Chris May Photograph Felix Friedmann
Meditation has been repackaged as the way to health, wealth and happiness. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the no pill prescription that lowers blood pressure, eases anxiety and could cure chronic pain. Is this ancient path to enlightenment the most revolutionary idea in modern medicine?
M e d i t a t i o n
hen I pitch up at the Lumen community centre in central London to join a zen meditation session, I am thinking I probably have a typical beginner’s profile. Stress? Check. Anxiety? Check. A tendency to overthink? Check. I have no expectations of the evening beyond the hope that the next two hours will be in some way relaxing. My interest is secular not religious, and spiritual only in the loosest sense. Basically, I’m looking for an effective, therapeutic programme I can learn and then practise at home. I am not alone in this quest. In a decade, meditation has journeyed from New Age retreats to blue chip boardrooms, used as a tool for easing corporate stress and snaring that promotion. It could also help save money. After studies showed meditation helped patients manage everything from cardiovascular to mental health, the NHS began offering the practice in lieu of expensive medication. This millennia-old spiritual practice has had a secular rebirth. The Lumen’s appearance is encouraging. The centre, on Tavistock Place, is attached to a United Reformed Church and the atrium has clean lines, a high ceiling and a feeling of peaceful spaciousness. The uncluttered modernism reminds me of Scandinavian interior design. There are five white-painted meeting rooms, each with a glass wall looking out onto a central courtyard garden. One is a secluded and soundproofed space that Dogen Sangha London, the zen group organising this evening’s session, uses for zazen. Zazen is the heart of zen practice. In English, the word means “seated meditation” and to its adepts it is called “sitting”. The theory is that you sit in silence, in the present moment, not intentionally thinking about anything and without any special mental state or other end result in mind. Dogen Sangha’s website describes zazen as “the simplest form of action”. It certainly seems simple. Before we start, Matt Greenshields, who is leading the session, gives me a preview of the proceedings. We remove our shoes and jackets and he takes me into the meditation room and demonstrates how to sit in the prescribed cross-legged position, with both knees resting on the floor and the spine straight. When that proves impossible – my legs are too 92
stiff – Greenshields places cushions under my knees to provide support. He explains that we will all file into the room, bow, and take our sitting positions, each facing away from the centre of the room and a couple of feet from a white-washed wall. There are ten sitters this evening, most of them men. When everyone is settled, he will ring a sound bowl and for the next 25 minutes we will each focus on a spot on the wall in front of us. When he rings the bowl again, we will get up and walk in file, very slowly, round the room for 10 minutes. He will ring the bowl a third time and we will return to our sitting positions, bow, and spend another 25 minutes in silent meditation. When the bell rings a final time, we will stand up, turn towards the centre of the room, bow, and file out. “And that’s it,” says Greenshields. “Then we have tea in the café.” If this sounds like watching paint dry, or to be accurate, watching dry paint, I found it the opposite. It was calming and centring and the time flew by. When Greenshields signalled the end of each 25-minute meditation, it felt like no more than 10 minutes had passed. I also found it unexpectedly easy to remain physically still for 25 minutes. The difficult thing was stilling my mind, which remained full of its usual torrent of random thoughts. Not to worry, someone says while we are having tea, it will get easier. I ask Greenshields why slow walking – known as kinhin in zen practice – is part of zazen. Given that most of the time we are each sitting, effectively on our own, facing a wall, is kinhin practised to make the meditation more of a group activity? Or is it meant to induce a particular mental state? “Mike says it’s to stretch the legs,” says Greenshields. Mike Luetchford is Dogen Sangha’s senior teacher in Britain. In 1977, he went to Tokyo on a six-month job contract, discovered zen – and did not return home for 22 years. Along the way he met his wife, Yoko, in a zen group. Born in Yorkshire in 1944, Luetchford studied electrical engineering and worked in the aerospace industry before becoming a lecturer in mathematics, statistics and computing. He took the short-term job in Tokyo as an engineering instructor with the Nippon Electric Company (NEC). He earns his crust today working as a scientific and technical editor for the Japanese communications company InterGroup. He is highly regarded in zen circles for his English translations of key texts. I talk to Luetchford a few days after doing the zazen session. The first thing I want to know is how he came across zen. “When I went to Japan, because I was a foreigner, NEC gave me a very luxurious apartment to stay in,” says Luetchford. “That’s how it was then. It was fine during the week because I was busy. But what to do at weekends? One day I bought a copy of The Japan Times, an English language newspaper, and I noticed a small ad headed ‘Zen Seminar in English’. Zen was something I was vaguely familiar with – in the 1960s, the Beatles had gone to see the maharishi in India and TM [Transcendental Meditation] had been floating around. I’d tried it a few times, sitting cross-legged, probably smoking a bit of dope at the same time. Anyway, because I had nothing to do at the weekends, I went along.” The seminar was organised by Gudō Wafu Nishijima, the founder of Dogen Sangha in Japan. Nishijima showed Luetchford how to sit correctly and practice meditation. “From that very first time something snapped into place for me,” says Luetchford. “Back in Britain I’d been keen on rock climbing, which I’d started when I was 15 or 16. I had an excessively busy mind and I found that, when I was climbing, the fact that you had to commit yourself completely to what you were doing, with no room for thought, gave me a lovely sense of peace. Zazen gave that same sense of peace.” Luetchford received dharma transmission (a place in the spiritual family tree traced back to the Buddha) from Nishijima in 1989 and studied zen in Japan until 1999, when he returned to Britain, settled in Bristol and began a Dogen Sangha group in the city. A London group was formed in Hackney in 2002 and Luetchford travelled from Bristol to teach and lead zazen at meetings. Since 2008, the London group’s sessions have been held at the Lumen centre. Dogen Sangha London also runs day retreats each month at the Wynford Community Hall in Islington, north London, and occasional longer retreats elsewhere in Britain and Europe. I explain to Luetchford that I am exploring zen because I am attracted by its simplicity. I have dipped a toe into it before and, from the little I know, zazen seems the closest form of meditation to that practised by the Buddha, to which most other forms of eastern meditation derive. But in the past I have been put
off by the hierarchical structure of the zen organisations I encountered and their tendency to deify zen teachers. I picked Dogen Sangha this time because I had been told it was free of these traits. “It’s a minefield out there,” says Luetchford. “Nishijima discovered at a young age that the whole of the Japanese Buddhist establishment was addicted to position, power, infighting, all the things you find in any large organisation. It’s strong in the zen tradition to endeavour to rise up the ranks and become a zen master – even the title ‘zen master’ has a certain ring about it. I come across this attitude quite a lot and it keeps me away from other groups. But Nishijima was a rebel, he wanted to go a different way, and I’ve inherited that. Unfortunately, there are groups who have come to resemble sects – ‘we have something you don’t have and if you want to get it you must do what we say.’ I hate that and I hate the way teachers are sometimes treated like gods. There are zen groups in Britain that are really stereotypical. They dress in black robes and light incense and generally, to my mind, pretend to be Japanese. Our group is not like that at all. I’m not a very traditional zenist. Nishijima wasn’t either.” Other than sitting in the traditional, cross-legged meditating position, there is a refreshing minimum of ritual in Dogen Sangha’s zazen. Luetchford says that the sitting position is not ritualistic either: it is pragmatic and functional. His explanation is anatomically detailed and evidence-based, citing research carried out by western physicians in university medical centres. The bottom line is that if you do not sit in the prescribed posture, a misalignment of the spine affects the nervous system’s balance and lassitude or agitation may follow. “One of the tenets of zen teaching is that body and mind are one and the same,” says Luetchford. “So physical balance is mental balance. As a child, my father always told me to sit up straight. I don’t know where this comes from in human experience. But he was right.” I say to Luetchford that, along with the hierarchies and deifications, in the past I have also been put off zen by the gnomic epigrams that pepper its literature. These confuse rather than educate me and I have long suspected the obfuscation is deliberate, ostensibly there to suggest wisdom but actually disguising ignorance. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” is a particularly irritating example. Another is “zazen is good for nothing”, a saying attributed to Nishijima’s teacher, Kodo Sawaki. If zazen really is good for nothing, I say to Luetchford, why bother to do it? Presumably, Sawaki meant something else. In which case, why not spell it out clearly? “Kodo Sawaki gave many talks, but he didn’t write anything himself,” says Luetchford. “So the Japanese books are transcripts of what he said. Sayings such as ‘zazen is good for nothing’ are very context dependent and that context is often missing, especially in English translations. The context was pre-Second World War Japan. People saw zazen as a means to attain some special state, which in Japanese is called satori [enlightenment]. They subscribed to the view that you would get something special from practising zazen. Kodo Sawaki was a peripatetic teacher, moving all around Japan, and he met lots of people who were fixated on attaining this special state. He just wanted to kick them in the teeth, as it were, to prick their bubble. So he said, ‘It’s good for nothing.’” I say to Luetchford that one thing that surprised me about my first zazen session was the high proportion of men taking part. “I’ve thought about why that is quite a lot,” he says. “I think there are two possible reasons. One is that men need to get away from their intellect more than women, they’re less grounded in society – this is a huge generalisation of course – and the second is that women, who have traditionally been the parent most involved in bringing up children, have to stay in the moment and be far more
pragmatic than men do. So in a way, you could say women need zazen less. But these are only suppositions, my way of explaining it to myself.” I tell Luetchford that, along with zazen, I am about to start checking out the mindfulness movement, and that it seems to me that mindfulness, which is avowedly secular but which has its origins in Buddhist teachings, resembles zen in several respects, not least in its emphasis on meditation. What is Luetchford’s take on mindfulness? “Within its terms of reference, mindfulness works,” he says. “Especially in our modern western society where everybody has so much coming at them and so many distractions to deal with. And I think it is very, very difficult for western minds to understand the basis of what Buddhist teachings are, coming as they are from Japan and China. It’s outside our conceptual framework in a way. Mindfulness makes it more accessible and more acceptable. But it’s not what I’ve taken from Buddhism. Yes, I’ve taken the same idea of coming back to the present, but I don’t do it consciously and purposefully, I don’t try to be mindful. I find trying to be mindful tiring. I sit morning and evening, probably for a total of an hour a day, and then I live my life.” Mindfulness grew out of the pioneering therapeutic work of Jon Kabat-Zinn in the US in the late ‘70s and early ’80s. It is about focusing on what is happening in the here and now in order to stop being stressed or anxious. Dwelling on the remembered past or imagined future, say mindfulness teachers, generates more stress on top of the normal stresses of everyday life. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf,” says Kabat-Zinn. A medical graduate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kabat-Zinn practiced zazen and applied it to a crisis centre that he was involved in at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. His first two books – Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness and Wherever You Go, There You Are – are quite zenlike.
One of the tenets of zen teaching is that body and mind are one and the same. So physical balance is mental balance. Kabat-Zinn found that if he got people to meditate it reduced their stress levels and he designed an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) course that is still the core of mindfulness teaching. MBSR aims to help participants develop “moment-to-moment awareness”. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a close relation of MBSR but is tailored to treat depression. The popularity of mindfulness has grown rapidly over the last decade – today there are even mindfulness apps such as Headspace, which provides a 30-level meditation programme. Some users comment favourably, while others say the course’s one-size-fits-all approach undermines it. The Mindfulness Project is the first dedicated space for secular mindfulness training in London. It was co-founded in 2013 by Alexa Frey, an ex-journalist, and Autumn Totton, previously an asset manager and investment analyst. I went along to its premises in Fitzroy Square in central London to meet Frey and find out what had attracted her to mindfulness, which she has been practising for around eight years. “I’d always been thinking too much – overthinking, ruminating, worrying,” says Frey. “I was everything but being in the present moment. If you have a mind that is always overthinking, it’s not a pleasant thing, it disturbs your quality of life. I was also extremely hyperactive, so it was hard for me to sit still and meditate. After every retreat I went on I was thinking, I’m never going to do this again. But after each retreat I also noticed that I had become more calm. I had moments – and I really mean moments, just three or four seconds – of actually being present. I decided I wanted to get more of that.” A few days after meeting Frey, I return to the Mindfulness Project for a J &
M e d i t a t i o n one-day introduction to mindfulness seminar – a taster for people thinking about doing an eight-week course. There are 14 of us, seven men and seven women. Our teacher for the day, Christiane Kerr, sits us on chairs in a circle facing the centre of the room and checks that we have turned off our phones. There is a group introduction and then an exercise that involves shutting the eyes and very slowly and deliberately chewing, savouring and finally swallowing two raisins. The exercise is to introduce us to the idea of moment-to-moment awareness. Kerr explains some of the theory behind MBSR and then we take part in our first extended exercise, a body scan. We lie on the floor for 20 minutes and, guided by Kerr, focus on key parts of the body, starting with the toes and slowly working up to the scalp, becoming aware of the anatomy and physical sensations at each stopping point. The idea is to reduce stress by focusing on the present moment. Afterwards, Kerr talks to us about recent research into neuroplasticity, which shows that it is possible to make physical changes to our brains, improving their functionality, at any age. A 15-minute session of guided meditation follows, in which we are encouraged to let go of any stray thoughts and focus instead on our breathing, a core MBSR technique: if you are fully connected with a physical activity such as breathing it is, apparently, neurologically impossible for the mind to wander off into random thoughts. After a break for lunch we regroup for more theoretical explanations and practical exercises, including longer periods of breathing-focused guided meditation. Halfway through the session, we do 10 minutes of “mindful movement”, a hybrid of tai chi and chi gong that is part of most
Recent research into neuroplasticity shows that it is possible to make physical changes to our brains, improving their functionality, at any age. MBSR courses. Six hours after we started, the session ends. As with the zazen, I find the time has flown past and I feel calmer and more grounded than I did earlier in the day. As Luetchford says, mindfulness works. Google, Apple, Procter and Gamble, General Mills and even the US Army are among a growing number of organisations offering courses to their staff. They report that MBSR reduces employee burn out, unhappiness and absenteeism and leads to an overall increase in participants’ sense of wellbeing. Singapore-born Chade-Meng Tan introduced the mindfulness staff-training progamme to Google, and ran it for eight years before leaving the company in 2015 to concentrate on writing books and co-chairing One Billion Acts of Peace, a campaigning group that has been nominated eight times for the Nobel Peace Prize. Tan joined Google as an engineer in 2000 and helped design Google’s first mobile search service. In his mindfulness role with the company his new job description was, “Enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace” and his job title was Jolly Good Fellow. Tan’s first book, Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace), published in 2012, is a key text in modern mindfulness. Its sequel, Joy on Demand: The Art of Discovering the Happiness Within, was published last year. Speaking to me from the US, Tan is a good advertisement for mindfulness: patient, focused and sounding as happy as his book titles suggest he should be. He was not always like this. “I had a very unhappy childhood,” says Tan. “For most of my early life I was suicidal. I had a very low happiness baseline and if nothing was happening I was miserable. To compound the problem, I was really smart. If you are already unhappy and you are a smart kid, it makes it worse. And if you don’t do sport, it’s worse still. Today is the opposite really. 94
My baseline hasn’t shifted but if nothing is happening I’m jolly.” Tan’s route into mindfulness began when he was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism. Growing up in Singapore in the 1980s he found local Buddhism unappealing. “There was a lot of deity worship disguised as Buddhism,” says Tan. “People would invoke deities so that they could win the lottery, for instance, and Buddha just happened to be one of ones they used. What changed my life was finding real Buddhism. That happened in September 1991. I was listening to a lecture by a Tibetan Buddhist nun – the irony was she was white, from America, but had gone the Tibetan route – and in the middle of the lecture she said, ‘It’s all about cultivating the mind.’ And when I heard that, suddenly my whole life changed. Totally. It was the most important moment in my life. For the first time, everything in my mind made sense. I said to myself, ‘From this moment on, I’m a Buddhist, and I’m going to do meditation.’” Tan likens meditation to working out in the gym, but training the mind rather than the body. He says it does not matter why you take up meditation – to get ahead at work or to become a happier person – if practised correctly, meditation will always give a good result. “The analogy is, if you have two guys who go to the gym but for different reasons,” says Tan. “One goes with the right motivation, to get fit. The other guy goes for the wrong motivation. He knows that the boss is there every morning and he wants the boss to see him training too. The two guys do the same exercises. If the question is, ‘Who gets fit?’, the answer is, ‘Both of them.’ Whatever the original motivation, if you do the training correctly, you will get fit. It’s the same with meditation. If you do the practice correctly, it will work.” I say to Tan that I have noticed an equal split between men and women doing mindfulness training, while most of the self-help programmes and complementary therapies with which mindfulness is generally bracketed seem to appeal mainly to women. “The yang, masculine side of meditation was prevalent in early Buddhism,” says Tan. “Maybe because the Buddha had previously been a warrior. It used analogies that were to do with effort and training and achieving great things. The yang side appeals a lot to men – it’s about training, it’s like going to the gym. You acquire the ability to calm the mind, to concentrate. The second thing that appeals to men is that it gives you a competitive advantage. You do better at work, you get faster promotions and so on. If you meditate, you are more concentrated, you are more aware, and that gives you an advantage in attaining success. The trick is to see both sides of mindfulness, the feminine and the masculine.” This is a view shared by Frey at the Mindfulness Project. “I think men are attracted to mindfulness because it’s so down to earth and rational,” says Frey. “You’re becoming a master of your mind. That’s quite a male thing. Obviously there are more female aspects to mindfulness – the self-compassion, the kindness, the allowing of your emotions. We don’t get many men on our self-compassion courses, but we get blokes attending other courses. Probably around 40 per cent of the people on our eight-week course are men. As private clients, I often get high-achieving, high-earning, very successful guys. If they’re in their forties or older, they have reached points where they realise success is not everything and are looking for more wellbeing. The younger guys already know that what they are doing and the pace they are doing it – working extremely hard all week and partying extremely hard at weekends – will probably not be sustainable. They want something more out of life.” lumenurc.org.uk londonmindful.com billionacts.org
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Photographs Paul Vickery Fashion Director Mark Anthony Bradley Photographic Assistant Jessy Raso Styling Assistant Chris Gaynor Hair and Make-up Hina Dohi using Elemis Models Ryan Carldon and Joanne Mersh
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Ryan wears coat by Canali; trousers by Marni; jacket by Joseph; shoes by Ami; belt, stylist’s own.
Ryan Carldon took up karate aged seven but was soon drawn towards Chinese martial arts. He studied under masters from the Shaolin Temple for 15 years and now teaches budokon, which incorporates martial arts, yoga, animal movement and meditation. Carldon is also in the process of setting up a fitness brand, AlphaOm. “Based on the training I received from my Shaolin masters, I always understood fitness as a balance of internal and external, soft and hard, fast and slow,” he says. His cousin, Jo Mersh, also practises budokon, which has helped her perform outside the dojo. She represented Great Britain in the 800 metres at the Athens Olympics, is a former British record holder over 1,000 metres and now sings and acts, next appearing in the superhero film Justice League.“I love the flow of martial arts,” she says. “It’s the poetry of movement and the peaceful energy it brings.” alphaom.co jomersh.net
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Ryan wears jacket by Issey Miyake Men; trousers by YMC; shirt by Berluti; shoes, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
Joanne wears jacket by Lanvin menswear; tracksuit bottoms by Nike; shirt by Wooyoungmi menswear; vest by Uniqlo menswear; boots, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Joanne wears kimono by Issey Miyake Men; trousers by Marni menswear; vest by Uniqlo menswear; boots and socks, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Ryan wears jacket by Canali; trousers and shirt by Yohji Yamamoto.
Joanne wears jacket and trousers by Wooyoungmi menswear; shirt by Homme PlissĂŠ Issey Miyake; vest by Uniqlo menswear.
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Ryan wears coat by Prada; trousers by Maharishi; hoodie by Les Basics; trainers by Lanvin.
Ryan wears coat by Yohji Yamamoto; tracksuit bottoms by Maison KitsunĂŠ; trainers by Lanvin.
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Ryan wears jacket and trainers by YMC; tracksuit bottoms by Cos; shirt by Kenzo. Joanne wears top by Original Penguin; shorts and vest by Uniqlo menswear; jacket by Wooyoungmi menswear; leggings, and boots, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Words Tom Banham Portrait Katherine Jane Wood
Britainâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s greatest war photographer struggles with his legend and often canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t bear to look at his own work. A major new book takes a wider look at his work and reframes his legacy.
on McCullin stands in a frozen field in Somerset and waits for the sky. It is January, three degrees Celsius and feeling sharper when the wind gusts in from the north. His arthritic joints ache. But the pain subsides as he contemplates the landscape, where bare trees reach to a sky smeared with cloud. He’s been here for an hour and a half, stood beside his Mamiya camera, almost two kilograms plus the tripod, a lot of weight for an 81 year old to carry through mud. But when you’ve lugged a wounded soldier through a firefight, your cheek against a clump of congealed blood where another cheek once was, it doesn’t feel too arduous.
This is where McCullin is happiest. In the wet and the cold, waiting. He has spent much of the past 60 years waiting: for helicopters to carry him towards death; for machine guns to quiet so he can inch towards them. He once spent three days in a cell in Uganda waiting for a man to take him outside to the courtyard and beat him to death with a sledgehammer. So it’s good to be at the whim of nature, not men. If he doesn’t get his shot, fine. Simply being surrounded by grass and trees and endless sky,
purifies him. It gives him freedom. The clouds look metallic, punctured by shards of light; beautiful, but not the kind you can capture on film. Not yet. So he waits a little longer. Wisps creep across the sun and the light softens slightly. He peers into the viewfinder and snaps back the shutter so the landscape can rush in. Its light floods his negative. He resets, adjusts, shoots again. Repeats. He slings the camera back round his neck and trudges two miles north, taking his three exposures home. In 1968, McCullin lost two rolls of film. He was in Vietnam, on a two-week stint with US Marines at the Battle of Hue, one of the bloodiest campaigns in their history. He tucked them into the flak jacket
McCullin’s first published photo was of a London street gang, the Guv’nors, shot in a bombed-out building at the end of his road. “It gives you an idea of the kind of rawness of my early beginnings.” Photograph © Don McCullin, Finsbury Park, London, 1958
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I print my pictures very black and intense so that you don’t miss them. he’d picked up from a field casualty – customary, since journalists weren’t issued their own – but as he dodged sniper fire they fell and disappeared into the mud. He still lies awake and wonders what he lost. In six decades of dodging bullets and corpses, those two rolls of film are the only ones that got away. Christie’s recently began collating McCullin’s archive and discovered 60,000 negatives. “I have not been idle,” he says. He spent the last two years editing that archive into a book, Irreconcilable Truths – more than 700 images that encapsulate the career of one of Britain’s most singular photographers. It is full of images that he can barely keep in the house, let alone resurrect in his darkroom. McCullin has printed his own pictures since he served his national service in Suez developing aerial reconnaissance photos. He wouldn’t ship his negatives from war zones, preferring to fly them to Paris and then on to London to develop them himself. His reasons were partly about safety, but also aesthetics. “When I print those pictures and I bring the image to the fore, it’s not just the image, it’s the atmosphere that has to come with it,” he says. “I print my pictures very black and intense so that you don’t miss them as you’re passing by. Or if you open a paper or magazine you’re not going to miss them. They shout out at you because they’ve got my hallmark on them. I’m not going to let somebody walk past my prints without remembering them. And that’s done by intense darkroom activity and emotional injection into my work.”
McCullin spent six weeks documenting the homeless near Liverpool Street station. “They were lost human beings. Even their soul was lost.” Photograph © Don McCullin, Tower Hamlets, London, 1971 It has been exhausting. Since 1959, McCullin has documented most of humanity’s nadirs. In Beirut he saw Christians castrate Muslims then hurl them, still alive, from the top floor of the Holiday Inn. He saw mentally challenged children chained to their hospital beds. He saw marines with their jaws blown off by Viet Cong bullets and Vietnamese civilians shredded by gunship rounds. He lived with the homeless in east London’s Aldgate and the impoverished in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and recognised in
both his destitute childhood in north London’s Finsbury Park. He saw an albino Biafran boy who famine had transformed into a walking skeleton, clutching a tin of corned beef he’d licked clean until it gleamed like a Rolls-Royce. McCullin can’t bear to print that picture anymore. “They are bits of paper and chemistry in a tray in my darkroom. So they can’t actually bite me,” says McCullin. “But they mentally get to me.” Irreconcilable Truths is the last time he intends to
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Seconds after McCullin took this photo the grenade thrower, Selwyn Tate, had his hand blown off by a sniper. This year McCullin will travel to the US to photograph him and other marines who he documented during the Battle of Hue. Photograph © Don McCullin, Hue, Vietnam, 1968 During the battle for Beirut, McCullin was told to stop taking images or he’d be killed. He defied the order to document five Christians, one playing a stolen lute, next to a dead Palestinian girl. When they found out, they said if he ever returned he’d be executed Photograph © Don McCullin, East Beirut, Lebanon, 1976
They are bits of paper and chemistry in a tray. They can’t bite me, but they mentally get to me.
see them. It is a summation of his life’s work, marshalled like tourists. But he has always worked split into three volumes: the first, War and best when he ventured where he shouldn’t. Reportage, is full of photographs of suffering; the McCullin first felt the raw power of war images second, Landscapes, Still Lifes and Travel, shows while on honeymoon in Paris in 1961. He saw the peace he shoots to scrub the suffering from a photograph in a magazine of an East German his mind; and the final volume is a version of his soldier, in full uniform, hurdling over barbed autobiography, Unreasonable Behaviour, updated wire into the West. It electrified him. He asked his with new imagery and which recounts his most wife if, when they got back to England, he could recent travels to war zones. withdraw their meagre savings and head to Berlin. War made McCullin’s name, but he believes She consented. His editor at The Observer did not. that none of those photographs have ever changed McCullin had freelanced for the newspaper since anything. Despite six decades of his images being 1959, when he’d turned up at its offices with a digested with Sunday breakfast, people continue to picture of a gang he grew up with in Finsbury Park, find new and varied ways to kill each other. “Wars the Guv’nors. McCullin had bought his camera have got nastier as the years have slipped by,” he during national service but, not seeing much future says. “That the Isis people make these horrendous in photography, had pawned it on his return. His films – I’ve not seen one of them and have no desire mother promptly rescued it, to give him something to – showing how they can murder people in unique to do other than hang around with the Guv’nors. and different ways, it’s awful. Not just the war itself, “The gang said, ‘Here, listen, you’ve got this but the atrocities that these people perpetrate while camera, so why don’t you go up and get it and there are gaps in the wars.” take some pictures of us?’” He arranged them on McCullin was in Mosul late last year to the second floor of a bombed-out building at the photograph the Iraqi forces’ attempt to push Isis bottom of his road. Film being expensive, he took out of the city. He spent one afternoon taking just one photograph. As became a habit, McCullin pictures but the surge went poorly and the Iraqis shot the right picture at the right time. were quickly on the back foot. “Suddenly they found After a policeman got stabbed at the end of his they had Isis behind them, they were running rings road, McCullin decided to show the picture of the round them,” he says. “So they kicked all the Guv’nors to The Observer. They couldn’t believe he’d journalists out of the battle, because they were taken it. When he looks back on it now, nor can he. doing badly.” The structure is already there, as was his signature He found that modern war isn’t covered so much almost-too-dark exposure, even though he’d never by photojournalists any more, but by civilians with heard about these photographic terms and didn’t camera phones. “Many of them have died doing own a light meter. In that frame he showed the it,” he says. “That’s what’s so incredibly noble boys’ destitute upbringing, their camaraderie, the about it.” He believes that the only noble aspect coiled aggression that would send most of them to of war photography is the risks – he is proud that prison. “It just came out of me, really. There’s no he “put [his] neck on the line”, but uncomfortable explanation for it,” he says. McCullin’s instinct that his reputation was earned from others people’s captured an invisible people and the environment suffering. “You see the most appalling things that that made them, as he would later in Cambodia, Vietnam and the Congo, . happen,” he says. “Like bullets hit someone in the McCullin performed the same trick in Berlin arse and come out of their throat. It’s not easy to in 1961. It was his first foreign assignment and be pleased with yourself just because you’ve been he was armed with a tourist’s camera. But his eye recognised – you know deep down it was because somebody else had McCullin renounced his faith when his father died, but his photographs often his face shot away or depict suffering in almost religious tableaux. Here, marines tend to a comrade somebody else’s child wounded by a grenade. Photograph © Don McCullin, Hue, Vietnam, 1968 was killed or burned in an explosion.” Still, he would prefer not to have spent his trip to Mosul waiting. He would prefer to have been among the shrapnel, among the blood and bodies, even though he knows he isn’t really up to the task any more. He can no longer run. Flak jackets are too heavy. And the experience of photographing war has changed. In Vietnam, he was free to roam. Now, journalists are
When McCullin travelled to Iraq in 2015 he shot war on digital cameras for the first time. “In the old days, once it was dark, that was the end of it. But these extend photography.” Photograph © Don McCullin, Iraq, 2015 trumped kit or experience. He captured Berlin on the cusp of physical division, its citizens frozen in disbelief. He won a British Press Award and a full-time contract. For the next year he pushed to go to war. When the tension between Cypriot Greeks and Turks erupted, the paper relented. The war McCullin had shot in Berlin was still cold. Cyprus was boiling over, but he adapted quickly. No one had taught him how to be a war photographer, but he instinctively stuck to famed photojournalist Robert Capa’s rule – “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”. McCullin got close. He dodged sniper fire to cover a street battle in the Cyprian city of Nicosia. He carried an old woman through a street battle. He saw his first bullet-riddled corpse and moments later, his first grief-stricken widow. McCullin later noted that the Cypriots’ pain let him relinquish his own. Until Cyprus, he was angry. Angry at growing up poor even for a place where poverty was the norm. Angry at the asthma that stopped his father working but not gambling. Angrier still when it killed him. The anger was compounded by violence. His earliest memories are of Luftwaffe bombs. To escape them, he was sent to the country with his sister, Marie.
She was housed by a wealthy family and he used to linger at their window, watching maids serve her afternoon tea. Her wartime foster parents later adopted her but, after falling out with his own, McCullin was sent north to a chicken farm where he slept on the floor, surrounded by incubators, and was beaten regularly. When McCullin returned to Finsbury Park, his only goal was to leave it by some means beyond a police car. War was his way out; in December 2016 he became the first photojournalist to be awarded a knighthood. “All my mates got chucked in prison,” he says. “I didn’t want to be part of that violence, but I used to have to fight my way out of it occasionally. I spent 25 years living there and, in a way, it was the best possible place for me to do the work I’ve accomplished.” The Observer was a place for men who were well-educated and raised gently. McCullin didn’t speak right, hadn’t gone to the right schools and left education at 15, when his father died, to work on the railways to pay the rent. But the fact that he knew suffering and was willing to endure it gave him the edge the newspaper needed. For McCullin, God died when his father did, but he treated others’ pain with biblical reverence. As his hero Henri Cartier-Bresson later put it, he was like “Goya with a camera”. His pictures of grieving widows and soldiers being tended to in death are like studies of Christ on the cross. But McCullin struggled – and still struggles – with the aesthetics of his work, the fact that his best pictures are born from the worst suffering. “Most of the things I’ve done – not all of the things I’ve done, but a fair percentage – have been about the loss and tragedy of other people’s
lives,” he says. “It’s very difficult for me to wear the laurels.” He has long wrestled with this quandary. He has been given awards and honorary doctorates, but he keeps them in the garden shed so he doesn’t have to think about them. He bristles at the epithet ‘war photographer’, though he is one of the discipline’s greatest living practitioners. These days he photographs landscapes more than conflict, but in the past two years has travelled to Aleppo and Mosul, drawn inexorably back to the Middle East’s bloodletting. He goes because he loves photography, loves danger and is driven to do what people say he shouldn’t. He needs to see events firsthand, he says, to discover the truth for himself. War was where all these strands coalesced and where he could follow his own path. “I was fed up with growing up with the authoritarian restraints on me as a young boy,” he says. “Once I became a man I thought, no one’s going to push me around any more.” This urge led him where others wouldn’t go. His second assignment was to the Congo, where white mercenaries were fighting black rebels for control of a country that had just unyoked itself from Belgian rule. The fighting was in Stanleyville. Journalists were banned from leaving Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), more than 1,000
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McCullin photographs the landscape near his home as a way to cleanse his mind of war, but he shoots in the same visual style. “I make them very intense and dramatic so they mean something and they have an importance.” Photograph © Don McCullin, flooded Somerset levels, 2014
Most of the things I’ve done have been about the tragedy of other people’s lives. It’s very difficult for me to wear the laurels. miles to the west. McCullin befriended a mercenary called Alan Murphy who found him a uniform and smuggled him onto the plane. He was the only journalist to reach the front. His pictures captured the lawlessness of post-imperial Africa and a humanitarian disaster the Belgians had spawned then abandoned. Here too McCullin was divided.
The mercenaries were monsters who would shoot their black servants for a late dinner, but he was bound to them for safe passage. The rebels were rumoured to eat captives’ livers for strength, but were tortured in turn by their captors. In McCullin’s pictures of a group of rebels before their execution, the Congolese soldiers have their guns on the prisoners but their eyes on his lens. It raises a question that bedevils any war reporter – did his presence encourage the brutality that fills newspapers?
In later conflicts, McCullin would refuse to photograph executions. He was there to capture the truth but these were staged murders, put on for the press. It was one of the rules that kept him sane. The other was to be a participant, not a vulture. “You can’t just walk in on someone’s life and get your camera out and help yourself as if they’re some Christmas pudding,” he says. “You have to make a start by showing a bit of respect and trying to seek their blessing and their confidence and their trust.” Empathy helped the work, too. “You were always
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After photographing foreign wars, McCullin documented Britain’s industrial towns to show the suffering that was closer to home. “I grew up in the same way. I understand poverty and I understand ignorance and violence.” Photograph © Don McCullin, Bradford, 1970s
How can you call a dead child a gook? I don’t want to be with these fuckers. I let them go, I faded away from them. an outsider to the military,” McCullin says. “Until you gained your spurs.” In Hue he would photograph the wounded then carry them to safety. “That brought enormous respect from the soldiers,” he says. “They allowed you to get close to them and trusted you.” McCullin grew up on war films that were like westerns with updated weaponry – no blood, no shades of grey. In real battles, good and bad weren’t so clear cut. On one search-and-destroy patrol in Vietnam the squad he was with entered a house and found a mosquito net with a light burning inside. “They were brutally kicking furniture around, degrading the place with their presence,” he says. “Then behind a screen was a little dead Vietnamese boy with a grubby shirt on, about five years of age, lying dead in this mosquito net with a candle by him. I heard one of them say, ‘Oh, no problem, just a gook in there.’ I thought, how can you call a dead child a gook? I don’t want to be with these fuckers. I let them go, I faded away from them. I didn’t want to be with shits like that.”
He wouldn’t be able to today. In modern wars, journalists ‘embed’ with military units. They have itineraries and handlers. “It’s like a dog on a leash,” says McCullin. The policy came in after Vietnam, where freedom to roam let journalists cover atrocities inflicted by the invaders as much as the Viet Cong. “The Americans lost and they felt that journalism had betrayed them.” McCullin is proud that he’s never been embedded and worries about what now goes unreported. One night in Hue he saw a soldier pushing a prisoner down the road at gunpoint. He raised his camera and was told to put it back down. “I said, ‘Don’t tell me what I can’t do.’ But now, you see, if such a man came down the road, you wouldn’t be allowed to do it, because they’d stop you. It means you can only do what they give you permission to do and they’re holding you virtually behind them in the frontline.” Around 67 journalists died reporting the Vietnam War. More than 150 were killed in Iraq, where they are now actively targeted for kidnap and execution. Embedding is the only way to make war comparatively safe for journalists, but it
also means they see less. Stories are missed when journalists aren’t free to roam. McCullin believes that any photographer in a conflict zone has a duty to embrace its horrors. “I thought that if I’m going to go to war, step on that plane, take the ticket and arrive at the other end, it would be absurd for me not to show the ultimate terribleness of it,” he says. That McCullin survived is miraculous. He has been shot, blown up, ripped open by shrapnel. He fell off a roof in El Salvador and shattered his arm, then lay in the dirt for 12 hours hoping rebel forces wouldn’t find him. He has seen mortars land in rooms he’d just left and obliterate the men he’d been talking with. Those who didn’t make it out haunt his work. “It’s always tapping me on the shoulder, this memory. Saying don’t get too comfortable about it, because
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you’re lucky, because you survived.” great hope is that when he dies he will be known as inspired him to tackle a project he had Despite being in his eighties McCullin is still a photographer who sometimes shot war, not as a long considered: nudes photographed driven to find new approaches to photography. war photographer. His first landscapes came with truthfully, with no makeup and no “Don is unique among photographers in having his travels through northern England – images of retouching. He has taken some test produced seminal and iconic work in every decade slag heaps and blasted industrial land sometimes images of Kate Moss, a woman who of his career,” says his friend and publisher, Marc with figures, sometimes not. But the process began has been shot countless times by Carter. In the late 2000s, McCullin travelled to his in earnest in the 1980s, when he was fired from The countless photographers, but in old stomping grounds to photograph not war, but Sunday Times by the new editor, Andrew Neil, who whom McCullin has found something the Roman ruins that stretch through North Africa felt dead children scared off advertisers. new. In his pictures she seems and the Middle East. His pictures of Palmyra were “That was the beginning of the killing of human, honest, about to sink away among the last taken before Isis demolished them. photojournalism,” says McCullin. “He was looking into the gloom. “Those pictures, for any other photographer, would for narcissism. He was looking for the success McCullin says he’ll never retire. be a career highlight,” says Carter. “But for Don of the few – the footballers, the Hollywood, the What would he do? Photography McCullin they’re almost unknown.” glamour. Because most of the people they associate is the only thing he loves, and he As the ruins fell, the price of McCullin’s as ‘celebs’” – he says the word as if it might foul his hasn’t finished learning new things. photographs rose, a phenomenon he finds mouth – “are jokes. They’ve earnt no right to call On his last trip to Syria he shot particularly distasteful. “That book, Southern themselves celebrities.” on digital for the first time after Frontiers, is out of print,” says McCullin. “And McCullin sat at home and mourned a failed saying he never would. He didn’t people started sticking it on Amazon and asking marriage, a lost career, and drank to silence the understand how digital cameras extraordinary amounts of money. War makes a lot ghosts in his darkroom. The countryside became worked but with his eye, that didn’t of people rich. In the Vietnam War the man that his therapy. He would walk and wait, shoot the matter. He is done with war, he made the tin opener for the combat rations became world outside his window then develop images that says, but there is a lot of peace still a millionaire in America.” still carried traces of war. “It is a kind of spiritual to discover. He went where we McCullin has a troubled relationship with his release from a crowded mind. It’s like having a wouldn’t to show us the darkness work’s financial value. He will sell his landscapes blood transfusion,” he says. But his landscapes are we didn’t want to see and his reward and his travel photography, but not the conflict brooding, oppressive things, always shot in winter is a legacy he resents and memories images that would fetch the biggest sums. He has when “you see the shape of the tree, without its coat that he loathes. Which is why he will a file at home with prints of his most well-known on”. The world in winter is more truthful, he feels. keep walking into fields, camera in pictures, which are a form of life insurance should And truth is all he’s ever sought. tow, to wait. To find the light. his family face financial difficulties after his death. The final image in volume two of Irreconcilable “He doesn’t believe that his work is art, but when Truths was shot in Tripoli, two years before Libya Irreconcilable Truths, a it’s in a gallery, in a frame, it undoubtedly is,” says became chaos. It is a portrait of sorts; a nude statue three-volume retrospective of the Carter, who convinced him to collate his work for of Aphrodite. It is also unmistakably McCullin, the work of Don McCullin, is out now Irreconcilable Truths. The book is “an exhibition in marble almost glowing in darkness. The image donmccullin.com print”, Carter adds, In the late 2000s, McCullin photographed the ruins of the Roman Empire’s southern frontier. Soon after many were in chronological order, captured and destroyed by Isis, including the Temple of Bel. Photograph © Don McCullin, Palmyra, Syria, 2007 as befits a newspaper man. It took months to work out a printing technique that would get McCullin’s blacks black enough, that could replicate both his darkness and his detail. The book is stunning, but these beautiful pictures depict death and that makes him uncomfortable. He believes in his pictures and wanted them shown in the way they deserve. He chose a local printer so he could stand by the presses until 3am, his knees aching, to ensure each page was right. But he knows that the format provokes accusations that he’s profiting from misery. He shoots his landscapes to purge himself and to create a different legacy. His
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Words Chris May Portrait Kevin Davies Stills Courtesy of the BFI
Stockholm My Love If opposites attract, then few do so more fruitfully than hard-drinking cinematographer Christopher Doyle and hard-thinking filmmaker Mark Cousins. Their latest colloboration stars Neneh Cherry in her film debut, as a lonely architect wandering the streets of Swedenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s capital.
am standing in the gentlemen’s facilities at the British Film Institute (BFI) on London’s South Bank, a few minutes before my scheduled interview with Christopher Doyle and Mark Cousins. The only other person present is a woman wearing a strikingly styled, calf-length skirt, who appears to be using a urinal set against the far wall. Thinking I have entered the ladies’ loo by mistake, I am about to make my excuses and leave when the woman turns round and I find myself looking at Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Though it is not yet 11 in the morning, the human riff seems, quelle surprise, to be a little unsteady on his feet, but is smiling broadly. As we bid each other good day, the faint trace of an Australian accent and the slow-turning cogs of my visual recognition system reveal the speaker to be not Richards, but Christopher Doyle. We arrange to meet in the bar of the neighbouring National Theatre, where Mark Cousins will join us. While we wait, Doyle tells me he is often mistaken for Richards; the uncanny facial resemblance, the chilled speaking voice, the well-chronicled love of intoxicants, the vibe of intuitive rather than analytical intelligence. Doyle says that when one of the directors of the Pirates of the Caribbean series asked Richards if he’d make a cameo appearance, Richards said, “Why don’t you ask Chris Doyle instead?” The story is probably apocryphal but Doyle loves it. Cousins arrives as Doyle is telling the story. His manner is the flipside of Doyle’s. He is intense, cerebral and, it becomes clear, well read. That may be one reason why their collaborations – the first was 2015’s I Am Belfast – work so well. Born in the West Midlands, Cousins was brought up in Northern Ireland. He studied film at the University of Stirling in Scotland, and lives in Edinburgh with his partner, the psychologist Gill Moreton. The pair met while they were students at Stirling. Cousins is a filmic poacher turned gamekeeper. He first attracted attention as a presenter on the BBC series Scene by Scene, from 1998 to 2001, conducting insightful interviews with directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and Roman Polanski. Cousins’ first film to attract attention was the appropriately titled The First Movie, released in 2009, for which he gave handheld cameras to children in a small Kurdish village in Iraq and asked them to document their daily lives. Two years later, Cousins embarked on his most high-profile venture yet, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, whose 15 one-hour episodes were premiered on digital TV channel More4. The film was shown in its entirety at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2012, after which The New York Times compared it to Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma, describing it as “the place from which all future revisionism must start”. Doyle was born in Sydney. At 18, he joined the merchant navy and travelled the world for a decade or so, taking jobs onshore in places that appealed to him, before settling first in Taiwan, then in Hong Kong, where he still lives. Self-taught, Doyle drifted
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into cinematography during the 1980s. He has worked with Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant and M. Night Shyamalan, and with Wong Kar-Wai on more than a dozen features and shorts, including Kar-Wai’s arthouse breakthrough, Chungking Express, in 1994. “I think the greatest pleasure in any relationship is when someone has something you don’t have,” says Doyle. “The give and take is such a beautiful thing. I know I don’t have Mark’s intellect, and I sure don’t have his memory. But he knows that he can’t dance as well as I can.” “We want to keep collaborating,” says Cousins. “I’ve just finished a book called The Story of Looking, and it’s going to be something like an eight-hour film and hopefully we’ll be working together on that.” Like The Story of Film, The Story of Looking will be made for TV but with an eye on cinema release. Cousins has form with films about cities, or which put them centre stage. Before Stockholm My Love and I Am Belfast, he made Here Be Dragons, featuring the city of Tirana in Albania, and What is This Film Called Love?, about Mexico City. He was drawn to Belfast because of his intimacy with it, and to Tirana and Mexico City by a sense of adventure. While Doyle goes to the bar to get a beer, I ask Cousins why he chose Stockholm for his fourth filmic city. “If you were to ask yourself what are the great Paris films, the great New York films, the great Los Angeles films, the great Berlin films, you can think of them,” says Cousins. “But ask what’s the great Stockholm film and you can’t. There isn’t one. The most famous Swedish director, Ingmar
Neneh Cherry as Alva Achebe Bergman, barely filmed in Stockholm at all. So that’s one reason, to make a film about somewhere that hasn’t been focused on before. I already knew the place. I started going there in the 1980s to visit my friend Anita Oxburgh [co-producer and co-screenwriter of Stockholm My Love] and I loved it. I come from a kind of wild place – there was a war going on when I was growing up in Ireland and a kind of melodrama about Belfast – and Stockholm is the opposite. It’s more focused through the intellect and there’s less amplitude in the emotion, at least on the surface. I like the calmness of it. The second reason is the light. Light matters more in Sweden than in some other countries. Stockholm basically is dark all winter and then in spring there’s the arrival of the light. In my film you see the light coming during the last third of the picture. If you think of the great Swedish silent directors, Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller for example, Hollywood light is flat in comparison. Those gloaming, burnished silent movies, where light really evoked emotion, happened in Sweden.” What is the generic appeal of city filmmaking for Cousins? “Cities are like visual thinking, you can see the ideas in a city,” he says. “We’re sitting here in the National Theatre and there is the powerful presence of 1960s culture and architecture. Look around and you can see the hopes and fears of a particular place and era. I spend a lot of my time travelling the world on my own, filming, just walking alone through cities. That sense of bustle, of vitality, people going in many directions, the simultaneity of life, is both exciting and restorative. It keeps sadness away. It takes you out of yourself. So I think cities are really good for mental health, and we know walking is good for depression. You
S t o c k h o l m just see so much going on that you can’t get so lost in your own problems. That’s the theme of Stockholm My Love. The city brings Neneh’s character back to life; its buildings, its spaces, its glimpses. She looks at the skateboarders, for instance, and she thinks, ‘Was I ever like that?’ When you see other human beings living, it makes you feel more alive. “Do you know Virginia Woolf ’s essay ‘Street Haunting’? She walks down Regent Street one November evening pretending to buy pencils. She doesn’t need a pencil. She’d been sitting there thinking, I’m bored, I’m in a room on my own, I’ll walk out and take a look around me. She looks into the eyes of the passers-by and imagines their mental lives, their histories. And if you walk around a city with a character in your head, or a story in your head, things jump out of the visual scene at you – metaphors, found moments of street haiku – and you think, wow, this city is reconfiguring according to this character. It doesn’t have to be anywhere fancy, the Champs-Élysées or Fifth Avenue. It can be a much more anonymous place. The trick is to stay open to unexpected things, moments that present themselves to you. There are a lot of serendipitous moments. If you open yourself to the moment, you can capture something that would be hard to set up sometimes.” It must be particularly difficult, I suggest, to make films centred on a well-known city, one that comes with its own familiar backstory. Default memes will never be far away. It is hard to think of a single film set in late Victorian London, for instance, that does not come with rolling fog and nocturnal East End streets. “The great [film director] Robert Bresson said this wonderful thing: ‘Try to show that which without you might never have been seen,’” says Cousins. “Not that much has been seen about Stockholm, so that’s why we were freer to come up with
imagery, because it isn’t crowded. It’s harder to film in New York, for instance, because cameras have been everywhere before you. For Stockholm, I walked for years, with my camera, looking for in-between places. It was a bit like ‘The Winnowing Oar’ story in Homer’s Odyssey. Ulysses has been coming back from his travels and he’s been on a boat and rowing with oars and he gets to the shore and gets off the boat and meets somebody and asks him, ‘Where should I go?’ And the guy says, ‘Walk away from the sea and carry the oar until it’s mis-recognised as a winnowing tool and that’s where you should live your life.’ He’s saying: go to an in-between place, where one thing is no longer understood, where identity is multiple. I love those kind of places, multi-ethnic perhaps, in-between, not necessarily architecturally beautiful in a conventional sense. That’s the kind of location you’re looking for. The crew members for Stockholm, all of whom were Swedish, often said to me that they’d never been to the locations before. Same with the Belfast film. All the crew were from Belfast and they’d not been to many of the places we filmed at. “But if a place has got a powerful social history or mythology or it’s been filmed a lot, it is hard to get rid of that and find something new to say. If you think of the way Woody Allen uses cities, he goes to the touristic centres and films the most famous places. I don’t mean to denigrate him. That’s one idea of cinematic. But another idea is a concrete underpass. In our film, when Neneh confronts the scene of the death in the underpass, Chris
The greatest pleasure in any relationship is when someone has something you don’t have. The give and take is such a beautiful thing.
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just makes the camera move very slowly – it’s all grey apart from her blue jacket, and the only thing we did was get the sound of her ring on the balustrade. So all the street noise is gone, Chris’s camera is slow, and when you pare it down, it’s lovely. And you feel this big concrete urban world and this little person, and she’s scared to go there, and somehow it works. You don’t need to analyse it, it just feels right.” Cousins chose a few relatively well-known locations for I Am Belfast and Stockholm My Love, but most of them are “in-between places”. But those unaccustomed with the city can discover their geography; one of the peripheral delights of the new film is an interactive map of Stockholm on its website, with 20 of the locations marked. Click on one, and a brief description of the place and its history appears, along with some footage from the film or from Cousins’ preliminary scouting. Viewed before or after seeing the film, the map adds another layer of pleasure. In fact, the entire website is admirable. “It was designed by a great architect, Ehsan Khoshbakht,” says Cousins. “He’s a filmmaker too and an exile from Iran. I wanted an architect to do the website because I wanted it to feel like a building and I specially didn’t want the map to look like something out of a Rough Guide.” By now, Doyle has returned from the bar with his beer. “I’ve made 10 films within about two square kilometres of where I live,” says Doyle. “As Robert Rauschenberg said when he was living in New York, if you don’t walk round the next block and get an idea, you’re not an artist. Hong Kong brings a similar stimulus. The energy of a city informs how we see things. Once you start looking, you see deeper. It’s only through the pleasure of entering this world of looking, that the mundane becomes sublime. In making films you learn the place. This is the good fortune and the responsibility of the filmmaker. To celebrate what looking gives you. It’s call and response. Our duty as artists is to knock on unexpected doors and to dare to knock on the wrong door. It’s not to tell people how to look, it’s to look yourself.
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“In my case, when I’m making a film, I look much closer, I look far harder. There’s a degree of engagement that feels like it consumes more calories than jogging. When I’m filming, even when I sleep, I am seeing the film. There’s no respite. It is so intense that you need to dial down the engagement between films, to stop looking for a while. It’s like colourists, the people who grade films, they need to go out for a smoke or whatever every 20 minutes, every hour, because they have to rest their eyes.” I ask Cousins whether casting Neneh Cherry as the protagonist of Stockholm My Love was because she knows Stockholm so well – she was born in the city and spent the early years of her childhood there. Cherry’s obvious ease with her surroundings adds an extra degree of verisimilitude to the story. “It wasn’t that so much, rather that we needed someone who spoke Swedish,” says Cousins. “When I wrote to her with the idea, I’d never met her. I didn’t know that she had this personal sadness in Stockholm and that when her mother died she had walked around the city to make herself feel better. It was pure chance that the story chimed with her life a bit. We met for lunch here in London and within 20 minutes we were both crying, talking about sadness and how you could get out
So many people say cinema’s dead. Not at all. Cinema’s an extremely young art form. It has just started.
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of sadness. She knows Stockholm very, very well. She lives in London and Portugal but she goes to Stockholm a lot. She’s got family there still. So there’s an extra resonance between the story and her real life which was very useful.” It is almost time for Cousins to finish his coffee and Doyle his beer. Cousins has a meeting at the BFI to attend, Doyle a lunch date in the West End. The evening before, the pair took part in a Q&A session following a BFI screening of Stockholm My Love. The audience, or at least the part of it that asked questions, seemed to be aspiring filmmakers who were probably still attending, or maybe just out of, film school. Many of their questions were about the difficulty of finding funding, others concerned the future of filmmaking in a digital world. How do Cousins and Doyle rate the future prospects of the medium? “This is the greatest moment in the history of cinema to be a young filmmaker,” says Cousins. “All the impediments have gone. It used to be that you needed loads and loads of money or a big studio or loads of equipment. All that’s gone now. For the first time ever it’s just about the young filmmaker and their creativity, what they have to say about the world. There are no more excuses. It’s the same as it was with painting. For hundreds of years it was fresco painting and artists needed the support of the Pope or the Medicis. And then oil painting came along and all you needed was a brush and a canvas and yourself. The process was removed, the patronage was removed, the art became personal. That’s exactly what has happened in the history of cinema. So that’s why it’s important for us, who’ve got up the ladder a little bit, to say to young people, ‘You know all those hurdles? They’re not really there, they’re fake. You can just do it.’ Everything until this point has been pre-cinema. Cinema has really just started now. That would be my argument. So many people say cinema’s dead. Not at all. Cinema’s an extremely young art form and I would say that it’s been in its preamble until now. Because until now, it was only extremely well-resourced people who could make films.” “That’s why we have to encourage young filmmakers to trust their instincts,” says Doyle. “You can make your film with a fucking phone
today. It’s simply down to your energy. I get a senior travel pass now. So there’s no excuse if these fuckers don’t follow with the same energy. But they sometimes blame the system or say that they’re unsure of the technicalities. Fuck it, I never went to film school, I fell into filmmaking. If I can do it, anyone can do it. That’s our big message actually. I work with young people all the time, and I tell them, ‘Don’t wait for the system to tell you where you belong. Look at the system through your own eyes. Just get up and do it. Don’t make excuses.’” Before we go our separate ways, I ask Cousins and Doyle to name their favourite movies starring cities. “Hitchcock’s Rear Window,” says Doyle. “On the surface, it’s a film about a building, and the back of a building at that. But it’s presented to us as a microcosm of the city itself. Hitchcock was a Brit, and the greatest American films have been shot by non-Americans. The last two Oscars for cinematography were won by a Mexican. The Coen brothers’ films are shot by a Brit. The outside eye kicks in. You have to be up close and personal, because you care about it, but you also have to have the distance. I find that relatively easy because I don’t know what I am any more – a Brit, an Australian or Chinese.” “It’s got to be Billy Wilder’s The Apartment,” says Cousins. “I love individuals in the city and Jack Lemmon is really lonely in that film. You see him against these big, wide spaces and big, empty streets. I love a single individual in the big landscape of the city.” Stockholm My Love is out in June stockholmmylove.com
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Words Jamie Millar Photographs David Goldman Styling Richard Simpson Hair and Make-up Alex Crown using Bumble and Bumble, Bobbi Brown, Dr Hauschka and Mac Cosmetics Photographic Assistant Garth McKee Model Courtney Tulloch, Team GB gymnast @courtneytulloch Location Barber’s Gym, Hackney Down Studios, Amhurst Terrace, London E8 barbersgym.com
GYMNASTIC RINGS Invented two centuries ago, the rings are the latest go-to for those seeking a better way to train. Tools to build mental discipline as much as muscle, they offer everything – apart from quick results.
Within serious training circles, the gymnastic rings are a symbol of supreme strength and skill. In particular, the ability to hold an iron cross, arms thrust perpendicular to your torso, signifies next-level athleticism. It is muscular endurance and development in perfect proportion. To anybody who’s ever tried to support their own bodyweight on the rings for just a few trembling seconds, it seems impossibly difficult. “For people who don’t know the sport, the classic is the iron cross: everyone thinks that’s the ultimate,” says Courtney Tulloch, the 21-yearold British gymnast and rings specialist who finished sixth in the 2014 World Championships. He’s also two-time winner of the British rings title and a member of the team that won silver at the 2016 European
Championships. “Cross is the easiest. It’s the first strength skill that you learn.” Dating back to ancient Greece, gymnastics comes from the word meaning “to exercise naked”, which is what athletes used to do in the centuries before specialist clothing. The rings are a comparatively recent invention, if a simple one: two circles made of wood, metal or more recently plastic, 2.8cm in thickness and 18cm in diameter. Suspended from straps hanging half a metre apart and 2.5m off the floor in competition, they offer an entire world of physical potential – and pain – within their small circumference. What passed for gymnastics in the Olympic Games – until they were banned by the Romans as a pagan festival around the fourth century AD, not returning until 1896 – included disciplines such as athletics, boxing and wrestling. Modern gymnastics as we know it didn’t start to take shape until the 1700s, when educational reformers in Germany were inspired by philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s book Emile, or On
Education, which saw exercise as being vital in a child’s emotional and intellectual upbringing. Rousseau believed man was born good; society spoiled him. He proposed an educational system that steeled students against this corruption, and adapted but didn’t blunt their ‘natural’ characteristics so they could function in society. Reformers such as Johann Bernhard Basedow founded a type of school called a philanthropinum, which incorporated outdoor activities including gymnastics. Johann Christoph Friedrich Guts Muths, a teacher at one such school and the grandfather of modern gymnastics, published his book Gymnastik für die Jugend (Gymnastics for the Youth) in 1793. In it, he drew a distinction between natural gymnastics – exercises designed to promote the health of the body – and artificial, or those that were about beauty rather than utility. He developed exercises that trained the physique in the same way education trained the mind. Before Guts Muths, exercise had a moral function. He introduced pedagogic principles and ways for students to
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Until recently it was only gymnasts that worked with the rings. Now it’s common to see them at the gym or in the local park, slung over a set of monkey bars or a sturdy tree branch. progress from simple moves to the more complex. It became possible for the body and its performance to be assessed. Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the ‘father of gymnastics’, is credited with devising the rings. It was Jahn who founded the turnverein (gymnastics club) movement that popularised the sport, opening the first turnplatz – a sort of outdoor playground – on the outskirts of Berlin. A fierce patriot who believed that physical training strengthened character and national identity as much as muscles and tendons, Jahn also drilled his political ideas – German reunification, the expunging of French influence from Prussia – into the young men who attended. After a gymnast assassinated the German playwright August von Kotzebue in 1819, King Frederick William III closed 100 gymnastic fields and centres across Prussia and Jahn was placed under house arrest for five years. Three of Jahn’s
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disciples – Karl Beck, Karl Follen and Franz Lieber – fled to North America, spreading gymnastics further afield at the same time that it was forced underground in Prussia. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1842, after the king’s successor had ascended the throne. The rings have formed part of the gymnastic programme in the Olympics since the Games were resurrected at the end of the 19th century. But until recently, it was only gymnasts that used them. Now, it’s increasingly common to see rings dividing the dumbbells and treadmills at the gym, or in the local park, slung over a set of monkey bars or a sturdy tree branch. They’re also part of the
programme in the CrossFit Games competitions in the US. One of the driving forces behind the rise of the rings is the recent trend for calisthenics: bodyweight exercises that have their roots in natural gymnastics and the work of Jahn and Swedish trainer Per Henrik Ling. From the Greek for “beautiful strength”, calisthenics comprises everything from basic press-ups, pull-ups and dips to more advanced and visually impressive moves such as planches and levers, where you hold your body horizontal as if levitating, arms diagonally counterbalancing your weight, hands level with your waist. The movement can be seen as a reaction against the commodification of exercise. Spending on gym memberships increased by 44 per cent last year, continuing the trends of the past decade or more, but calisthenics adherents believe that the only
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Previously the rings were restricted to elite athletes and specialists. Their new acolytes espouse the philosophy that where there’s gravity, there’s a gym. thing you should spend to exercise is sweat. In 2008, a video called “Hannibal for King”, showing a then-homeless car mechanic performing calisthenics in a New York park, was uploaded to YouTube. In it, he performs a succession of moves that seem to question physics – press-ups with his feet hovering off the floor; pull-ups that finish with his knees above the bar. Viewed more than 10 million times, it brought renewed prominence to the same kinds of exercises that the Spartan warriors performed to intimidate their Persian enemies before the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. Not coincidentally, the 2006 film 300, which dramatises those historical events, is revered by the gymming generation. Also known as ‘street workout’ or ‘ghetto workout’, calisthenics requires little or no equipment or outlay and the spectacular moves and results lend themselves to social media. You could see it as gymnastics without the lycra.
Given their closely interrelated nature, it’s only logical that a resurgence in calisthenics would lead to a rise in gymnastics – the pinnacle of bodyweight training – and the rings particularly. The endorsement of CrossFit, a strength and conditioning programme, no doubt also helps. “The rings have started to become very popular in the industry,” says Stretch Rayner, a trainer at CrossFit Momentum in Hackney, east London. He also points to other high-profile advocates such as Ido Portal, the Israeli natural movement specialist and advisor to UFC champion Conor McGregor, and the Gymnastic Bodies online training programme established by former US national team coach Christopher Sommer. The likes of Sommer, who features in the bestselling book Tools of Titans, by Silicon Valley’s self-improvement guru Tim Ferriss, have democratised gymnastics. Previously it
was restricted to elite athletes and specialist facilities. Its new acolytes espouse the philosophy that where there’s gravity, there’s a gym. (A total convert, Ferriss now travels everywhere with a set of plastic rings and parallettes – miniature parallel bars – and after two weeks of a Gymnastic Bodies course claimed that he felt better than he had in five years). But these adherents are not, like Guts Muths, focused purely on the philosophical aspects of gymnastics. “The renewed interest in calisthenics as a form of training, plus the success of Team GB’s athletes on the world stage, has brought gymnastics to the fore as a rock-hard workout that
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delivers great results,” says James Trevorrow, national product innovation manager of the Virgin Active chain of health clubs. “You only have to look at how ripped those athletes are.” For all his strength, the five-footfour Tulloch does not loom like most men who live in gyms. But that’s thanks to the laws of mechanics – the more body length he has to lever up, the harder the moves become. While he is undeniably stacked – to use training forum parlance – his build isn’t as look-at-me as that of a grunting, weights-slamming bodybuilder. There’s a grace to his appearance and movements: more lithe and fluid, without the lactic acid-pumped stiffness of too much benching. For a gymnast, muscle is useless if you can’t use it to transition smoothly between the strength skills. “If your shoulders aren’t flexible, you won’t be able to swing as well,” he says. Calisthenics
It’s about making it look easy. If the judges see someone shaking and sweating, that’s not going to leave a good impression. has since been bastardised by bragging bar crews, who catapult themselves around with an eye on social media likes, not their form. By comparison, gymnastics is almost elegantly understated. This is perhaps because it is judged by people who’ve dedicated their life to the sport, not stumbled across it on Instagram. Of the six events in men’s artistic gymnastics – rings, floor, pommel horse, parallel bar, horizontal bar and vault – the rings require the most strength. But there’s nothing brute about it. The key word is ‘artistic’. In accordance with the almost perversely high standards of gymnastics, being able to hold positions that defy the laws of gravity is not enough to cut it. “It’s about making it look easy,” says Tulloch. “That’s what impresses the judges. If they see
someone shaking, sweating and struggling, that’s not going to leave a good impression. If someone else does that same routine and makes it look effortless and tidy, they’re going to give it to them.” To receive points, a gymnast has to hold each move for two seconds. Tulloch always counts to three, his muscles burning that little more, just to be sure. Aside from the iron cross, the strength skills that Tulloch must somehow make look effortless include the Maltese, where his body is horizontal but his arms extend behind him; the top planche, with his body slightly higher than the Maltese, arms beneath him; and the inverted cross, which is basically a cross but in a handstand, except his hands are out to the side. “All of them are harder than the cross,” he says. He has also invented his own strength skill, the Tulloch, which is enshrined
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in the sport’s code and involves leaning back with his arms and body in line. Gymnastic moves are rated in difficulty from A to G, with G the highest. Cross is a B; the Tulloch is an F. Thankfully for those of us who aren’t quite at Tulloch’s level yet, the rings can be used more prosaically to add progressions to press-ups, pull-ups, dips and the other bedrocks of calisthenics that can otherwise plateau. “Because of their instability, the rings require a lot more control and muscular tension than normal bodyweight moves,” says Leo Savage, personal trainer at the Third Space group of London gyms, which has cleared out many of its exercise machines to make room for functional training areas featuring rings. “Unlike free weights, which challenge stability under a potentially heavier load but isolate certain muscles depending on the exercise, rings force you to use your whole body as a unit. You can’t afford to relax.” As a result of this tension you can expect major increases in strength and mass. Because the rings can move, they also allow the shoulder to move through its full range of motion without forcing it into the compromising positions that a fixed bar might, which can help maintain the joint and prevent injury. However, the burden placed on the shoulder, often several
mean you can master the rings.” The return of the rings is partly a reaction against hulking steroidal physiques, the quick-fix culture of flatteringly lit 12-week body ‘transformations’ and the matrix of distracting fitness trackers that only serve to disconnect us further from our bodies. The rings are authentic, effective and proven; the journey is longer and harder, but the reward is far greater, says Rayner. “No other piece of equipment in the gym offers the same range of motion or builds the same degree of upper body strength.” To build the requisite skills and condition, Olympic hopefuls need to start young. An inopportune growth spurt can undo years of proprioception – the brain’s sense of where the body is in space. Teens are clumsy, yet the gymnasts who compete in the Olympics are frequently teens. Most retire in their twenties, their careers ended by injury or muscles that aren’t quite what they once were. It is a life dedicated to a flickering moment in the light. But not all the sport offers can be measured. Tulloch’s journey began as a junior gymnast, with baby steps. First, just hanging and doing little swings. Then supporting himself with straight arms. Then lifting his knees up to a half bend. In short, the kind of slow, painstaking progress that
were awarded for difficulty of understanding a scoring system, gymnastics would get a 10.) For execution, each athlete starts with 10.0 and the judges deduct for each error. Perfection is theoretically possible, but never in practice. “When I look back at some of my routines, I’m like, ‘Yeah, that was pretty sick,’” says Tulloch. “But my coach is like, ‘You could have done that better,’ or, ‘The judges marked you down for that.’ It keeps pushing you. That’s what I like about it.” The futility of the quest only makes it more noble, whether you’re a trembling newbie or a rock-solid veteran like Tulloch, who narrowly and surprisingly missed out on selection for the Rio Olympics despite helping the team win silver at the European Championships and performing well in the final trials. (He also made the qualifying grade for London 2012 but was too young to compete.) Undeterred, he’s looking ahead to Tokyo 2020: “I’m always trying to improve. If I come
Rings require a much higher level of skill development. You could be the strongest person in the gym, but that doesn’t mean you can master the rings. times the user’s bodyweight, means that injuries from going too hard or too fast are common in specialists and novices alike. “You have to be patient,” warns Savage. In contrast to almost everything in the fitness industry, which lures punters in with the promise of instant gratification – eight-minute abs! – the only thing immediate about the rings is the realisation that taming them will be neither quick nor easy. Counterintuitively, it’s this very difficulty that lies at the centre of their appeal. Not for nothing have they been adopted by CrossFit, which itself has become popular by marketing itself as actively unpleasant. After years of progressively shorter and easier workouts with ever more esoteric equipment that have left us fatter and unfitter than before, we’re finally admitting what we knew deep down all along: that there’s no substitute for work, no magic pill or high-intensity shortcut. The rings symbolise this more than anything. “The rings are very different to, say, barbells, where you can begin learning the more complex movements like cleans and snatches and reach a decent level of proficiency within a few months,” says CrossFit’s Stretch Rayner. “Rings require a much higher level of skill development. You could be the strongest person in the gym, but that doesn’t
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you’d think would be maddening to a hyperactive kid who was packed off to gymnastics lessons by his mum, after he mimicked a footballer’s acrobatic celebration and accidentally kicked his grandma’s tea out of her hand. “My coach made it more of a game, so for me it was fun,” he says. “I was learning skills and I didn’t even know it.” Again, what might appear off-putting about the rings is in fact what makes them compelling. With barbell lifts, once you’re competent at the technique, progression is restricted to adding another plate or rep. But the rings provide endless scope for progression and variation. You’re always learning something new; that, and the element of play, makes the work seem easier. Daily training is anything but repetitive. “You’re achieving something,” says Tulloch. “You try something the first time and you’re miles off. You go away, do some exercises then try again a week later and you’re that little bit closer. It’s addictive.” As with everything in gymnastics, the rings are a quixotic quest for a perfection that will never be achieved. Although a perfect 10 used to be possible, the International Gymnastics Federation changed the system in 2006 so that separate scores for difficulty and execution are then combined; the former varies so much that there’s no longer a recognised ‘perfect’ total. (If points
second, next time it’s got to be first. So I don’t get too disheartened if something doesn’t go my way. I’m always trying to be positive.” In Jungian psychology, the circle symbolises continuity and the self; if you wanted to get pretentious about it, you could say that the gymnastic ring symbolises continuous self-improvement. There is no end point, except for maybe death: only the journey, which must be its own reward. It would be cool to be able to do an iron cross though. “It’s hard, but enjoy what you’re doing, because that’s what’s going to keep you going,” says Tulloch. “Try to love chasing that little bit of improvement and be happy about it. Don’t think, ‘That’s not where I want to be.’ Embrace the process, because it’s going to take a long time. Then when you do get there, it’s an amazing feeling.” british-gymnastics.org gymnasticbodies.com
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Portrait Kingsley Davis Words Chris May
Eddy Grant Aged 17, he founded the first charttopping, multiracial rock band. For five decades, he has critiqued race relations to an infectious beat. We might need him now more than ever.
Eddy Grant is a musical, political and entrepreneurial force of nature. His story is that of a working-class immigrant to Britain who, through his own vision and determination, built a successful and long-lasting career, along the way facing down racial prejudice and hostility and channeling both into music. He led Britain’s first successful multiracial rock band, the Equals, and was the first black musician in Britain to fully take control of his career, forming his own record label and song publishing company. Grant was born in 1948 in the remote Guyanese village of Plaisance. His parents left in 1956 to set up home in London, leaving Grant in the care of relatives. The first time he saw a white person was in 1960, when he and his four younger brothers arrived in London to join their parents. In race terms, Britain then was even uglier than it is in the Brexit era. In summer 1958, during a week of violent disorder in Notting Hill, white mobs had attacked African and Caribbean immigrants. In 1962, the Commonwealth Immigrants Act
restricted immigration from the “coloured” Commonwealth. Fascist movements such as the Keep Britain White campaign, the League of Empire Loyalists, the National Socialist Movement and the Greater Britain Movement fanned the flames of white ignorance and bigotry. In the 1964 general election, the Tory party in Smethwick in the West Midlands told voters, “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.” Employers were legally allowed to refuse job applications on the grounds of race until 1965. Grant rose above it all. In the 1960s he took Caribbean music further in the direction of rock’n’roll than anyone else, just as his hero Chuck Berry had done with American R&B a decade earlier. In 1965, with the drummer John Hall, Grant co-founded the Equals, which predated America’s similarly pioneering, multiracial and cross-genre outfit, Sly and the Family Stone, by two years. With the Equals, Grant forged a unique, culturally inclusive style of rock that combined optimal danceability with insightful socio-political lyrics, a blend that reached full strength on his solo records of the late 1970s and 1980s. By 1969, Grant had racked up seven Top 50 hits with the Equals, including a No.1 with ‘Baby Come Back’. The same year, he wrote ‘Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys’, arguably the first recognisably black British musical statement, proclaiming that London’s homegrown black soul music was stylistically self-sufficient. By 1969, Grant had also
built his own recording studio, launched the first of several record labels – of which Ice Records has been the most enduring and successful – and his own publishing company. It took 15 years of hard bargaining to get his Equals-era songwriting copyrights back from the President record label, but he finally succeeded. In 1971, Grant suffered life-threatening cardiac problems, and he temporarily retired from the music business. On his return he released his first solo album in 1975, Eddy Grant, on his Torpedo label. His second solo album, Message Man, on Ice, included stand-out tracks ‘Race Hate’ and ‘Cockney Black’. In 1979, he had a Top 20 hit with ‘Living on the Front Line’. In 1980, the Clash covered Grant’s ‘Police on My Back’, recorded by the Equals in 1967. The hits kept coming, including a No.1 with ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance’ in 1982 and a No.2 with ‘Electric Avenue’ in 1983. Apartheid South Africa was the subject of the Top 10 hit ‘Gimme Hope Jo’anna’ in 1988. Since 1982, Grant has lived mainly in Barbados, running Ice Records and his Blue Wave recording studio, and developing Ice’s publishing arm, which specialises in calypso legends such as Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener. On a trip to London late last year, Grant was guest of honour with London mayor Sadiq Khan, switching on the new illuminated sign to mark the £1m refurbishment of Brixton’s Electric Avenue.
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You were among the first musicians to emerge in Britain during the 1960s who set up his own label and recording studio, and took responsibility for his career. You were certainly the first black musician to do so. I was lucky. I had good mentors from an early age. I was a voracious reader but the actual practicalities of living came from very ordinary people in my village. Carpenters and masons and so on. As a pre-teen, I didn’t have many young friends. I hung around with the grown men and I learnt to work hard and build things. Most of my friends were old people – at least they looked old to me at the time – and they instilled in me a way of going about life and taking ownership of your actions. It has stood me in good stead in business and through that I’ve been able to withstand what I call a hostile world. Later, in London, I got to know Milton Samuels, the first black owner of a record company, Beacon Records, to have a major chart hit [in 1968, with the Showstoppers’ ‘Ain’t Nothing but a House Party’]. He’d had his own problems in the music business and by watching what was happening there I was able to to avoid the same mistakes. Milton drank profusely, and first of all I learnt not to do that or any of the pharmaceuticals. In the 1960s and 1970s, I saw a lot of my friends go there and not come back.
Did London feel hostile when you arrived here? In 1958, I remember reading there was a race riot in somewhere called Notting Hill. It meant nothing to me. I didn’t know what racism was. It was a situation that was absolutely foreign to me. I had never encountered a white person and I had never encountered an Englishman. All the people in our village were Guyanese. The Indians were like us, and the Portuguese were not pure white, they were like us. My best friend was Portuguese but he sounded more Guyanese than me and he was very dark skinned. I came into race in a good way though. My father’s best friend in London was a white man, called, funnily enough, Bert Blackman. He came with my father to meet us as we came off the plane. It was the 21st of December 1960, quite cold. Bert Blackman brought coats with him and we put them on and he took us around. And we went to meet other friends of my dad, who were also white, and they invited us into their homes and treated us like any other kids. The Blackmans had a business in
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Kentish Town selling cars and bicycles and my father worked for them part of the day as a mechanic. In the evening, he’d work in his own little garage up the road and then at night he would go and play trumpet in the jazz clubs. Three jobs in a day. He enjoyed it all but it was hard work. My father was an incredible man. While everybody else was fighting, my father was busy making friends. He had friends and business partners who were white. From him, I learned how to make friends and influence people. But out in wider society, the shadow of the 1958 riots and the prejudices of the early postwar years were coming together to form the Enoch Powell doctrine, which was trying to turn the clock back to when Britain would be pure white again. Any fool could see that we were coming in at such a rate that would never be. Not only us, but people from Ireland and Eastern Europe and so on. But we were black and we were the most visible. So there were fights and arguments with white kids who were listening not to themselves but to their mothers and fathers, who were telling them that we were different and that we were some kind of danger to them. You could sense it in girls, whose fathers had told them not to get too friendly with us. I could feel it in school, it was resonant there.
The Equals, Germany, 1968 Photograph Günter Zint
I could see it in the youth clubs. I could fight, so I could defend myself. They used to call me ‘Granite’ at Acland Burghley [the secondary school in Tufnell Park that Grant attended], punning on my name and also the fact that I was so tough. There were four or five of us black guys and a whole school full of white kids. But we played music, so everybody came to us.
Grant outside his London home, 1981 Photograph Janette Beckman
Bob Marley said, “Herb is the healing of the nation.” For you, is music that healing force? At Acland Burghley, the one thing that brought everyone together was music. They loved Chuck Berry, they loved Bo Diddley, they loved Sam Cooke. They loved, they loved, they loved. One thing that was remarkable about people who were exuding such a distaste for another race was that they should love their music so much. And I came to realise that this is the way through, the way to people’s hearts. The melody and the beat of a song would soften people’s hearts. And so with that idea I got back into playing the trumpet and then I built my first guitar, and I found that within the school community I could be as famous as anybody could be outside, black or white, and I could avoid the sharp barbs of racism. And I chose to deal with it in that way, through music. To find the heart of what’s going on and write about it. Take ‘Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys’. When I wrote that there was a lot of agitation, especially in America, with the Black Power movement, and it was coming across here. And people totally misconstrued what Black Power was. They didn’t want to listen. What was happening in America was a souped-up version of what was happening in England. You cannot hate to that extent without there
being some kind of backlash, and that’s what Black Power was. And because black people don’t have their own major media, our thing always seems to be underground, and anything that comes from underground is seen to be dark. So you have this problem of vindicating who you are. It was that which drove me in that period especially. To come into the discourse and say what I felt was required, but in a way that was palatable. My messages were not strident in any way. They were words of guidance that people who were prepared to listen could hear.
Did you have two white guys in the Equals to make the band more palatable for the record business? It just happened that way. Race was not part of it. There was an assemblage at our first jam sessions that was quite large and it included English people and Indians and Greeks. We were banging away playing Rufus Thomas things and some Beatles and Rolling Stones. It was pretty disorganised, to put it kindly. But there was a white guy called John Hall, who was good and became the Equals’ drummer, and I said to him, “There’s no order here. We need to decide who we want with us and who is prepared to come to rehearsals every day on time. That’s the only way to make it work.” And John said, “Great idea, mate. What are we going to call ourselves?” And I said. “I don’t know. You call it.” And he said, “I think we should be called the Equals.” I asked if that was because we were different races. He said, “No. It’s because we’ll all have a vote.” In the Equals, we had our arguments, but never about race. You wouldn’t know that there were two different races going on there. So John and I chose the two Gordon brothers, from Jamaica, on vocals and bass, and a guy called Eddie Phasms on lead guitar. The rest went, because they had other things to do, girls included. John and I were more focused on the band. And one day I was coming to rehearsal and I saw Eddie coming up the road with a girl on his arm. I said, “Where’s your guitar?” And he said, “Come on, Ed, I’m going out with my girl tonight
You’ve said that discovering Chuck Berry was your musical epiphany and an early example of how music could cross racial divides. I saw Chuck soon after he came out of prison, so it would have to have been 1963 [Berry had just served 18 months for allegedly having sex with an underage girl]. It was at the Astoria in Finsbury Park. Me and my friend Gus were the only two black guys in there apart from an usher. Chuck was touring with the Nashville Teens, Kingsize Taylor and the Dominoes and Carl Perkins. That was a night and a half. Carl Perkins was a white guy and I’d never heard of him. Chuck Berry was a black guy and I’d never heard of him either. Carl Perkins came on right before Chuck and he was unbelievably good. After he went off, I said to Gus, “You know, this guy Chuck Berry, he’s in for a surprise, because you can’t follow that.” Then Chuck Berry walked on with his guitar and he lifted it above his head and he said, “Hello, England.” And the audience – I’d never seen men behaving like that, not rockers, these hard men. They were going crazy. And I with them. The whole place went absolutely wild. From when Chuck plugged in the guitar and played his first lick, everybody was in harmony. And I clearly remember thinking, this is the moment that will
My messages were non strident. They were words of guidance. to the cinema. I’ll come to rehearsals when I want to.” I said, “No, you don’t come when you want to. You come now or you don’t come at all.” He just laughed and said, “Who’s going to play lead then?” I could play one lead, it was ‘It’s All Over Now’. He said, “Are you going to play ‘It’s All Over Now’ all night long?” I said, “If necessary.” We had a gig a few days later and I played ‘It’s All Over Now’ to every bloody song. Then I started learning all the Chuck Berry solos, and after a while I became so damn good at it that I was almost like Chuck Berry himself. And pretty soon we found [guitarist] Pat Lloyd, who became my best friend in the band, and we were off.
change my life. And it did. They’ve given Bob Dylan a Nobel prize. I don’t disagree with Bob Dylan getting the accolade, but, Jesus, Chuck Berry is the template.
As a mixed band, was it more difficult for the Equals to get a record deal? Hard to tell, but you can’t imagine how many rejections we got. People were not used to a guitar band with three black guys and two white guys. And black people didn’t want to hear guitar bands. I was physically turfed
Grant with Bob Marley during an amateur football match, Hammersmith Leisure Centre, London, 1980 Photograph Norman Reid out of offices. I used to come from Acland Burghley during my dinner break, run from school to the West End and knock on doors, and then run back. We used to rehearse at the All-Star Club, a black club in Artillery Passage near Liverpool Street. It was one of the clubs where you could see really great artists from the United States. We played there regularly and the manager let us keep our equipment there. This particular night, we turned up and found the door was locked. We found out we’d lost the gig because we didn’t have an organ or a horn section, which was what everybody wanted. The manager said, “We need a band with the sound of Otis Redding. That’s what black people want.” There was no acrimony. He said that if we got an organ and some horns, we could come back. But we didn’t want to change our sound. So we took the equipment to my dad’s house and started practising in my bedroom.
How did you get the recording contract with President Records? In a strange and roundabout way, it was as a result of leaving the All-Star. I read an article in the Daily Mirror which said there was a guy named Gene Latter who, having seen James Brown perform in England, said that he could sing and dance better than James Brown. I was ready to kill him. What I didn’t know was that the guy lived next door to me, because he was always away on the continent playing gigs. Then one day I saw him washing his
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G r a n t Grant inside his home studio, London, 1981 Photograph Janette Beckman
I went in and he said again, “Ed, it doesn’t work like that. Regardless of how much I love you, it doesn’t work like that.” I said, “OK, then give us our own publishing company and you can share in it.” No deal.
How did you eventually get the copyrights back?
Music has its own way of treating you. If you treat it well, it looks after you. I was told that the very first day I came into the business. car and I said, “Oi, you’re that guy in the papers. You can’t sing as well as James Brown, you can’t dance half as good as James Brown. Who do you think you are?” One day a little while later, Gene heard us rehearsing and came and rapped on the door. He said, “That song you just played. Was it Wilson Pickett?” I said, “No, it’s mine. You want it?” It didn’t mean anything to me. He said, “How about I take you to meet somebody tomorrow, because I’m making a new record and that song sounds right up my creek.” So we went and played the song for Mr Eddie Kassner at President Records. We thought we were playing for Gene Latter to get a record deal. We didn’t think there was any way we could get a deal ourselves. But Eddie Kassner was a smart man and he thought, there’s something about these guys. Music has its own way of treating you. If you treat it well, it generally looks after you. I was told that by Mr Kassner the very first day I came to the music business. Because I was only 16 or 17, my father had to sign my contract for me. He said, “Should I sign this document? Because my son wants to become a surgeon.” And Mr Kassner said, “Forget about the surgeon. Can’t you see? Music owes your son a living. I can’t say that about the other guys in the band, I can’t say that about 99 per cent of the musicians who will pass through this life. But look at your son, your son is all about music. Therefore music will owe him.”
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I worked assiduously for Mr Kassner and his business until 1971, and I still have a really great relationship with his son. On Saturday mornings, I’d go up to his office and he would tell me stories about being a Jew in Austria in 1938 and making it out to England. Incredible stories. Both his parents were killed in Auschwitz. And he would tell me all the things that happened to him in the music business. I listened and I learned. He made all the moves and for a time I was happy with that. But one day in 1969 I said to him, “I think I should have [the copyright of] all my songs back.” At the time I was negotiating on behalf of the Equals. I had just started my first label. I didn’t know what I was saying. The expletives that came out of his mouth told me I’d said the wrong thing. Then he said, “It doesn’t work like that, Ed. They’re like my children.” I said, “OK, one day I’m going to come back with so much money that you will sell.” He said, “Ed, no amount of money would make me sell them back to you. I’ve still got the copyrights on Bill Haley, the Kinks, Matt Monro. You don’t think they’d like their songs back? It’s a business, I can’t do it.” I said, “If you don’t let me have my fucking songs back the day will come when I don’t make any more records.” I went back to helping my father at his shop. Piece by piece Mr Kassner realised something had gone wrong. He calls me up one day and says, “My boy, come in, I want to talk to you.” I said, “I don’t want to talk to you.” He said, “Don’t be a prat.” So
We argued about it for 15 years, but there was always mutual respect. Mr Kassner had a saying, he used to tell all his white friends in the music business, “I’ve only ever met two gentlemen in the record industry. One was the great Nat King Cole and the other is this little bastard over here,” meaning me, “who rings my arse every time he comes to do a deal. But a gentleman. All the rest, whoever they are, are cruds.” That’s how he used to put it. But he wouldn’t let me have my copyright back. Quite rightly, I realised later. I wouldn’t give anybody their copyrights back either. But more and more I talked to Mr Kassner and more and more he started to relent. We were always trying to get points off each other, and it was like a wrestler teaching another wrestler. You get bruised a bit but at the end of it all you become as good as the guy you trained with. True to my word, when I’d accumulated some money I sent an emissary to him. I said, “The time has arrived. If you’re ever going to sell me these things it’s now.” He said, “You don’t have enough money, you’re pissing against the wall.” I went round and talked to him about it. I said, “I want everything.” He said, “Ray Davies wants his songs back. Why should I let you?” I said, “It’s about respect.” Eventually he said, “Ed, bring the money.” When Mr Kassner was preparing to sign the various contracts, he had them all spread out along the desk. The lawyers and everybody were watching him and we were all holding our breath. Then he hesitated and pulled his pen back. And I thought, oh Jesus, not now. Finally he said, “My boy, I am giving this to you. No other artist in the world has had this privilege.” He signed. Then he said, “The money?” And the lawyers came over with the envelope. Finally, I owned everything that I’d ever made. And I’ve kept it like that. Plaisance, Grant’s 16th solo album, is out in April icerecords.com
Photographs Jon Mortimer Fashion Director Mark Anthony Bradley
ISAAC SEEKINGS A modern suedehead, 19-year-old Isaac Seekings’ style is partly inspired by his parents’ vintage clothing company. When not cutting crops, pompadours and side partings at Peterborough’s Ten Hairdressing, he spins reggae and northern soul as Eclectic Ballroom, a DJ duo with friend Zayaer Malik. This summer they play Glastonbury, Big Chill and Secret Garden Party. eclecticballroom.co.uk tenhairdressing.co.uk
Coat by Mackintosh; top by Fred Perry; shirt by Prada; sweater by Billionaire.
Coat by APC; trousers by Stella McCartney; jacket by Pringle of Scotland; shirt by Bally; boots by Tricker’s x Motolegends; watch by Omega; belt, stylist’s own; socks by Pantherella.
Jacket by Grenfell; trousers by Lanvin; polo shirt by Fred Perry; shirt by Brooks Brothers; watch by Omega.
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Coat by Prada; trousers and jacket by Jil Sander; polo shirt by Fred Perry; shoes by G.H. Bass; bag by Loewe; socks by Pantherella.
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Coat by Daniel W. Fletcher; trousers by Pal Zileri; jacket by Bally; top by Fred Perry; shoes by G.H. Bass; sunglasses by Bold London; socks by Pantherella. J &
Coat by Sandro; trousers by Caruso; jacket by Jil Sander; sweater by Billionaire; boots by Trickerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s x Motolegends; sunglasses by Bold London; belt by Pal Zileri; watch by Omega; bag by Loewe; socks by Pantherella.
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Coat by Pringle of Scotland; trousers by Lanvin; top by Ami; shirt by Brooks Brothers; shoes by G.H. Bass; bag by Loewe; socks by Pantherella. J &
Coat by Ami; trousers by Jil Sander; polo shirt by Stella McCartney; sweater by Billionaire; shoes by G.H. Bass; glasses by Dita; socks by Pantherella.
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Coat by Grenfell; trousers by Jil Sander; shirt by Paul Smith; scarf, stylistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
Leo wears jacket by Art Comes First; tracksuit bottoms by Marcelo Burlon County of Milan; top by Tourne de Transmission; trainers by Vans; jewellery and leggings, model’s own.
Photographs Mark Mattock Styling Harris Elliott Hair and Make-up Ezana Ové using Bumble and Bumble and Mac Cosmetics Photographic Assistant Maxwell Anderson Styling Assistants Leila Afghan and Ross McLeish Models Leo Hoyte-Egan, Tomo Kurata and Céline Ziggy Location House of Vans, Arches 228-232, Station Approach Road, London, SE1 houseofvanslondon.com
Céline wears T-shirt by Dilara Findikoglu; trousers by Marcelo Burlon County of Milan; trainers by Vans; hat by Thrasher; socks, stylist’s own.
Leo wears sweater by Tourne de Transmission; shorts by Ben Taverniti Unravel Project; trainers by Vans; jewellery and leggings, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
CĂŠline wears coat by Our Legacy menswear; tracksuit bottoms by
Marcelo Burlon County of Milan menswear; T-shirt by Kwake x Done London menswear; trainers by Vans; hat by Ice Cream.
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Tomo wears top by Doublet; hat by Noah; jewellery, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
Leo wears dark sweater by B-side by WalĂŠ; trousers by Marcelo Burlon County of Milan; hooded sweater by Doublet; trainers by Vans. Tomo wears jacket and trousers by Clothsurgeon; trainers by Vans; necklace, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Leo wears sweatshirt by Doublet; shorts by Clothsurgeon; sunglasses by Kirk Originals; jewellery, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Leo wears jacket by Enharmonic Tavern; shorts by Facetasm; trainers by Vans; mask, stylistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own; jewellery and leggings, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own.
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Tomo wears jacket by Maison Mihara Yasuhiro; trousers by Marcelo Burlon County of Milan; sweatshirt by Clothsurgeon. CĂŠline wears vest by Daniel W. Fletcher menswear; hat by Thrasher.
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Céline wears sweatshirt by Doublet menswear; scarf, stylist’s own.
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Tomo wears T-shirt by Kwake x Done London; trousers by Tourne de Transmission; trainers by Vans; hat and jewellery, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own. Leo wears sweater by Tourne de Transmission; shorts by Ben Taverniti Unravel Project; trainers by Vans; leggings and ring, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own. Celine wears coat by Our Legacy; tracksuit bottoms by Marcelo Burlon County of Milan; trainers by Vans.
Leo wears top by Maison Mihara Yasuhiro; trousers by Marcelo Burlon County of Milan; trainers by Vans; jewellery, model’s own. Tomo wears jacket and trousers by Clothsurgeon; necklace, model’s own.
Céline wears T-shirt by Kwake x Done London menswear; trousers by Clothsurgeon menswear; trainers by Vans; hat by Thrasher; bracelet, model’s own.
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Tomo wears trousers by Marcelo Burlon County of Milan; hat by B-side by Walé; mask, stylist’s own; jewellery, model’s own.
Words Tom Banham Portrait Paul Vickery
DAVID RODIGAN How a boy from the home counties became one of reggae’s most revered figures by being like no one else in Jamaican music.
In the history of Jamaican music, non-black faces have an outsize profile. The most famous belongs to Chris Blackwell, a British descendant of slave owners who made millions when he brought the Wailers to the world. Before him, it was Ken Khouri, the son of Lebanese and Cuban immigrants who set up the first Jamaican recording business, cutting calypso to wax for tourists. The first sound system belonged to a Chinese-Jamaican called Tom Wong. Another, Jo Jo Hoo Kim, owned the seminal Channel One Studios. Jamaicans are wary of interlopers. People whose history begins with dark boats and sugar plantations are understandably concerned that foreign interests might not be in their own. Reggae music was born from, and speaks to, their displacement and pain. It is uniquely Jamaican; though the diaspora spread reggae, it never really left the island. Hence the sudden silence when David Rodigan stepped onstage for the first time in Jamaica’s capital, at the New Kingston Drive-In Cinema, in 1985. He had played reggae on the radio in London for seven years and had performed in three sound clashes on Kingston’s airwaves, which were taped and endlessly replayed across the island. But few Jamaicans had
ever seen his face. “They only knew me from the radio and they all thought I was a black Londoner,” he says. It took a Gregory Isaacs dubplate, which he’d cut that night with the engineer holding the needle into the acetate, to convince them his love for their music was as deep as he claimed. Rodigan has been omnipresent on British and Jamaican radio, at sound systems and clashes, since 1978. He has done more than perhaps any other Briton to spread the gospel. But there is a lot of justifiable anger about white involvement in reggae, and Rodigan, as its most visible face, occasionally ends up as its lightning rod. In the 1980s, he was singled out by a group calling itself the Black Music Protection Squad. They sent death threats to his radio station. One evening he emerged from his residency at Gossips nightclub, in central London’s Soho, to find every car in the vicinity had had its tyres slashed and the group’s flyer was on every windscreen. But as he sees it, hang around long enough and you’re bound to rub some people the wrong way. These pockets of dissent only emphasise the love that pours out for him everywhere else. And to understand that, you first have to understand the culture of sound clash, which is as nebulous and pervasive in Jamaican music as ganja smoke. It was born from sound systems, the trucks packed with speakers and records that were vital in a country where, in the 1950s, a turntable was a luxury. They’d play music and sell drinks and compete for an audience by playing records that no other sound system had. At first they sourced them from the US, later by founding their own recording studios. They broke hits and launched careers. As
Jamaica’s politics fractured, they recognised the power in a mic, speakers and people, and became part-time propagandists. Competition was baked in. Rivalries regularly boiled into violence. At some point, and there’s competing theories of precisely how and when and who was involved, behind-the-scenes war stepped onstage: two crews squared off and the selector with the best records won. These clashes coupled Jamaica’s biggest loves – competition and music. Over time they grew into multiple sounds battling to find one champion. The rules vary, but follow a rough template. First, an unjudged opening round. Next, elimination: 15 minutes of music each and the crowd votes out the loser. Reset the timers and repeat. When two remain, it’s ‘dub fi dub’ – one track each, the crowd calls each round’s winner, and the first to six takes the crown. To triumph in clash you need dubplates – specially engineered versions of tracks. Exclusives rule. Every record must be bespoke, with a new vocal that bigs up your system or shades your rivals. Play an original and you’re disqualified. You also need knowledge, of your own record bag and reggae history. Play a song that’s already been heard and you’re out. If your choice doesn’t follow on from the one before – a connected rhythm or vocal or subject – you’re out. Then you need to know how to perform, how to rile up a crowd and get them baying your name. Killing soundboys tends to be a team sport. Clash has cultural rules too. One of which is that it is not karaoke – you earn your place on stage. Another is that radio DJs are not sound men. “They’re not considered to be part of the fraternity,”
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says Rodigan, who has won clashes in Kingston, London, New York and everywhere Jamaica’s music has spread. White men in reggae are not unique. But white radio DJs who’ve clashed and killed every soundsystem in Jamaica? There’s only one. But Rodigan was an outsider from birth. Born in Germany and raised in Libya, he lived an army child’s peripatetic life before his family settled in Oxfordshire. At each new school he fought off bullies then made friends with music – party invites came with a request that he bring his records. As he recounts in his new autobiography, My Life in Reggae, Rodigan discovered Jamaica in the year that the Wailers released ‘Simmer Down’, through the less auspicious figure of Millie Small. Bob Marley might be Jamaica’s biggest musical export, but in 1964 it was Small who sold six million copies of ‘My Boy Lollipop’; it was Small who toured the world and turned it on to ska’s off-beat chop. As Rodigan fell deeper into the music, Jamaica’s distance fuelled his obsession. “You had to imagine what it was like, so that made it more mystical,” he says. “What those studios were like. What it would be like to meet those musicians. What would it be like to meet Big Youth? To go to Treasure Isle studios?” He studied record sleeves, pieced together artists and producers to map Jamaica’s musical webs. He grew up and left home, ignored his parents and went to drama school. He sold reggae records on weekends to fund his own collection. When he graduated he took any theatre jobs he could. Then he got one on air – when Radio London’s reggae presenter stepped down, Rodigan’s girlfriend applied for him in secret. He scripted his audition between rehearsals at the Albany Empire in Deptford. But after 15 minutes, the producer stopped him, thanked him for his time and said, “I’m sorry, Mr Rodigan, but you’re the wrong colour.” Rodigan saw his point. The station sought a second opinion from West Indian record producers. They didn’t know Rodigan was white, but they recognised his passion. He got the gig and for a while juggled acting with a fortnightly show on Radio London, then with a weekly show on Capital FM. Eventually he proved too adept at both careers to keep them separate and his agent, tired of explaining that his client had to be in London on Saturday night to record his reggae show, gave him an ultimatum – radio or stage. In 1990, Kiss FM offered him a daily slot and a regular paycheque. Rodigan quit theatre. He still misses it. At drama school he learnt to never put himself before the audience. He realised that they didn’t care about your day, about if you were sick or tired; they just wanted to be entertained. He brought that approach to the microphone. “You must never forget that your privilege is that you’re allowed to share your love of something with like-minded souls,” he says.“And that hopefully someone wandering down the dial, listening to you for three or four minutes, may stay with you because you care about what you’re playing.” Rodigan made his first trip to Jamaica in 1979. He’d only been on radio for four months but he
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knew he wanted dubplates. And he wanted them from King Tubby, the super-producer who raised the profile of the man behind the desk until it rivalled those in the vocal booth. It was dark when he and two friends walked up to the gate of the studio. Introductions were made and he told the producer that he was there to cut dubs. There was a price list on the wall but first, a test: Tubby cued a song up, looked over and Rodigan shook his head. He rejected the next, too. He began to sweat. The third was no good either but Rodigan only had enough money for three dubplates. He wasn’t wasting it out of politeness. Tubby grinned and tossed some keys to a kid in the corner, who opened a
After 15 minutes the Radio London producer stopped him and said, ‘I’m sorry Mr Rodigan, but you’re the wrong colour.’
Rodigan and Prince Jahkey at People’s Sound Records, Notting Hill Photograph Paul Vickery
cabinet and pulled out a multitrack. It was plugged in and Tubby hit play on a song that still makes Rodigan’s skin tingle. Nine blows trade on snare and tom, then a crash. A breath. And enter one of the most electrifying horn lines in reggae. Rodigan shivered as Tommy McCook’s riff wound through sticky air, as Yabby You’s bassline oozed out of the speakers like molasses. He was transported by a voice that played that rastafari trick of praising Jah in minor keys. A call for peace and unity that amplified their absence. It’s called ‘Mash Down Rome’, Tubby told him, by Michael Prophet, real name Michael Haines. Rodigan nodded. Cut it. Tubby’s hands flickered across the board and a needle gouged sound into acetate, its chemical sweetness permeating the room. Next, the dub. Tubby pulled the record up before the vocal and dropped the echo tone that marks this mix as bespoke. Rodigan still uses that
echo to open his radio show, he still gets chills when he hears a ska backbeat or reggae’s skank guitar. “It is a music that has stood up against injustice,” says Rodigan. “Stood up for the impoverished. Stood up for people who are oppressed. And that’s what makes it special.” That dubplate has left his house twice. He played it in the London nightclub Fabric in 2012, first for a Red Bull Music Academy lecture that recounted his life in reggae, later to a crowd of 18 year olds, where the stories got another airing. “This is King Tubby,” he yelled, brandishing the sleeve. “I cut this dub on my first trip to Jamaica.” Then he dropped the needle and a room of kids suddenly
understood where dubstep was born, in a hot studio in Jamaica four decades earlier. “He knows how to deliver his music,” says Garfield ‘Chin’ Bourne, a promoter who runs some of the world’s biggest sound clashes. Rodigan realised early that the martial approach that dominated sound clash, of threatening death and destruction, would not be well received from a middle-aged white man. Instead, he did what he did on his radio show – informed, educated, entertained. “It’s not that he’s playing just to win,” says Bourne. “It’s not that he’s playing to get a paycheque. Almost every dub that David plays, he puts himself back in the time when that artist was on top of the game or when he was in the studio cutting that dub.” “Making aggressive speeches didn’t sit well with me and I didn’t see the point in it,” Rodigan says. “I thought it should always be fun, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. And that it would be more entertaining if I were to take it tongue in cheek.” Others might have aped Jamaican manners and dress, or made the ill-advised decision to pepper their home counties accent with patois. But stumble across YouTube videos in which Rodigan clashes with Jamaica’s storied sound systems – Bass Odyssey, Killamanjaro, Stone Love – and you might think he’s popped on stage to tell people where the fire exits are. Until you see him dance, at which point you might worry that someone’s plugged his microphone into the wrong socket. He twitches and writhes and roars, an eruption of love with no concern for what anyone thinks. “He was crucial before the internet,” says reggae journalist and historian John Masouri. “The music was inaccessible, it was difficult to find it in shops or hear it on the radio. But David’s programmes brought the music to life for us. Because he had these people – artists, producers and engineers, people connected to the business – we could hear them speak in their own words. We could hear their stories and put flesh on the bones and we couldn’t access that information anywhere else.” In 1983, Rodigan was in Jamaica to record interviews for his Capital show. He invited Barry G, Jamaican radio royalty, to do a chart rundown. The next day, Barry returned the favour. But near the start of the show, he decided to try something more interesting. He turned to the white Brit in his booth and said, “Jamaicans love a contest. Let’s clash.” Rodigan grabbed his box of records and hunted for a first song. He played his last six hours later. A rematch was booked before the last track was done. When he returned in 1984 and again in 1985 he was armed with a stack of dubplates. Barry G opened proceedings with a cut on the
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‘Sleng Teng riddim’, which had sent shockwaves through Jamaica when it was released a few months earlier. Reggae had always been recorded by real men with real instruments. ‘Sleng Teng’ was a Casio keyboard preset, an 8-bit knock-off of a David Bowie bassline, which King Tubby’s assistant, Prince Jammy, had stuck new drums on. It was as cheap and digital as reggae was lush. But it lit up sound systems all summer. Both men had a bagful of versions and for the first half hour of the clash played nothing else. It was the first time the new sound had been aired outside the sound systems. It would dominate Jamaican music for the next decade. Rodigan recalls that driving across the island the next morning he felt like he was trapped in King Tubby’s echo machine – their clash had been recorded and ‘Sleng Teng’ boomed out in different shapes in every village in Jamaica. The tapes went on planes and boats wherever Jamaicans went, and by December Rodigan and Barry G were flying out to Brooklyn, to clash for a crowd of Jamaican expats who had queued for three blocks in a blizzard. The annual clashes continued until they ran their course. Then in 1992 he was challenged by Bodyguard, a Jamaican sound system at the peak of its power. “People said I’d be crazy. ‘Bodyguard is the number one sound and they’ll bury you alive.’ I thought, great, let’s do it.” He spent months cutting dubs, then was so nervous on stage that he could hardly play his first record. He lost, but held his own and suddenly the challenges flooded in. The following year he stepped up against Waggy Tee, the famed Miami selector who’d just bested Bodyguard and was regarded as the most dangerous man in sound clash. Rodigan knew he couldn’t beat him on the depth of his dubplates, so he drew on his acting experience instead. He got someone to imitate newsreader Trevor McDonald announcing Waggy Tee’s death. The crowd surged forward, then again as Rodigan dropped a dubplate of Cutty Ranks’ ‘Limb by Limb’: “Limb by limb we are gone cut dem down Waggy Tee.” Rodigan won and Waggy Tee never clashed again. He couldn’t have war so he made humour his signature. Other sound systems followed suit, black Jamaicans stealing moves from a white Briton. “It had never happened before,” says Rodigan. “Everything was about being top dog, being slightly aggressive, dismantling people with tough boy
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Head to head clash with Barry G at Radio JBC, Kingston, Jamaica, 1985 Photograph © David Rodigan
Everything was about being top dog, slightly aggressive. And I thought, there’s another way. speeches. And I thought, there’s another way.” Over the years he also collected dubplates that no one else could. He is the only man to have records voiced by Prince Buster, who turned ska into an art form and turned down every dubplate request he ever received. But after Rodigan arranged for him to headline a festival in England, then interviewed him for three hours on his radio show, the pair clicked. “We struck up a friendship almost immediately,” Rodigan says. “Our spirits locked.” He asked Buster to record two dubs and he agreed. But in the next clash, Rodigan misread the room. These were dubplates that no sound system could respond to, but at the clash’s climax Rodigan played the wrong side, a song that had been huge in Britain but never charted in Jamaica. The audience just looked bemused. Killamanjaro took the clash. He played the right side in 2012 to win the World Clash, then quit the game while on top. But in 2014, he was approached by London duo Chase and Status, who were putting a team together for Red Bull’s Culture Clash, a modernised, any-genre spin on sound clash. “We know David as a champion selector,” says Saul ‘Chase’ Milton.
“As the soundboy killer. The original clash king.” He at first demurred but when they explained how they wanted to bring clash culture to a new, young audience, Rodigan changed his mind. He lives to spread reggae’s message. Onstage, Rodigan is a whirlwind. Off it he’s professorial and avuncular. He is a guardian of the music and treats it with the care and consideration it deserves. “He’s very calm, very meticulous,” says Milton. “Quite regimented. We had lots of secret meetings and every time, he had a notepad out. David was making bullet points, questions and suggestions, speech ideas. He has a calmness and knows exactly what to do in a clash.” Their opponents did not. A$AP Mob, the young, black rap crew from Harlem, had not cut dubs. They had not chased down exclusives. They hadn’t researched the music or respected the culture. Rodigan called them out. “You need to get your cheque and go home. You are a living joke in London tonight.” This was a white, British radio DJ lecturing black musicians on Jamaican etiquette and no one booed. Rodigan has earned the right to fight for Jamaican music. It is his music now. Rodigan: My Life in Reggae is out now rodigan.com
Ben Wheatley Words Andy Thomas Portrait Orlando Gili
Britain’s most distinctive auteur began by making low-budget, largely improvised films for the internet. These days he works with Martin Scorsese, who is executive producer on his latest film, Free Fire. Here he talks subverting genre, the influence of computer games and making gunshots sound terrifying.
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Ben Wheatley took a novel route to the pinnacle of British cinema. A decade ago, he made viral videos, while today he directs the kind of films that big name actors make time for between Marvel sequels. His career path might be modern, but he’s part of a lineage of British filmmakers that include what he calls the “holy trinity” of iconoclasts – Ken Russell, Nicolas Roeg and John Boorman – as well social realists such as Alan Clarke. Wheatley started making web videos because they were so low budget, no one could meddle with his ideas. There are now rather more cooks in his kitchen, but that independent spirit endures. Sightseers, his 2012 black comedy about a pair of cagoule-wearing caravanners on a killing spree, feels light on executive producer notes. Even High-Rise, his adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel about a luxury tower block that descends into violence and barbecued dogs, fizzes with indie strangeness, despite a cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Luke Evans, Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons. Wheatley’s oeuvre is gory, unsettling and laced with black humour, and he is interested in how those elements play out in confined spaces. Some sample scenes: a hitman is disembowelled in a tunnel (Kill List); a neighbour is beaten to death with a hammer in a small front room (Down Terrace); a group of English Civil War soldiers pick each other off in a claustrophobic landscape (A Field in England). His latest project continues this trend. Free Fire unfurls almost entirely inside a Boston warehouse in the late 1970s, with Brie Larson as American fixer Justine, alongside IRA dealmakers Chris and Frank (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley) as they collect weapons from a South African gunrunner. Things don’t go to plan. An hour-long gun battle ensues that’s big on blood but light on cliché: bodies are mutilated, jokes are cracked and Wheatley finds a unique spin on the standoff-in-a-warehouse scene that never tips into Reservoir Dogs pastiche. Though shot near Wheatley’s home in Brighton, it’s his first film set outside the UK. It also features Martin Scorsese as executive producer and marks Wheatley’s most overt tilt at a more commercial audience.
Where did the story of Free Fire come from? I’d done some research on the IRA and the guns moving from America back to Ireland in the 1970s. There were these crazy stories about them putting the guns on the QE2 and getting them to Belfast that way, when the ships docked there. Had you always wanted to make an action film? I’d been playing with the idea for years and wanted to do something that was more like a procedural action film, that showed cause and effect. I really loved the early Sam Raimi stuff and I’d always been a big fan of films like Evil Dead, so I guess I wanted to do something that was a lot more muscular, with the camera whizzing around. But I was also a big fan of ’70s crime stuff. Which other directors and crime films inspired Free Fire, 2016 Free Fire? It comes from watching Scorsese stuff, but then going back to something like [John Flynn’s 1973 crime film] The Outfit and John Boorman films like Point Blank  in particular. Boorman’s really interesting because of that combination of Warner crime movies and French new wave.That’s a really interesting intersection. Then carrying on through time you get to the Tarantino stuff, which of course references back to [Stanley Kubrick’s 1956 noir] The Killing. So it all kind of cross-pollinates. How did you stop it being just another action film? I’d been doing some research for another film and ended up reading these FBI reports from a shoot out from the Miami area. The police had tailed these guys who were off to rob a bank and had loads of rifles and stuff. They crashed and had a shoot out between the cars. It went on for ages and loads of people got shot but nobody died. Then people were shooting each other from point blank and missing. It was all blow by blow in this report and I was like, fuck, that doesn’t sound much like what I’ve seen in cinema. They are very unclichéd gunrunners and gangsters. This complex characterisation runs through all your work. I hope so. I’ve always liked the idea of putting realistic characters into genre situations. It’s about being non-judgemental. Even with people who do heinous stuff, it’s a series of decisions they have made that have resulted in those actions. It’s easy to pigeonhole people as either good or bad. The reality is that these are real people involved in these situations; they are not characters from early westerns in black or white hats. But when making films I always think about my own behaviour. You can be self-serving and loathsome and then caring and loving in very quick succession. You worked with choreographer Laurie Rose again. Me and Laurie work really well together. For Free Fire, we had a conversation early on about to what extent it should look like a ’70s film, because we really didn’t want it be a pastiche. We also thought there was no point in shooting it on film (rather than digital). That is not what we’ve done in the past. It would be like being in a rock band and pretending we’re in the ’60s. It’s modern filmmaking as much as it looks to the past. But it does evoke the 1970s. Not in the way it’s shot, though, but in the mise-en-scène and attitudes of the characters. But when you look at it, you couldn’t have shot a ’70s film like that because of all the multiple camera stuff and the use of Steadicam. And the editing is a lot quicker than a lot of ’70s films. How did the editing work? We cut it on set. I had a live feed coming straight to where I was sitting so I could show it to all the actors as I did it. Sometimes with these things, they can become rather bitty and people lose track of what is going on. So that was another important part of the process – the actors could see it as it was coming together on the set. 172 J &
The film was shot in a constricted space and as well as fast editing you use a lot of low camera angles. I was interested in whether that came from watching other films. That actually came from playing Counter-Strike and specifically the level called ‘Assault’. That is based in a warehouse so it was very influential. Free Fire owes as much to video games in its aesthetic as it does to cinema. In terms of space and perspective? Yes, but also missions and the way characters have to do things in a particular way in specific orders. And of course shooting and that idea of attrition and movement. Sound has always been very visceral in your films. You use things like shark sonar in Kill List. This one is particularly loud. Was that deliberate? If you actually hear gunshots, it’s not just a sound, it’s a physical thing. It goes through your inner ear like a shockwave and actually makes you
Kill List, 2011
Creating characters, I always think about my own behaviour. You can be self-serving and loathsome and then caring and loving in very quick succession.
B e n feel sick. We really wanted that to come across in the film. Martin Pavey, the sound designer, recorded real gunshots and bullets flying over the top of mics. We wanted it to feel dangerous and metallic and all-consuming. We also wanted to make every gunshot in the film sound different, so your ear doesn’t become bored. But yeah, it’s really fucking loud. Improvisation has been a big part of your other work. Was there much on Free Fire? There was a fair bit. The script was really good to start with, then people brought extra bits to it. Obviously the longer dialogue sequences are harder to improvise on, because you can’t cut them.
Down Terrace, 2009 Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer in particular brought a lot to their characters though and fleshed them out and improvised. Sharlto is a master improviser. Michael Smiley puts in another great performance as Frank. What’s he like to work with? Smiley is someone I’ve grown up with in filmmaking. I didn’t really know him that well when we made Down Terrace. I think I’d worked with him for one day on the TV show Wrong Door. But he was brilliant. He did his whole thing for Down Terrace in half a day. He just rocked up on the train, did it all and went home again. And he really liked that because it was so compressed. Usually there is a lot of fucking around when making films. What are the main differences from making films back then to now, when you have a much bigger budget? The actual ethos hasn’t changed at all and the experience on the set is always the same. There has never been any real pressure from the budgets either. I do adverts that have much bigger budgets. The pressure comes from wanting the film to be as good as it can be, not from the budgets. If you start to think about that it would be really crushing.
W h e a t l e y
It’s all practice and you start to get your own ideas and theories of what works and what doesn’t work. A lot of the editing skills were developed doing the film Rob Loves Kerry . That was very important for me. We had gone from making a series of short films that were wildly improvisational, shooting for weeks but not having anything really. But then with Rob Loves Kerry, Amy [Jump, Wheatley’s wife and writing partner] developed a cutting pattern so suddenly you could just take the good bits and fuck the rest off. And suddenly there’s a style. And then that was applied to both Down Terrace and Kill List. People often talk about actors getting drawn into their roles, but I was interested in how consuming Kill List was to make? It was definitely a depressing film to make and a depressing film to take out and do Q&As for. You’d walk out onto the stage and everyone would be really miserable. But we were naive and thought the job in making a horror film is to make something really horrible and that’s not exactly true. You make these films and then by the time you finish you feel they are too personal to show. Going back to your DIY days, how important was the internet as a platform? Without it I would have been creating work in a vacuum. It was the internet but also the rise of digital video photography that made it happen. We were going to make Down Terrace on camcorders right up until two weeks before. If we had made it on camcorders we would have been fucked, it would have looked too ugly and nobody would have gone anywhere near it. But the Red camera came out and Laurie took a punt on it and said, “Let’s use it.” When it arrived we had no clue but by reading online we learned how to use it. When the stuff came out it just blew us away. That was massively important. Is there anything you miss from the DIY days? No, because I could have those things now if I wanted them. I’m slowing down a bit though. There was a massive spurt of stuff and that was really good. But I don’t feel like there is the same pressure now to make stuff as fast. I need to sit back and relax a bit. But Amy and I have been writing solidly. The next few years are mapped out. What can we expect next? The next film is going to be a kind of sci-fi film called Freak Shift. The early drafts were written in 2012 and it’s kind of been on the back burner. It’s the film we were trying to make when we made A Field in England. We couldn’t get the cast and it was dragging on so we thought fuck it, let’s make another film. Now it’s back up on the horizon. But I’m writing all the time and Amy’s writing all the time. You have to do that because you need to have options. Free Fire is in cinemas from 31 March studiocanal.co.uk mrandmrswheatley.blogspot.com
You didn’t go to film school and started out very DIY. Do you think that helped you? I don’t think there is any clear route into filmmaking. People imagine you go to film school and it’s a stepping stone into cinema and it really isn’t. Directors come from every corner of the industry. There is no definitive way through. I don’t want to put film schools down but it never bothered me that I didn’t go. How much did the online shorts influence your early films?
A Field in England, 2013 J &
Oahu Words Andy Thomas Photographs Brooklyn Hawaii, Joey Segundo and Alana Spencer
One of the world’s remotest archipelagos, Hawaii is 2,390 miles from the USA and 3,850 miles from Japan. Despite this isolation, its cultural influence reaches well beyond its shores – as have the cultures that influence the islands. Of the eight that form Hawaii, six are open to tourists. For natural beauty it’s hard to pick between them but Maui is widely regarded as having the most exquisite beaches, the Big Island (or Hawaii, as it also known) the best hiking trails, with Kauai the most quintessentially tropical. While the people of all the islands take a huge pride in their culture and arts, it’s Oahu (home to 70 per cent of the population and translated as ‘The Gathering Place’) where Hawaii’s contemporary scene is at its most vibrant and diverse. It’s also where everyone from fashion designer Shawn Stussy to DJ Harvey have made their home at various times, drawn there by the surf and laidback lifestyle. It was on the Big Island that the first Polynesians set foot more than 1,500 years ago. Hawaiian traditions such as the hula dance and the spiritual tattoo art of kakau can be traced back to the early settlers. Also with roots in ancient Polynesia, surfing (hee nalu in Hawaiian) carried with it great spiritual and cultural significance for the ancient Hawaiians. Deeply weaved into the myth of the islands, surfing began as the true sport of kings, with famous chiefs such as Kaumuali’i revered for their skills and bravery riding big waves. These chiefs ruled Hawaii until 1893 when, following years of encroachment by missionaries and traders, American colonists overthrew the final Hawaiian kingdom. Sixty-six years later it became the 50th state of the USA in 1959. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sugar and pineapple plantations brought an influx of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and other immigrants who mixed with the indigenous population to create the true melting pot of modern day Hawaii. This is most evident in Honolulu, capital of Oahu, where Barack Obama was born in 1961. “What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii,” the former president once reflected. The city nestles among some of the beautiful landscapes on earth but is also a vibrant urban centre, from the modernism of its postwar architecture to the contemporary art galleries, bars and stores of Chinatown. But there is much more to Oahu than the capital – and no visit to the island is complete without exploring the surfing and artistic hubs of North Shore towns such as Haleiwa or Kailua on the Windward Coast. And wherever you go on the island, the traditional Aloha welcome and goodbye (an ancient Hawaiian term used to express the shared experience) makes it one of the friendliest places on earth.
Photograph Brooklyn Hawaii
M e t r o p o l i t a n
Su’a Sulu’ape Toetuu, Aisea is one of Hawaii’s most respected tattooers. He works at Honolulu’s Soul Signature Tattoo and Art Studio, which he founded with two other artists in 2004. Born in Hawaii of Tongan and mixed Hawaiian and Filipino descent, Aisea picked up tattooing at the age of 14. “I began by using homemade machines and started tattooing all my friends,” he says “Shortly after, my grandmother introduced me to Tongan tattooing. I then began researching more about my culture.” His research continued as he studied with Tongan master wood carver Tuione Pulotu and astrologist Tevita Fale. “They are the guardians that hold the treasure of our culture and are respected tufungas [master craftsmen],” says Aisea. “All the designs and patterns used in our tattooing come from the works that these tufungas do. For example, the lashing patterns, parts of the canoes or certain celestial
stars for navigation are the motifs I use in tattooing.” In his early twenties, Aisea became an apprentice of the Samoan tattoo master Su’a Sulu’ape Petelo, where he learnt as much about the heritage of Polynesian tattooing as it skills. “In 2003, I was given the Sulu’ape title as a tufunga, which gave me the honour of using the family tools. It was then that I started tattooing in traditional tapping form,” he says. “The first step is learning and understanding the culture so that one can easily understand their duties and responsibilities as an apprentice. “Tattoo art of Polynesia bonds us back to our culture and ties us to our duties to our families and communities,” adds Aisea. “The markings on our body are a constant reminder of our rich heritage. And it is very important that we continue to cultivate and preserve it for our next generation, as it links them back to their past and their ancient ancestors of the Pacific.”
These traditions are preserved both in his work and the environment in which it sits. “I wanted Soul Signature to be a unique tattoo shop that is focused on the melting pot of Hawaii,” he says. “It involves artists from different very backgrounds, but there is one thing we all have in common; we are all bonded through the spiritual power of art.” What makes Hawaii such a unique place? “It is a great melting pot with all these people who brought with them their religion, culture and art,” says Aisea. “Hawaii is such a unique place for tattooing because of the mix of modern and traditional.” soulsignaturetattoo.com J &
Steve Mock is a surfer, craftsman and founder
of Island Fin Design, who works with Hawaii’s legendary board builders and professional surfers to create handmade fins. The store is located in a factory in the Old Waialua Sugar Mill on Oahu’s North Shore. “I’ve had my shop there for about 12 years, and it’s become a hub for surfboard builders and craftsmen,” says Mock. “Once the sugar mill stopped production and shut down, a lot of the guys were happy to move out of their backyard operations or factories and into a great space here on the North Shore.” Mock began surfing in 1969 when he was in the seventh grade. Eight years later he was making his first fins as his hobby became his job. “It was 1977, in Haleiwa on the North Shore,” he says. “I was a fin laminator for a small company at the height of the single fin days. They taught me the basics and I soaked in all the knowledge I could.” What makes Hawaii such a stimulating place to live and work? “I came to Hawaii to surf the North Shore straight out of high school,” says Mock. “The warm water, consistent surf and tropical climate
drew me in back then. It’s a testing ground for everything to do with surf innovation and that’s always really exciting. The things guys are creating in the surfboard factories next door to mine – and who they’re creating them for – have a huge influence on the surf world.” Of all the incredible places to surf across the island it’s the North Shore that is the most revered. “Surfers love good waves, naturally, and the North Shore has it all,” says Mock. “Hawaii, being an island, is a magnet for waves. This shore specifically has some of the best reefs for framing up the perfect way for a wave to break. Pipeline [a legendary surf reef break off Ehukai Beach Park] is easily the best experience out there. It’s like no other break on the planet and will always remind me of why I moved to Hawaii in the first place.” With Mock’s daughter Alana creating a wide range of Island Fin Design T-shirts, the company’s logo is also now seen on the best surfing beaches and bars around the island – and the world.
The warm water, consistent surf and tropical climate drew me in – some of the many reasons I never left.
islandfindesign.com Photograph Alana Spencer
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M e t r o p o l i t a n
Roger Bong is an avid crate
digger and founder of the Honolulubased Aloha Got Soul label. Set up in 2015, the label releases Hawaiian funk, jazz, disco and rock, recorded in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Most of these records never reached the mainland and it is largely thanks to Bong that this fertile period in Hawaiian music now has a new audience. “I first heard this music on DJ Muro’s Hawaiian Breaks mix in 2010,” says Bong. “It’s funny how music from Hawaii inspired a well-known DJ in Japan to make a mix that in turn inspired a music lover in Hawaii.” Aloha Got Soul began as a blog, set up by Bong in 2010 to cover music from his homeland that he had just started to discover. “When I first got interested in this music, I could only find information on Japanese music blogs,” he says. “I knew I needed to create an English resource for this music. It was important to reveal these stories as I discovered them because if someone didn’t do this now, it might be lost forever.” During the 1970s, Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, a beachfront neighbourhood of Honolulu, was lined with bars and clubs. It was here that Hawaii’s soul, jazz and funk scene flourished, bolstered by recording studios and independent labels. The Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s saw political, social and cultural issues come to the forefront, and musicians responded to the new mood. “The Renaissance inspired them to write protest songs in Hawaiian or English, as well as support activism for native Hawaiian culture and social justice,” says Bong. Many of the artists Bong discovered got their break through Hawaiian radio DJ Ron Jacobs’ Home Grown compilation series. It was Marvin Franklin’s stripped-down soul surfer jam ‘Kona Winds’, along with Mike Lundy’s ‘The Rhythm of Life’, that first drew the ears of DJs such as Mark Barrott and Gilles Peterson, when Bong put together an Aloha Got Soul compilation for Strut in 2016. The connections were solidified when Aloha Got Soul hosted a cross-city party held in venues across Hawaii, Chicago and London.
Apart from checking out if Aloha Got Soul has got a party on, what else should visitors to Honolulu do? “If you can, get out of Waikiki as often as possible. Hike, swim, relax – try some poke [raw fish salad],” says Bong. “Drive to the North Shore through central Oahu, then back to the city along the east coast. Make sure to tune your car radio to 90.1 FM for KTUH. On any given night, step into Jazz Minds or the Dragon Upstairs for an unexpected evening of jazz music in Hawaii.” With an Aloha Got Soul documentary in the pipeline, this rich musical heritage is set to reach an even bigger audience. “I’m hoping we can take it around the world to share the idea behind Aloha Got Soul and the spirit of the islands with anyone willing to listen,” says Bong. “It will provide a unique perspective of what music of Hawaii is, but will also tell a greater story of what Aloha is.”
Idea’s Music and Books, Honolulu Photograph Brooklyn Hawaii
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M e t r o p o l i t a n Kirk Hubbard is president of Reyn
Photograph Joey Segundo
Spooner, the Honolulu-based Aloha shirt brand that celebrated its 60th anniversary last year. Perhaps no item of clothing is as closely tied to its people as the Aloha shirt. Its roots can be traced to the kapa cloth found throughout the Pacific, which is made by pounding and dyeing the bark of the ancient wauke tree. The patterns were influenced by those of the Tahitian pareo, a sarong-type garment. These bold florals have influenced Aloha shirt artwork since the 1930s, and the folk roots run deep through the designs of Reyn Spooner. “Our shirts are like individual pieces of art, each with a delicate story behind them filled with tradition, life and meaning,” says Hubbard. “In our art we often celebrate the stories of ancient Polynesia. We consider our shirts wearable art, silently telling a story as you go about your business. And it’s important for us that the core of our art creation is here in Hawaii. So we have long supported many local artists.” Over the years Reyn Spooner has amassed a vast library of designs created by these local artists.
“It’s fun to spend time in our archives and find relevant inspiration for a new or reinterpreted design,” says Hubbard. “It has always been a key balance for us to celebrate our past, while also creating a new future.” It’s the way Aloha shirt designs tell the stories of the islands that makes them such an important part of the culture here. “One of my favourites, just released, uses a print designed by renowned Hawaiian artist Dietrich Varez, to illustrate the stories of Hawaiian food and culture,” says Hubbard. “The first block features the kalo or taro plant that was brought to the islands by early Polynesians. It is believed to contain the greatest life force of all foods and still plays a large role in Hawaiian heritage and culture. The second block depicts the Hawaii fish god spearfishing, which is still practised in Hawaii today. The third block features Hina-puku’ai, goddess of plant food, and in the last block you can see Ki Ho’alu [the slack-key guitar] – there is nothing like Hawaiian music to transport you to the islands.” Aside from a visit to the Ala Moana shopping centre where the Reyn Spooner store has stood since 1959, what tips does Hubbard have for visitors to Hawaii? “You should definitely explore outside of Waikiki, such as a hike on one the many scenic trails on the islands or visit some key historic sites such as Iolani Palace or Pearl Harbor.” reynspooner.com
We consider our shirts wearable art, silently telling a story while you go about your business.
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Photograph Brooklyn Hawaii
Parker Moosman opened men’s shop Oliver
in Kailua, a beach town 30 minutes from Honolulu, at the end of 2012, mixing vintage and contemporary surfing goods and menswear. “My wife Ali had opened her store Olive [two doors down] in 2008 and when this spot came up we had originally planned to open a home accessories shop to complement Olive,” says Moosman. “But the space was so small, furniture wouldn’t work. We then realised there was no great option for men’s clothing in Kailua.” So why did they choose to open their first two stores in Kailua, rather than Honolulu? “We were vacationing in Kailua where Ali grew up, visiting her folks,” he says. “At the time, it was a small surf town with very little tourism, restaurants or boutiques. But we could see that Kailua was growing. We knew the tourists were coming.” A skilled craftsman, Moosman built all the furniture in the shop himself, including the weathered wood features and fixtures. “Like
a lot of people opening their first store, the budget was really tight, but luckily there’s a good amount of salvaged wood on this island ripe for the taking,” he says. “I also used materials from salvage yards and lots of side-of-the-street finds.” Until recently, surfwear either came from Australian brands such as Quiksilver and Billabong, or the US, with smaller labels such as Saturdays NYC and Pilgrim Surf and Supply. But a new wave of Hawaiian brands are also creating their own homegrown surf aesthetic. The Oliver store stocks many of these labels, such as Salvage Public and Quality Peoples. But it’s not all surfwear. Menswear lines such as Outerknown and Scotch & Soda help Oliver straddle the line between surf shop and men’s boutique. “I like to think our clothing is for the ‘gentleman surfer’,” says Moosman. “I’m so enamoured by the history of surfing in Hawaii, and the styles that came from that era,” he says. “When I’m buying for the shop, I always ask myself, ‘Would a guy from 1964 wear this?’ If the
answer is no, I move on. We don’t sell boards or wetsuits, but there is a definite theme of surf nostalgia in the shop. Ali’s family has a long history of surfing in Hawaii. Her uncle gave me a ton of great photos of her family surfing in the ’50s and ’60s. And those pictures became a sort of theme when opening the shop.” Apart from surfing, what would Moosman recommend visitors do in Kailua? “I always send people to Aloha Beach Club, a great local menswear brand, Aloha Superette [think general store with a tropical flare], and Island Bungalow for great indigo textiles. You’ve also got to go to Buzz’s, a Kailua Beach steakhouse, which does the best mai tais around.” oliveandoliverhawaii.com J &
Darling Buds of LA
A haircut changes more than a man’s look – it creates a character. Photographer Phil Knott collaborated with hair stylist Mira Chai Hyde to capture her clients’ transformations. Words Edward Moore
Garrett Hedlund, actor @thegarretthedlund Hedlund made his film debut in Troy in 2004 and went on to appear in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. This year he stars in period drama Mudbound alongside Carey Mulligan. “Garrett has the best hair,” says hair stylist Mira Chai Hyde. “It’s full and has some movement in it, so we like to keep some length on top, and on the sides a square shape so it’s easy for him to just push it back.”
E x p o Jeff Goldblum, actor @jeffgoldblum Star of The Fly and Jurassic Park, Goldblum received an Oscar nomination in 1996, for directing short film Little Surprises. In November he plays Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok. “He appreciates the art of scissor-over-comb, old-school barbering,” says Hyde. “He comes every two weeks to keep his fade fresh as he’s always working. It gives us time to come up with hairstyles for future movies.”
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When British photographer Phil Knott – who has shot actors including Christian Bale, Clive Owen and Jude Law –moved to Los Angeles in 2016, he became interested in capturing the classic Hollywood look in a photo essay. He got in touch with hair stylist Mira Chai Hyde, who had moved to LA from London in the ‘00s, with the idea of doing a series of before and after portraits of her clients – a selection of actors, models and creatives. Knott had worked with Hyde on shoots in east London and he liked her old-fashioned approach, using the scissor-over-comb technique for shaping wet hair that she learnt as a student with Vidal Sassoon. “Mira’s methods are the same as mine; we are both traditional,” says Knott. “Whether it’s in the way I use lighting or no retouching, I approach things simply. I’m interested in pure photography.” Hyde told Knott every time a client booked a new appointment. “When we first started this, Mira never informed her clients that I would be taking their portraits,” he says. “After a little chat explaining what I wanted to do – and of course the fact that her clients love and trust her – everybody agreed. This is an ongoing project and they keep turning up. Maybe it’s a trust thing, or because it’s a kind of backlash to the typical paparazzi-type image. I want to look at the beauty of my subjects and bring back the tradition of portrait taking.”
Cody Saintgnue, actor and model @codysaintnew Acting began as a way for Saintgnue to process his emotions after being placed in foster care at the age of nine. Currently he plays Brett Talbot in US television show Teen Wolf. “I like to make sure his face is his main feature when you first look at him,” says Hyde. “Any good barbering shape should be square to accentuate the jaw and cheekbone, no matter how long it is.”
E x p o Marshall McCormick, interior designer marshallmccormickdesign.com McCormick studied law before becoming a designer and he now runs his own company. “Marshall has been coming to me for the 11 years I’ve been in Los Angeles,” says Hyde. “I love the way his hair looks when he bleaches it and we put pomade in.”
Anthony Sanchez, interior design representative @ant_sanch Based in Portland, Sanchez works for furniture and interior design company Lighthouse Electric. “He wanted to keep the rocker look, slicked back with length on top and a quiff,” says Hyde. “It suited him perfectly but it needed more shape and a better hairline. I took weight off the top, while keeping the length in front so that he could push it back and it would stay.”
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Andrew Bernstein, brand manager andrewbernsteininc.com For 20 years, Bernstein has specialised in launching luxury, European brands like Loro Piana and Agnona in the US. “Because he has such a great sense of style, we have had many different hairstyles on him,” says Hyde. “I only use scissor-over-comb on Andrew. I tend to stay with his head shape the shorter I go.”
Sam Parker, gallery director thelandinggallery.com After five years buying art for J. Crew’s stores, in 2012 Parker became the founding director at LA’s The Landing gallery. “My upstairs neighbour, who is a director of photography, works with Sam’s father, who is a film director,” says Hyde. “We like to use only freehand, no comb, with scissors on his wavy hair to keep it looking a little messy.” 186 J &
Joshua Lamy, student “Joshua is my great nephew who lives in Paris and comes to visit me in Los Angeles,” says Hyde. “There is a slight language barrier as he speaks no English. He is quite a character for a 10-year-old. I started with one haircut in mind. As I was leaving the back to cut last, I ended up liking what I was seeing. So I transformed it into a mohawk. Joshua had never had one before and loved how it made him look tough. He made sure that I showed him how to style it properly, so when he was back in Paris he could do it himself.”
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David Thomas, stylist davidthomasstylist.com Thomas began his career assisting British stylists Isabella Blow and Judy Blame and at 25 he became UK Esquire’s fashion editor, in 1991. He now styles the likes of John Legend and Matthew McConaughey. “I have known David since we both started our careers in London at the end of the 1980s,” says Hyde. “I love a classic look on David, as he has a very classic face as well as a great sense of style.”
Simon Beckman, film director and scriptwriter vimeo.com/sibeckman Munich-born Beckman has directed ads for BMW and Sony and in 2012 directed the short film Vanished. “Simon comes about three times a year, so usually, I cut it fairly short when he comes,” says Hyde. “It’s a different haircut every time. He has such a strong face that I cut the fringe short to frame his bone structure.” J &
Photographs Paul Vickery Styling Karen Mason Hair and Make-up John Christopher at Carol Hayes using Bumble and Bumble and Sukin Organics Photographic Assistant Jessy Raso Model Art Nelson, vintage clothes dealer
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E d i t Umbrella by Maharishi; jacket by Berthold.
Umbrella by Ally Capellino; coat and trainers by Cos; trousers and zip-up top by Neil Barrett; stripe top by Leviâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Made & Crafted. J &
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Umbrella and bag by London Undercover; coat by Hunter Original; jeans by The Cooper Collection by Lee Cooper.
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Umbrella by Hackett; jacket by Barbour; jeans by The Cooper Collection by Lee Cooper; gilet and shirt by Thom Sweeney; sweater by Kent & Curwen; trainers by Ami.
spring/summer 2017 wesc.com @wesc_uk @wesc1999 facebook.com/superlativeconspiracy
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Umbrella by James Smith & Sons; jacket by Baracuta; jeans by Palm Angels; sweater by Champion; trainers by Nike; socks by Corgi. J &
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Umbrella and coat by Aquascutum; jeans and sweater by YMC.
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Jason Williamson Photograph Jack Neville Words Edward Moore Contrary to what the media may say, Sleaford Mods are not spokesmen for the proletariat. Yes, frontman Jason Williamson has a regional accent. He’s worked a few “dead-end jobs” in his 46 years and he and his bandmate Andrew Fearn write songs about Britain’s bleakness. But they’re not interested in the working-class tagline. “It does my fucking head in,” says Williamson. “I consider class to be a trap more than anything. The UK is obsessed with it. For us, it was never about that, it was about our experiences.” For the Nottingham duo’s fourth album, English Tapas, class issues recede as Williamson reflects on being a full-time musician. Songs like ‘Messy 198 J &
Anywhere’ and ‘I Feel So Wrong’ recount instances of overindulgence and substance abuse. ‘Drayton Manored’ is about people in their forties acting like they’re 20. In ‘Snout’, as well as sharing his discovery of the perfect pyjamas to wear while taking cocaine, Williamson reveals his worries about embarrassing his kids. “It’s a bit of a sarcastic line, like, ‘Look at me I’m acting like a twat but doing the right thing,” he says. “But yeah, I do worry about how they are going to look at me. During my childhood, I didn’t really respect my parents at all. I don’t want to make massive mistakes.” On stage Williamson rages, jerking and cursing, but in life compassion is a big thing for him. He talks about it a lot. When a Channel 4 journalist asked him whether he thought Jeremy Corbyn was relevant, he replied: “He reeks of compassion, that’s what you want. There’s none of that about.” Conversely, when
US Vogue magazine announced it was putting Theresa May on its cover, he tweeted: “Run the country, you useless bastard.” “People were like, ‘That’s a bit harsh,’” says Williamson. “But it’s not really, is it? People are dying. The NHS is about to fall off a cliff and we’re getting news that she’s doing a fashion shoot. It’s bleak. I get angry out of concern for people’s welfare. The central energy to that is compassion. As much as the public pisses you off, I don’t want to see anyone on the street with their head in their hands. Do you?” The album English Tapas by Sleaford Mods is out now roughtrade.com Bunch of Kunst, a documentary about the band, is out this year bunchofkunst.com
Photograph Phil Knott Words Chris May Grooming Kindra Mann at Tomlinson Management Group using Tom Ford
North Londoner Oliver Stark’s first paid acting gig came in 2011, and two years later he was already a few rungs up the ladder, with appearances in Luther and Casualty. “But I found myself at a sticking point,” says Stark. “Casting directors always saw me in the same kind of role – thuggy parts in urban settings. I was getting bored.” So, in early 2014, Stark travelled to Los Angeles and worked the casting director circuit for a couple of months. “I didn’t get any immediate work, but I was able to audition for all sorts of parts that I wouldn’t be invited to try for in London,” he says. “It felt like a clean sheet.” On a second visit six months later, Stark won a starring role in hit American TV series Into the Badlands. He recently completed filming series two and now spends most of his time in LA. An Arsenal fan who regularly gets up at 4am to watch the team’s matches on satellite TV, British football is one of the things Stark misses. “But what I miss most is the general energy of a city around me,” he says. “In LA, you’re in your apartment, and when you want to go somewhere, you get in your car and drive there. People don’t walk much or use public transport like they do in London, where you’re constantly rubbing shoulders with all sorts of different people every day. So you can feel quite isolated.” But the city has its upsides. Along with the career opportunities, Stark’s gastronomic horizon has expanded. “I recently adopted a vegan way of eating,” he says. “It’s easy to adhere to that in California, whereas it’s not quite that simple back in the UK. In LA, there are loads of great vegan places to eat.” Series two of Into the Badlands is out in March amcnetworks.com
Saif Siddiqui Photograph Janette Beckman Words Mark Webster In little more than a decade, wearable tech has gone from science fiction to one of the most innovative and lucrative areas of design. In February, at the Dublin Tech Summit, the notion was debated under the banner ‘There’s So Much More to Wearable Tech Than Smartwatches’. One of those taking part was Dutch designer Saif Siddiqui. In 2010, Siddiqui took some snaps of friends in Amsterdam with their bikes. The reflectors picked up the flash and rendered the people in the picture effectively invisible. That image sparked an idea. If you made clothes from the same material, the people who wore them would disappear in flash photography. “People are living online in the digital age. And that really makes being invisible a super power,” says Siddiqui. “It is a time when privacy and security has become increasingly important.” Siddiqui worked on the technology for five years. In October 2015 he launched Ishu, a range of products from scarves to phone cases to pocket squares, all emblazoned with the brand’s unique pattern. Beneath it lies tech inspired by reflectors that turns anyone who is papped while wearing it into an anonymous silhouette. When celebrities such as Paris Hilton and Cameron Diaz began using it, Ishu’s profile rocketed. Siddiqui was soon approached by a man at the ideal intersection of celebrity and entrepreneurialism. “The plan was to be in New York for fashion week, but Jay Z got in touch,” says Siddiqui. “I ended up staying for three months. Every single day was just magic upon magic.” Jay Z and Siddiqui collaborated on the #AnonymousSeason1 clothing collection, launched at a pop-up store in New York to mark the 20th anniversary of Jay Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt. More seasons are planned, plus a host of other hook-ups and brand partnerships. theishu.com
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P e o p l e Photograph Ben Speckmann Words Tom Banham When he was young, acoustic engineer Dennis Foley would wait until his parents went out, then carry his soundsystem from room to room, looking for the best sound. He had realised, after his first move to a new house and bigger bedroom, that where the speakers were placed made as much difference to their sound as their size. Cue a lifelong quest to create the perfect acoustics. Foley began working for a company that built high-end office buildings. “The people who worked there didn’t want the discussions they had in meeting rooms to be heard outside them,” he says. His challenge was to design buildings that stopped sound travelling. He took over two of the company’s properties and turned one into a bunk room for a select group of engineers, the other into a soundproofing research lab. “I’d walk through the room every morning banging pots and pans to wake them up,” he says. Then they’d spend their days figuring out how to make the world less noisy. One day, Foley was in the office kitchen when he noticed a light flashing on the filter on the tap. He tried to change it, but couldn’t get it unscrewed. “So
I did what I always do and hit it with a hammer,” he says. Inside were hundreds of balls of carbon to filter the water, which made him wonder if they might also be able to filter sound. If he could put them in a sound treatment unit, it might absorb some of the more problematic frequencies and help him realise the perfect room. The first prototype was a revelation. The second was even better. He perfected his carbon balls, working out precisely which dimensions were best suited to what audio issues. Then, the company he was working for was sold. He retired to his listening room and got bored. So he bought a milling machine and launched his own company, Acoustic Fields, to create the perfect sound filter. Foley’s technology belies the idea that more speakers mean better sound. He likens it to water in a glass:
keep adding liquid and you don’t have more water, just more mess. His units stop sound bouncing around, so the muddiness that plagues most speaker systems disappears. It’s like the band are playing straight into your ear. It’s safer, too, since the engineer doesn’t need to push the speakers to tinnitus-inducing levels. His boxes now decorate the walls at Capitol Records, Sony Masterworks and New York’s Electric Lady Studios, founded by Jimi Hendrix. This year he’s engineering a new nightclub in London from the ground up. In an arch beneath Waterloo Station he’ll prove that less is more and – hopefully – buck the trend of London’s decaying nightlife. His tech is also good news for clubbers: when you can get better sound from fewer speakers, there are fewer reasons to shut clubs. He’s also working on the perfect listening room, where he can enjoy his music as it was meant to be heard. “You sit in there and it’s just, wow.” His hi-fi will finally have a permanent home. acousticfields.com
C R A F T S M A N
P R O J E C T
Ensign x Harris Tweed
P e o p l e Photograph Grégoire Bernardi Words Tom Banham In April last year, Franky Zapata uploaded a video to YouTube that sent Back to the Future fans into meltdown. In it, he zoomed through the air at almost 50mph, his feet bolted to what looked suspiciously like a hoverboard. It went viral, fuelled in equal parts by the hope that it was real and rage at what had to be a hoax. It was real. With a tank of kerosene on his back and four jet engines beneath his feet, Zapata’s Flyboard Air can stay airborne for 10 minutes and hit a top speed of almost 100mph. The technology was developed from a water-powered version, the Flyboard, which uses the same propulsion as a jet ski to make its user fly. Or, more accurately, hover, since the board is permanently attached to a water hose.
To create the Flyboard Air, Zapata’s team switched from hydropropulsion to jet fuel, which cut its mooring. Then they spent four years building an algorithm that kept it stable. A couple of weeks after the first video went up, Guinness certified another flight as the longest ever recorded: Zapata’s 2,252m bested the previous record for a hoverboard by a factor of 10. “It gives a unique sensation, a feeling of freedom in the air,” says Zapata from his office near Marseille, southern France, where he is prototyping a new version of the board.
“Sometimes I imagine myself as [Iron Man] Tony Stark, gliding through the air.” The superhero reference is fitting – in July, he agreed to sell the company, Zapata Racing, to Implant Sciences, a contractor to the department of homeland security. The deal fell through, but his company is still pursuing the tech’s military potential – a video on the brand’s website imagines troops soaring into firefights on the kind of hoverbikes more commonly found on the Moon of Endor. But Zapata is most excited about its applications off the battlefield. “Mankind’s oldest dream is to fly,” he says. “At Zapata, it is our habit to make dreams come true.” zapata-racing.com
Photograph Dean Chalkley Words Edward Moore Photographic Assistant Chris Chudleigh Even in the new world of Donald Trump and Brexit, spoken word artist Kojey Radical is still able to find the positives in 2016. “It was pivotal,” he says. “Things need to go wrong in order for people to see reason and make change. If we lived in a glass dome, it was the first time someone noticed there was a hole in it.” At the age of 24, it’s clear that Kojey’s insight is sharp. Although he grew up in east London when it was “a little more hood”, he is not your average outspoken rapper. Mixing visual arts, contemporary dance and off-beat rhymes over dramatic, trap-style electronica, he is pushing beyond the music he was raised on, while still giving dues. “If you’re young and black, even if you choose to move away from it, grime is going to be ingrained in you,” says Kojey. “It teaches you how to earn respect by jumping up on the mic and doing what you need to do.” Kojey’s 2016 EP, 23 Winters, explored his relationship with his dad who, now in his eighties,
grew up in Ghana when it was gaining independence. “When I was 23, I reached a transitional point,” says Kojey. “I wanted to learn a little more about my culture because I felt like some kind of change was about to happen that would be politically moving.” Kojey is now working on his next EP. instagram.com/kojeyradical
I c o n Clothing that subverts its original context has a rich cultural history, whether or not the wearer is making a statement deliberately. Swinging London’s repurposing of Victorian army officers’ dress jackets during the mid-1960s was a bit of both. First sold on an organised basis by I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet on Portobello Road in west London in 1966, they reached Carnaby Street a year later, and the flamboyantly accessorised jackets were soon sported by Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, the Beatles and a generation of dandies and dissenters who, to varying degrees, defined themselves as opponents of the militarism, imperialism, racism and class prejudice of the era their clothes had represented. The appropriation of those jackets happened a century after their first, military incarnation. But when the US Army introduced the M-65 for Vietnam, as a supremely hardwearing and weatherproof replacement for the M-51, which served in Korea, it was swiftly adopted by those protesting the war, as well as the Black Panthers, who wore it in late ’60s and early ’70s more as a raised middle finger than a fashion statement. Its parallel existence as an anti-war symbol was kick-started by Vietnam veterans, who had brought their M-65s back home and were prominent in the anti-war and black rights movements. The M-65 remained a staple of US military dress until the late 1990s, by which time it had also been taken up by punk culture and proto and early rap artists such as Gil Scott-Heron, the Last Poets and Public Enemy. The alternative semiology of the M-65 was so entrenched in left-liberal western culture by the early 2000s that its integrity survived even Osama bin Laden wearing one in an Al-Qaeda video. The M-65’s outsider symbolism was not only boosted by rock and rap artists, but also on screen. First up was Al Pacino’s honest-cop loner in Sidney Lumet’s Serpico in 1973. Three years later, in perhaps its most resonant and enduring casting, it was worn by Robert De Niro’s Vietnam veteran in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. In 1979, almost the entire cast of Francis Ford Coppola’s anti-war epic Apocalypse Now wore M-65s. In 1982, Sylvester Stallone wore one for his Rambo debut in Ted Kotcheff ’s First Blood. Recently, one appeared on Liam
Words Chris May Photograph and styling Karlmond Tang Model Johnny Brophy, set designer johnnybuttons.com
Neeson’s character in Jaume Collet-Serra’s Run All Night. The M-65 was first issued to the US Army in 1965 as an upgrade of the M-51, which in turn was an improvement of the M-43. The numbers refer to the year the jacket was introduced, and each has become identified with a particular conflict in which the US was involved: the M-65 with the Vietnam War, the M-51 with the Korean War and the M-43 with the Second World War. The M-65 respecified the M-51 in response to Vietnam’s terrain and climate, which ranges from intense summer heat to torrential rain, hurricane-strength winds and post-monsoon cold snaps. Importantly, the M-65’s outer shell was made from the newly developed, state-of-theart fabric, Nyco – a nylon/cotton blend that was incredibly hard-wearing, waterproof and wind resistant. Other new features included a rolled-up hood hidden in a zip-fastened collar, and Velcro wrist fastenings designed to keep out wind and rain. The new jacket retained its predecessor’s loose-fitting body, bi-swing back – a sleeve construction with a pleat from waistline to shoulder, to ease movement – and four roomy patch pockets, designed to provide easily accessible storage for a hefty load of personal and military items. It also kept the M-51’s detachable cold-weather inner liner and the covered front zip and snap pocket fastenings that had replaced the M-43’s buttons, which allowed soldiers to crawl on their stomachs without getting snagged on obstacles. The M-51’s metal fastenings had been made in a variety of metals, but the M-65’s were made exclusively of brass, an alloy that cannot cause sparks, so is safer than steel when used around explosives and flammable objects. Between 1965 and the end of the 1990s, the biggest supplier of M-65s to the US military was Alpha Industries. Founded in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1959 by Sam Gelber and Herman Wynn, the company won its first department of defence contract the same year, with a small order for another soon-to-be classic fashion garment, the N-3B parka. When President Lyndon B. Johnson ramped up the US’s involvement in Vietnam in 1964, occasioning the release of the M-65 a year later, bulk orders followed. By the turn of the 1960s, Alpha was producing around half a million garments for the US military every year. In 2009, after 44 years in action, the US military replaced the M-65 with a new uniform range, the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System, designed for the rigours of modern warfare. Military and fashion brands still produce leisurewear M-65s to the original military specifications.
M-65 FIELD JACKET
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Jacket from The Vintage Showroom; trousers by Vivienne Westwood Man; brown shirt by Wood Wood; black shirt by Agi & Sam; T-shirt and socks, modelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s own; boots by Grenson; hat by CA4LA.
Acne Studios acnestudios.com
Issey Miyake Men
Agi & Sam
Daniel W. Fletcher
James Smith & Sons
Son of a Stag
Norman Walsh Footwear
Joseph Cheaney & Sons
Junya Watanabe Man
Art Comes First
Dries Van Noten
Kent & Curwen
B-side by Walé
Barneys New York
The Cooper Collection by Lee Cooper
The Vintage Showroom
Ben Taverniti Unravel Project
Tourne de Transmission
Polo Ralph Lauren
Levi’s Made & Crafted
Fiorentini and Baker
Levi’s Vintage Clothing
Brunello Cucinelli brunellocucinelli.com
Lock & Co
Pringle of Scotland
PS by Paul Smith
Vivienne Westwood Man
Red Wing Shoes
Maison Mihara Yasuhiro
Clements and Church
Marcelo Burlon County of Milan
RRL Ralph Lauren
Merz B. Schwanen
We are Loake www.loake.co.uk
J O C K S & N E R D S
J O C
K S & N
LO N D O N
FATHER JOHN MISTY
Why politics and despair make for Pure Comedy
Brighton’s auteur hits Hollywood
Death, beauty and the search for peace
DON MCCULLIN Planche, pain and power with the British champion
PLUS Eddy Grant / Sócrates / Pink Floyd / Cosey Fanni Tutti
43 C O N D U I T S T R E E T – 4 H A R R I E T S T R E E T – H A R RO D S , K N I G H T S B R I D G E M E N ’ S TA I L O R I N G
Kojey Radical / Sleaford Mods / Jeff Goldblum / Oliver Stark Garrett Hedlund / Adam Senn / David Rodigan / Oahu Courtney Tulloch / Rei Kawakubo / Christopher Doyle Saif Siddiqui / Franky Zapata / Prince / Mark Cousins
We are Loake www.loake.co.uk