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ISSUE161

MAY20

FREE

RELIABLYINFORMED

BLÓM WAX HEART SODALITY JODIE NICHOLSON GATESHEAD INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THEATRE (GIFT) ARTISTS IN RECOVERY


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PREVIEWS 4 REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL

Featuring a whole host of ways you can stay plugged in to our creative North East, including livestreamed music and comedy, virtual galleries and workshops, plus info on crowdfunders, resources for support, online shopping and much more

ISSUE161

MAY20

FREE

RELIABLYINFORMED

9 NEWS

News on singles, EPs and album releases from local artists, plus comedy, music and literature events, film screenings, art exhibitions and more

INTERVIEWS & FEATURES

In depth conversations with musicians, artists, comedians, filmmakers and theatre makers

15 RESCHEDULED EVENTS

Hold onto those gig tickets, and put your faith in buying tickets for newly rescheduled events – venues and promoters need your help to stay afloat

18 FIRST AVENUE STUDIOS 19 GORDON DALTON

22 BLÓM

Linsey Teggert talks to the radgy Newcastle punx about encouraging conversations around gender, sexual identity and mental health on their debut album

As I write this we’re nearing the end of week five of lockdown in the UK. In these five weeks there’s been much to get used to; daily death rates announced on the news, weekly clapping on the doorstep, washing our shopping. It can be difficult to remain positive, and we all succumb to melancholy and wistfulness. My daily Facebook memories have become a source of fond nostalgia: “Look, a year ago today I was running a stage at Stockton Calling”, “Five years ago we went camping in the Lakes”. Today, I hurried around a supermarket and ran away from a group of four people nattering in the biscuit aisle. But still, we’re continuing to support eachother; to celebrate the little things and to raise those up who need our help. If the last five weeks has shown me anything it’s that the power of community is so strong; we may not know when our beloved cultural institutions can reopen, but we’ll be knocking at their doors just as soon as we’re able. So, rather than dwell on the sadness of our situation, this month’s issue is a wonderful celebration of the resilience, hard work and determination of the artists, filmmakers, musicians, comedians, theatre makers and assorted cultural practitioners of our fair region who are capable of extraordinary things in unprecedented circumstances; join us in celebrating and engaging with them. PS. A heartfelt thanks to all who read, shared and said nice things about our first digital issue last month. Your support has kept me motivated and ready to face another month. If you’d like to buy an A4 print of our cover, visit our Bigcartel shop: www.narcmagazine.bigcartel.com

Editor Claire Dupree info@narcmedia.com Website David Saunders narcmagazineonline@gmail.com Creative El Roboto Advertising Claire Dupree info@narcmedia.com Stay social, connect with us NARC.magazine @narc_magazine @narcmagazine

Photographers Grace Denton / Art Mouse Design / Susana Hill / Stephen Sharkey / Nick Wesson Cover Image Photo by Liz McDade, artwork by Erika Leaman Contributors Laura Brewis / Paul Broadhead / Mark CorcoranLettice / Caitlin Disken / Laura Doyle / Lee Fisher / Francoise Harvey / Eugenie Johnson / Paul Anthony Jones / Catharina Joubert / Beverley Knight / Tom McLean / Robert Nichols / Ikenna Offor / Stephen Oliver / Paul Ray / Damian Robinson / Elodie A Roy / Dawn Storey / Jamie Taylor / Linsey Teggert / Robin Webb / Ali Welford / Cameron Wright

20 GAVIN WEBSTER 21 YOUNG MUSICIANS PROJECT 24 PAUL ANTHONY JONES 25 SWEARS 26 GATESHEAD INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THEATRE 28 WAX HEART SODALITY 30 COMPETITION 31 JODIE NICHOLSON 32 ARTISTS IN RECOVERY 34 DEXTRO 35 BULBILS 36 REACTING & ADAPTING

We talk to prominent figures in the comedy, theatre, film and art worlds to find out how they’re adapting their practices

REVIEWS 39 DEMOS

Demo reviews of Keiran Bowe, Analogue Blood, Michael McCluskey, The Flaccid Cactus and Poor Man’s Break

40 TRACKS

Single reviews of local artists including NOPRISM, Tired of Fighting, BType, Megan Dhalai, Hassle, Soever, The Inklings, Fossway, Simon Taylor and more

41 ALBUMS

New releases from Ghostpoet, Wargirl, Psapp, Modern Studies, Badly Drawn Boy, Boston Manor, Perfume Genius, Sparks, Chemtrails, Austra and more NARC. Magazine, John Buddle Work Village, Buddle Road, Newcastle, NE4 8AW Tel: 0191 226 7980 Email: info@narcmedia.com Web: www.narcmagazine.com Published monthly by NARC. Media. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or part without permission from the publishers. The opinions expressed in NARC. belong to the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of NARC. or its staff. NARC. welcomes ideas and contributions but can assume no responsibility for unsolicited manuscripts, photographs or illustrations

45 MIXTAPE

Promoter and sound engineer Tony Eastlake talks about some of his favourite songs

Next Issue Out 27th May

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PREVIEWS

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL WELCOME TO ANOTHER EDITION OF REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL! I’M HAPPY TO REPORT THAT THERE’S LOTS TO BE THANKFUL FOR THIS MONTH, AND PLENTY TO KEEP YOU ENTERTAINED WHILE YOU’RE AT HOME. WORDS: CLAIRE DUPREE

If you’d like to be featured in a future edition please get in touch: narcmedia@gmail.com As things seem to be changing on a daily basis at the moment, we apologise for any errors or changes to what's listed here.

STREAMING, VIRTUAL VIEWING, PARTICIPATION & MORE Among the many things we’re missing is a lazy weekend stroll around an art gallery or museum, particularly on rainy days. The region’s galleries and art spaces are adapting with aplomb to the current situation (in fact, many had virtual viewing options way before this all kicked off) and we highly recommend kicking back with a cuppa and checking out some of the weird and wonderful collections at Great North Museum: Hancock, where you can get access to their biology and ethnographic stores; get your dose of arty goodness with a jaunt around Laing Art Gallery’s rooms; keep the kids amused via Google Arts & Culture’s virtual tour of Discovery Museum; and there’s a host of interesting artefacts to

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discover in Tyne & Wear Museums & Archives’ online stores; view the landscapes and culture of North East England as documented by Side Gallery’s Amber Collective; explore several of the exhibitions at BALTIC’s website, including Abel Rodriguez, Imran Perretta, Judy Chicago and more; the Biscuit Factory’s collection is also available to browse (and buy) online; John and Dorothy Cornish, the son and daughter-in-law of painter Norman Cornish, create a virtual gallery tour of the exhibition at Barnard Castle’s Bowes Museum; the collections from Middlesbrough’s MIMA gallery are available to view online; and Shieldfield Art Works are currently displaying work created by members of their Painting For Fun group on their website. Looking to brush up on your artistic knowledge during lockdown? Look no

further than a recent blog post courtesy of Hatton Gallery’s Keeper of Art Lizzie Jacklin, who has pulled together an eye-opening list of intriguing artworks by female artists that reside within the Hatton’s permanent collection. It’s a diverse and interesting list! Create some artistic masterpieces of your own thanks to a variety of classes and studio events now hosted online. Top amongst these recently has been Newcastle-based Chilli Studios’ live interactive workshops programme, where you can learn about everything from gardening to art journaling, creative writing and self-care, plus create ceramic artwork, watercolours and much more. Also worth checking out is North Tyneside Art Studio, who host regular online tutorials via their Facebook page on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; North East


PREVIEW

Hatton Gallery - Barbara Greg (1900-1983), BeachHuts, c.1932, wood engraving on paper artist Emily Carter is delivering drawing tutorials, and offering craft and painting tips on her Facebook page; while Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery are hosting a new art challenge every week inspired by their collection, with the results posted on their website and social media pages. For youngsters (or the young at heart), Life Science Centre are offering a host of science experiments and other fun activities to enjoy at home via their social media pages, with videos also shared via their YouTube channel. Try making your own slime, a tin foil boat or launch a milk bottle rocket. Adults may also enjoy their ‘make wine glasses sing’ video, which means you’re legitimately allowed to drink while educating your children. There’s more ways to stay creative with the family thanks to Fully Booked Theatre’s interactive dance theatre shows. Every weekday at noon they post a Fully Booked Challenge via Instagram, which families can take on together. If you’ve a hankering to watch something other than Netflix or the rolling news horror cycle, train your beady eyes on theatre company Open Clasp’s production Key Change. Devised alongside women in HMP Low Newton to tour to male prisons, the critically-acclaimed work presents an

illuminating portrait of women in prison. We reported on the Coronavirus Theatre Club last month, and it’s still going strong with a host of videos on their YouTube page and livestreams every Sunday from 7pm via Twitter. Expect to see actors performing monologues and pieces produced by talented writers and directors while in lockdown. Eliot Smith Dance continue their digital performances and workshops throughout May. This month marks 75 years since VE day, so ESD’s performance of Poppy – a retrospective and abstract look at war, inspired by the flower – is timely indeed. View it online via their website on Friday 8th May from 6pm. You can also enjoy ballet, contemporary and Kathak dance classes for a variety of skill levels. Northern Stage continue their podcast series with new releases featuring cabaret artist Melody Sproates, who talks about their work on stage; plus a conversation with The House of Love, the creative force behind the BonBons Cabaret. A diverse range of radio shows are coming out of Star & Shadow Cinema’s Mixlr station at the moment, providing unique diversions for those missing the collective’s irreverent mix of entertainment. Expect art

and music chat, stories, poetry, plays and much more. See their website for the rundown of shows and listen online at Mixlr. If you’re in need of a laugh The Stand Comedy Club can offer you the remedy via their live streams every Saturday night from 8.30pm. Their Saturday Night At The Stand streams so far have seen performances from the likes of Mark Thomas, Josie Long, Dave Johns, Zoe Lyons and many more, so you can be assured of a top-class rib-tickling. You can also support the venue by buying vouchers for a future visit, becoming a member or simply by donating a few quid. As Newcastle’s only dedicated comedy club, it’s clear just how much The Stand Comedy Club means to comics as well as punters, as evidenced in this superbly funny and star-studded video put together in support of The Stand by local comic Lee Kyle. He’s pulled together over 50 comedians who each take a line from Gavin Webster’s classic comedy routine about pandas. Newcastle’s comedy improv troupe The Suggestibles are on hand to help light up your Friday nights with their #carryonimprovising shows where pretty much anything can happen! Tune in via their Facebook or Twitter feeds from 10pm-midnight.

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Eliot Smith Dance’s Poppy, Matt Reed Sunderland comic Matt Reed is one of the region’s funniest; a reliable and hilarious MC and relatable, cheeky comic, he’s currently amusing himself (and many others) via his Twitter feed, compiling regular clips of hilarious scenes from films, cannily entitled Box Office Fakings. If you’re missing your local band fix, look no further than champions of North East music Nick Roberts and Rianne Thompson, on BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Tees respectively, whose weekly BBC Introducing shows will keep you informed and entertained on every Saturday night from 8pm. Much-loved Tyneside contemporary folk musician Bridie Jackson and her husband and musical partner Nick Pierce (aka ‘Brick’) are livestreaming a ‘sofa gig’ on Sunday 3rd May from 5pm via Facebook. Consisting of mostly requests, expect outlandish covers as well as a few Bridie favourites. The gig will be raising money for independent theatre Alphabetti. DJ Stagger Lee is also continuing to broadcast from home, with a Lazy Sunday With Stagger Lee show on Twitch every Sunday until The Awfulness is over (4pm-6pm every week except the last Sunday of the month which starts at 2pm). There are also occasional impromptu evening broadcasts, mostly when he’s been drinking, so keep an eye on his website for details.

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Now that we’ve all got to grips with streaming technology, there’s no end of places you can go to seek out live entertainment practically every night of the week. Some of the best include Lindisfarne Lockdown, where the festival organisers collate streams and live performances on their Facebook page from some of the artists due to play the festival in September; the incredibly popular Live Jam @ Lockdown page has seen dozens of acts perform throughout April via their Facebook page, and with donations being collected for the NHS we’re sure they’ll continue throughout lockdown; and Stockton’s Georgian Theatre, who continue their Saturday night livestream shows with performances from Jodie Nicholson (2nd May), Jake Radio from Be Quiet. Shout Loud! (9th May) and Charlotte Grayson (16th May). Following a successful month of fundraising for the NHS in April, Come Together NE are continuing the good work with another weekend of livestreamed performances. Taking place from Friday 8th-Sunday 10th May, this time they’ll be raising money for local venues including Little Buildings, The Cumberland Arms, Independent in Sunderland, Ziggy’s in South Shields, Alfie & Fin’s Gin Bar in Tynemouth and The Tavern in Blyth. Check out their Facebook event for more information. Lend a helping hand to Ouseburn indie venue Little Buildings who no sooner opened the doors of their brand new venue

before they had to shut them again. To raise some much-needed funds, they’re offering up bootleg recordings of some of the venue’s most iconic nights via Bandcamp; performances have the tendency to be noisy and a bit scrappy, but utterly loveable, much like the venue itself. Join in with a singalong thanks to the tuneful folks at Beccy Owen’s Couch Choir every Sunday morning and early evening via her Facebook page; you can also join in with the Pop Choir Project Lockdown, hosted by Cornshed Sisters’ Jennie Brewis and Liz Corney, with regular singalong sessions via Zoom. OK, admit it, you’ve tried hosting a family quiz via Zoom and endured sibling cheating and pissed parents humouring you for your efforts (just me?!). Now you’ve had a try, why not let the experts take over, and join in a proper quiz hosted by people who actually know what they’re doing. There’s squillions of them on social media, but we highly recommend you check out the quizzes hosted by the dapper folks from Prohibition Cabaret Bar (Wednesdays); the notoriously tricky Free Trade Inn virtual quiz (Wednesdays); the perennially cool Zerox bar host a Tuesday quiz with different themes, so far it’s been music and movies; Stockton’s Storytellers have reprised their popular pub quiz via their Facebook page; and Darlington Hippodrome get in on the action with a multitude of themed rounds.


PREVIEW

Brick (Bridie Jackson & Nick Pierce) ‘sofa gig’

CROWDFUNDERS, CHARITY INFO, COMMUNITY RESOURCES & OPPORTUNITIES As lockdown continues and our region’s cultural venues wait to discover their fate, there’s still much that you can do to help them through this most difficult of times. A handful of Crowdfunders have been super-successful so far thanks to generous donations and some excellent rewards, so keep the goodwill going and if you can afford to donate to any of our region’s venues they’ll be thrilled with every penny. Here are a few (by no means all) of the venues who need your help: Stockton’s Georgian Theatre is a historic venue and the cornerstone of the town’s music scene, they have some great rewards up for grabs, including some unique experiences; Alphabetti Theatre are appealing for donations for their wonderful community space; the treasure trove of history and culture Newcastle Castle have a donations page; Sage Gateshead have a resilience fund to help support them while their doors are closed, and they also offer membership opportunities; friends of First Avenue Studios in Newcastle continue to raise funds for a much-loved rehearsal space; the generous and kind-hearted folks at Sunderland’s Pop Recs Ltd. continue to support their communities, forward buy a coffee or chuck them a few quid via PayPal (poprecsltd@gmail.com); South Shields cafe Sea-Change provide sustainable

employment for those with autism and learning difficulties, their crowdfunding campaign will help them continue their excellent work; the Artist Food Bank Network is a volunteer-run collective of artists, musicians, studios and galleries who banded together to support the Trussell Trust’s local food banks, and they’re appealing for donations via their GoFundMe page; independent charity Northern Stage are appealing for help with their participation programme costs via their donation page online; established for over 20 years, Dance City supports the growing dance ecology in the region, they’re appealing for donations to help the industry continue to thrive; as a charity, South Shields’ Customs House have a variety of ways you can help them, from donating by text, purchasing a gift certificate or becoming a friend; the Grade I listed Tyne Theatre & Opera House is a treasure of a building which needs continual maintenance, you can name a seat, join their friends club or make a larger donation to the preservation trust; Orbis manage the eight floored cultural hub of Commercial Union House in Newcastle, which is home to a variety of artists, galleries and unique cultural spaces, they’re calling for donations to support them during the current closure; The Witham in Barnard Castle have an annual friends membership and a JustGiving page; the Ouseburn Farm is a haven for the community and a much-loved part of the Valley, support them by sponsoring an animal, buying a bee (not a

real one!) or donating via their website; independent community theatre People’s Theatre in Heaton need help in continuing to bring theatre to the heart of their community; Newcastle music venue Billy Bootleggers are running a crowdfunder to help them through the crisis; Gosforth Civic Theatre is so much more than just a cultural venue, they support people with learning disabilities and autism, so they need your help now more than ever; the historic Theatre Royal is an irreplaceable part of Newcastle’s cultural heritage, and as an independent charity who receive no funding they’re asking for donations to help keep them going; Newcastle’s Live Theatre are also a charity who do excellent work in supporting up and coming writers, actors and theatre makers, you can become a friend of the theatre, donate or buy merchandise through their online shop; we also recommend purchasing a voucher for Tyneside Cinema to help see the independent picture house through this rough time, they’re also appealing for donations, which you can do online or by texting TYNESIDE and your chosen amount (10, 20 etc.) to 70085. Local label Butterfly Effect are proposing a one day festival once restrictions are lifted featuring some of the bands on their roster, including Ceiling Demons, Nel Unlit, James Leonard Hewitson, OSH, John Stainthorp and more. Their crowdfunder provides some interesting rewards for those looking to support musicians, including living room

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PREVIEW gigs (once social distancing rules are relaxed, of course), signed vinyl and a special 12” release of the Corona Sessions, featuring a song from each of the bands performing. For those who need advice on the latest grants and government funding or just support and a friendly ear, there are plenty of resources and helpful local organisations who can offer their expertise. For artists, NewBridge Project continue to be a touchstone for advice and guidance and have put together a helpful online resource for artists which covers everything from claiming benefits, emergency funds and opportunities. The good folks at Tees Music Alliance continue to be on hand to offer advice to musicians, and their resident music experts Chris and Dave are available for Zoom chats and synchronised cuppas and biscuits, drop them an email on hello@teesmusicalliance.org.uk; Generator’s Tipping Point have put together a Covid-19 advice and resources list on their website, which covers funding opportunities and helpful online pages, they also run music advice clinics and a supportive Facebook page for musicians and industry professionals; Sage Gateshead continue their monthly sessions to support early career musicians and emerging artists via one-to-one sessions by phone or video call. If you’re looking for somewhere to hang out and share your love of the local arty scene, be it music, theatre, art or anything in between, check out the lovely and supportive Facebook groups hosted by Tyne & Wear Cultural Freelancers, Theatre Fans NE, Sunderland Indie, and Come Together NE.

FOOD & DRINK

RESTAURANTS WITH DELIVERY SERVICES

SANTORINI GREEK RESTAURANT SOL TAPAS STABLE HEARTH (NEAPOLITAN PIZZA) THE TAPAS BAR TEA WITH ALICE (SWEET TREATS/POP-UP SHOPS)

NEWCASTLE & GATESHEAD

Also worth checking out is North East Food Collaborative, a website which has collated regional independent food producers to provide deliveries

Support the region’s independent restaurants by buying your takeaway from them direct. Please get in touch if you’re offering this service (or know someone who is)

CUBANOS (CUBAN/AMERICAN) GINGERINOS (PIZZA) KARMA KITCHEN (VEGAN) LITTLE GREEN (VEGAN) MAGPYE (VEGAN PIE) NAFIZA (SOUTH INDIAN) PINK LANE BAKERY REDHEADS MAC N CHEESE (FRIDAY ONLY) SCREAM FOR PIZZA (PIZZA) THE SCHOONER SUNDERLAND, THE COAST & SURROUNDS

BELLINI (ITALIAN) ELDER & WOLF THE CALABASH TREE (CARIBBEAN) NO 2 CHURCH LANE (BURGERS) PULP FICTION FUTURE FOOD (VEGAN) SUGAR & SLICE (PIZZA) THE LITTLE REFILL SHOP DURHAM

LEBANEAT (LEBANESE & SHOPPING SERVICE) THAI RIVER

ONLINE SHOPPING Until the shops open why not act on the #buylocal philosophy and get your isolation boredom purchases from the region’s own indie stores. For musicians, there’s nowhere better than musical instrument and repair shop Curvy Sounds. Don’t let lockdown stop you from keeping up with musical trends, our region’s indie record stores have got you covered. Shop online with: 586 Records, Beatdown Records, Beyond Vinyl, Reflex CD & Vinyl, RPM, Saxosoul Records, Sound It Out Records and Vinyl Guru.

HARTLEPOOL

CHILLI CAKE KITCHEN & BAR MARCO POLO (ITALIAN) MIDDLESBROUGH & SURROUNDS

BEER

ALLENDALE BREWERY ANARCHY BREW CO BOX SOCIAL BRINKBURN STREET BREWERY CREDENCE BREWING CULLERCOATS BREWERY DONZOKO BREWING COMPANY DURHAM BREWERY ERRANT BREWERY FIREBRICK BREWERY FULL CIRCLE BREW CO GROUNDING ANGELS HADRIAN BORDER BREWERY MCCOLL’S BREWERY NORTHERN ALCHEMY THE GOLDEN SMOG (STOCKTON ONLY) TYNE BANK BREWERY WYLAM BREWERY WINE

LANEBERG WINE

STOCKTON & SURROUNDS

Also see excellent local website Craft Beer Newcastle for more resources and updates on the region’s brewing scene.

DARLINGTON & SURROUNDS

HAUGHTON CHIPPY HOLE IN THE WALL OVEN RESTAURANT (CONTEMPORARY) REEMA (INDIAN)

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Buy direct from some of the region’s best breweries, bars and producers. Get in touch if you’d like to be added to this list.

BARBAROSSA (SOURDOUGH PIZZA) MANNEQUIN CAFE (POLISH/SANDWICHES) OVEN RESTAURANT (CONTEMPORARY) PERSIAN COTTAGE REAL MEALS DELICATESSEN UMI JAPANESE BAR & RESTAURANT CARUSO (ITALIAN) THE WAITING ROOM (VEGETARIAN)

Reflex CD & Vinyl

BEER, WINE AND SPIRITS DELIVERY

SPIRITS

ALFIE & FIN’S (GIN BAR, TYNEMOUTH) DURHAM DISTILLERY POETIC LICENSE

It’s also worth checking the Save Pub Life website, where you can buy a voucher for your favourite pub online to be used when restrictions have been lifted. There’s a handy filter tool so you can search by region.


PREVIEW

A Mind Full Of Nothing But Continue, artwork by Paul Smith

MUSIC

PAUL SMITH: A MIND FULL OF NOTHING BUT CONTINUE ALBUM RELEASE

Words: Claire Dupree If there’s ever been a time for music which gives a sense of place, it’s right now. If you’re looking for something to take you back to Tyneside’s glorious streets without actually having to set foot outside, look no further than Paul Smith’s album A Mind Full of Nothing But Continue, recently made available via Bandcamp. The Maximo Park frontman was originally commissioned to write the largely a capella album in response to the route of the Great North Run. It’s a wonderfully evocative album which reflects on the landscape of the race, from Cowgate on the edge of the city to the coast where the race finishes, as well as the actions and feelings of the runners, while also managing to be lightly humorous (and possibly contains the first Brockley Whins pun in musical history). The album’s variety of voices (and occasional synth) is laid out in one continuous track, providing an undulating rhythm and culminating in a mesmerising listen. “I was inspired by Meredith Monk and Björk’s Medulla album, along with doo-wop music, which I’ve always loved.” Paul explains. “However, I didn’t want to process or interfere with the voices too much, so it hopefully has a raw quality that marks it out.” A Mind Full Of Nothing But Continue is available to buy and stream via Paul Smith’s Bandcamp page www.paulsmithmusic.bandcamp.com

ART & LIT

ART & LIT

STAY HOME, STAY QUEER EVERYDAY ART FOR EXTRAORDINARY TIMES Words: Claire Dupree Ouseburn Valley’s Cobalt Studios are appealing to the creative community to submit artwork created in isolation and in response to Covid-19, which they will collate into a limited edition riso printed publication once lockdown is over. It’s a typically open-ended project from the organisers; Cobalt as a venue has become known for its forward-thinking and supportive policy. “One of our first personal responses to this unexpected and challenging time was a kind of inherent understanding that creativity would have a key role to play during this pandemic.” Explains Cobalt’s Kathryn Hodgkinson. “Behind the front lines culture of all types offers unique opportunities for political comment, personal reflections, escapism, solace, connection and much more beyond. Also, this enforced time locked away from our usual lives and many of our everyday pressures and time constraints is a unique opportunity for a more creative existence. We see the project as a kind of collective archive, a chance to gather a breadth of glimpses into internal and external Covid-19 worlds at the moment, a chance to convey a political message or simply a documentation of an extraordinary time.” Work can be submitted via email to hello@ cobaltstudios.co.uk, and must be a jpg suitable for Facebook or Instagram. Artwork can take any form and can be a work in progress, sketches or fully finished work. Find out more about Cobalt’s Everyday Art for Extraordinary Times project on their social media pages www.facebook.com/cobaltstudioscic

Words: Claire Dupree Self-proclaimed ‘cabaret maker and binary breaker’ Melody Sproates is hoping to keep spirits up in the LGBTQIA+ community with their new project entitled Stay Home, Stay Queer. As much a project to keep Melody’s own spirits up as to support their community, Stay Home, Stay Queer is a free downloadable resource pack in zine format featuring positive art, creative activities, inspiring quotes, identity celebrating tips, mental health advice and wisdom from Melody and other North East queer icons. Lovingly designed in a colourful ‘zine style by Newcastlebased illustrators and designers iAMi Creative, it’s a beautiful and positive representation of the region’s LGBTQIA+ community. “I wanted to create something that I felt I needed during this time – a little queer pick me up and helping hand to feel connected.” Melody explains. “The idea started after I was thinking of ways I could still reach out to LGBTQIA+ young people – plus Trans day of Visibility (31st March) passed during lockdown and I needed something to happen so I didn’t feel alone; I ran an online craft day on my social media and I was really buzzing as it had a really positive response. LGBTQIA+ people are at home right now wanting to connect, share things creatively and chase away the quarantine blues! I hope folks enjoy Stay Home, Stay Queer and find it helpful and inspiring as they navigate their queer identity during this period of social distancing.” Melody’s encouraging people to get interactive on social media using the hashtag #stayhomestayqueer. To get hold of a copy of Stay Home, Stay Queer visit Melody Sproats’ social media pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram www.facebook.com/melodysproatesperformer www.twitter.com/grohllikeatroll www.instagram.com/melodygroovysproates

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PREVIEW

Ann Cleeves by David Hirst

ART & LIT

VIRTUAL NOIR AT THE BAR

Words: Eugenie Johnson Since its inception in Philadelphia in 2008, Noir at the Bar events have become a worldwide phenomenon for anyone with a passion for crime fiction, offering free readings from a host of both established and up and coming authors. Hosted by Whitley Bay writer Victoria Watson, Newcastle’s Noir at the Bar kicked off in 2016 and has since been a hit with both readers and writers, hosting Richard & Judy Book Club picks Gytha Lodge and Harriet Tyce among many others. Originally, the bi-annual event was set to be hosted at The Town Wall at the end of April. Yet current events haven’t stopped Watson and other keen members of the crime fiction community from coming together to celebrate the genre. Since the beginning of April she’s been hosting weekly Noir at the Bar events via Zoom every Wednesday evening and she’ll be continuing throughout May, pledging to keep the gatherings going until the restrictions are lifted. Watson has already lined up a whole host of authors to join her, including noir juggernauts Ann Cleeves and Sarah Hillary alongside some of the genre’s rising stars. Whether you’re new to the style or a crime aficionado, Watson is continuing to bring the community together from their own homes. To join the Virtual Noir at the Bar audience signing up to this mailing list to receive a code for the event

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COMEDY

LEE KYLE’S GIANT COMEDY SHOW FOR FAMILIES WHO AREN’T BORING

Words: Eugenie Johnson Is your family boring? Of course not! During the current situation though, between limitations on leaving the house as well as balancing home-schooling and working from home, it’s understandable that even the jolliest of family units can feel the strain. Luckily, there’s now a weekly dose of comic relief suitable for all ages thanks to local comedian Lee Kyle. Throughout the current restrictions, Kyle is putting on a show every Thursday at 2pm live from his own living room with no live audience. Being housebound certainly isn’t going to stop Kyle from being riotously funny. His wealth of experience in family entertainment (including five years of hosting The Stand’s kids show, doing TV warm-up for CBBC and working with Sweep and Basil Brush) means he’s primed to deliver big belly laughs that are both silly and cheeky (in a very family-friendly way, of course). Together with a gamut of guests (who, come to think of it, do look quite a lot like Kyle…), his mastery of keeping kids engaged without being patronising while also making sure that their adults are equally entertained will bring more than a few smiles to households across the region, tearing any tedium to shreds. Adult audiences should also keep an eye out for a brand new hour of comedy from the comedian on Tuesday 19th May via his Facebook page. www.facebook.com/imleekyle

MUSIC

CACHE-CACHE RELEASE NEW SINGLE, SHE’S GOT A LION

Words: Caitlin Disken Futuristic pop duo Cache-Cache are back with their catchy, upbeat single She’s Got a Lion. Due to be released on 15th May, it’s the band’s most experimental offering yet. A slight change in direction from earlier singles Superhuman and Mother Tongue, the tune mixes elements of rap and pop to create a lively, slightly mischievous hip-hop sound. Proving the duo’s creative depth, She’s Got A Lion is undoubtedly their best yet, as they artfully meld together aspects of different music genres to create a unique, playful track which is sure to stick in your head. Shrouded in mystery, the duo excel in collaborating with other artists to create their unique sound, with Ross Kerr, Hannah Taylor and King Ky0te all providing vocals in the past. She’s Got A Lion is no exception, and includes vocals from Pete Skeen, drumming from Dave McKeague and rapping from Dogman, yet it’s the inclusion of flautist Alex Saxon which really makes the song. His brief yet vibrant flute interlude adds a compelling and unique layer to the song which really rounds it off as Cache-Cache’s finest offering. Don’t miss out on watching the music video either – reminiscent of The Mighty Boosh, it really does compliment the unique flavour of this track. Cache-Cache release She’s Got A Lion on 15th May www.cachecache.band


PREVIEW

MUSIC

CEILING DEMONS RELEASE NEW SINGLE, ILLUSIONS

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Since the release of their debut album Nil in 2017, Richmond alternative hip-hop collective Ceiling Demons have primarily focused on their thrilling, cathartic live show as well as their

involvement in music promotions and mixed media events, including the Alleviation event last December which combined live performances with therapeutic workshops run in association with Caleidoscope Counselling Services. However, there’s now some more studio work from the group seeing the light of day. Released earlier this year as a now sold-out 7” run through Butterfly Effect’s singles club, Illusions hits online and streaming platforms and stores on 1st May. Already established as a favourite of their live shows, Illusions is as thoughtful and determined a statement as is to be expected

Image by Nick Wesson from them. As a soundtrack for 2020, Illusions is heard to beat: it’s a song that confronts social expectation, isolation and paranoia with a steely eye and vivid realism, but also boasts a gang-vocal chorus that opens up a necessary chink of light and optimism. If you’re familiar with Ceiling Demons, you’ll know the delights to expect here – if not, prepare to welcome into your life a group with a very special and heartfelt emotional resonance. Ceiling Demons release Illusions on 1st May www.ceilingdemons.bandcamp.com

N O R T H E R N A R T. A C . U K

*(DLHE, 2018) (NSS, 2019).

D E G R E E S & P O S T G R A D UAT E

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PREVIEW

A Festival. A Parade

ART & LIT

NORTH EAST CULTURE VENUES POSTER RELEASED

Words: Claire Dupree It’s been a funny old month so far. On the one hand, it’s pretty crappy to be unable to physically print our lovely magazine, but on the other it’s been extremely heartening to be able to see so many people engaging with our first digital-only issue. The response to our April issue cover – which listed the names of the region’s cultural venues that have had to close due to Covid-19 – has been amazing, and we’re really pleased it’s been taken in the spirit it was intended. Print is still very close to our hearts though, and after a few enquiries came our way we thought we’d produce a poster version of the cover so we can enjoy it close up and in physical form! So...our first bit of merch has been created! Visit our Bigcartel shop here where you can purchase a limited edition A4 print, on high quality 230gsm paper, sent direct to your door for the all inclusive price of £10. And, until we can frequent our lovely North East culture establishments again,

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you can enjoy looking at them on your wall instead! www.narcmagazine.bigcartel.com

ART & LIT

NORTHERN SCHOOL OF ART #WFH IMAGE CALLOUT

Words: Eugenie Johnson In the current pandemic situation, a large proportion of people are having to adapt to a whole new way of life. Creating a space in our homes specifically designated for work has become a major step in dealing with restrictions for many of us. Through this unique shift in how we live, Hartlepool’s Northern School of Art have seen a unique opportunity to capture these unprecedented times, inspired by the ways in which people are staying connected despite being behind closed doors. As such, they have put out a call for people to send a screenshot of what they now call their workplace via their video call screen, using the hashtag #WFH and tagging @thenorthernart in the caption or image on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. A host of cultural figures have already responded to the call including award-winning artist Narbi Price, who has contributed an image of his workspace featuring a book-lined armchair, while Wendy Smith (Prefab Sprout singer and Sage Gateshead’s Director of Creative Learning) has shown off an old 1930s chest of drawers, which she plans to paint. The aim is to use the images contributed to create an artwork of all the faces and spaces of those working from home. It’s set to become a unique look at a community behind closed doors, and a testament to people’s resilience and adaptability. www.northernart.ac.uk

MUSIC

A FESTIVAL, A PARADE RELEASE SINGLE, BIG SCREEN TV

Words: Jamie Taylor As a bit of a geek as far as fonts are concerned, I would like to begin by offering a small round of applause to Newcastle alt. rockers A Festival, A Parade for their use of a wonky comma on the front of their latest single, Big Screen TV. It’s a thing of genuine beauty and I weirdly can’t stop thinking about it. It is thus with some excitement that I was keen to listen to this track and find out if the band could do for my ears what they have done for my eyes. I’m pleased to report a second small round of applause coming their way because, likewise, I can’t stop thinking about this single either. Big Screen TV is like a warm fuzzy scarf for the soul that wraps you up a snowy November memory and won’t let go. The legato feel of the verse skips along like a dream before pausing to tip you into a chorus of searing riffs. There’s a sense of exultation as the melodies climb then dip into a crescendo of drums that, after a neat three minutes and three seconds, had my head spinning. It’s easy to see why the band are going places; with recent support slots alongside the likes of Sam Fender, The Cult and Suede, their sound is perfect for the big stage. As for many, it’s not quite going according to plan right now, but the guys are making the best of things by releasing a slew of new tracks over the coming months. If they’re as good as this one, the summer is suddenly looking a whole lot brighter. A Festival, A Parade release Big Screen TV on 8th May www.soundcloud.com/afestivalaparade


PREVIEW

Spelks

FILM

MUSIC

TEES VALLEY SCREEN SPELKS RELEASE NEW COMEDY MICROSHORTS SINGLE, THE HAPPY PLACES Words: Claire Dupree Set up with the aim of supporting artists and companies across film, television and artist moving image industries, Tees Valley Screen is a joint endeavour between Northern Film + Media and Tees Valley Combined Authority which provides programmes, residencies, workshops and opportunities within the screen industry for those based in the region. Keen to show support and highlight the immense filmmaking talent in the region during these difficult times, Tees Valley Screen have released six short films featuring new comedic talent which were commissioned last year. Emerging filmmakers were given a budget of £1,000 per film and offered development support from industry professionals. The resulting work showcases the talented filmmaking community in Teesside, with each film offering an irreverent, humorous and often surreal look at life in the region. James Harris’ Humans of Middlesbrough introduces us to Britain’s Hardest Poet (who gave one of his legs to Middlesbrough Borough Council, for reasons he can’t make 100% clear); YouTube sensation Demi Donnelly stars in Public Appeal, a darkly comic look at the world of influencers; Hal Branson’s DCSS takes a look at social standing and class. Other highlights include a delve into the world of hairdressing salons in 50 Shades, a musical about the perils of mansplaining and the incomparable talents of Dean Moore, who sees the world a little differently from most. Tees Valley Screen’s comedy microshorts are available to view via their Vimeo page www.teesvalleyscreen.co.uk

Words: Beverley Knight To achieve the perfect sound he imagined in his head, Jonathon Sabiston knew he had to go it alone. Previously a member of noisy North East bands Canyons, Bandoliers and Idle Hands, for his new project – entitled Spelks – Jonathon takes on guitar, drums, keys and vocal duties himself, independently writing and recording his creations in the spare room of his Newcastle flat. Aiming for an off-the-wall yet poppy vibe, his latest single The Happy Places aims to address the difficulties of living with agoraphobia and anxiety, but touches on issues that everyone can relate to in some way. Although it may seem a dark theme, the overall message is not to lose hope and to seek contentment. Possessing an angst-ridden vibe with gently grungy and discordant melody, the chorus and its sparkling guitar lines and soaring vocal is ultimately uplifting, and positions Spelks well within the North East canon of quirky, noisy and introspective pop makers. The Happy Places by Spelks is available now via Montgomery Records www.soundcloud.com/spelksmusic

MUSIC

HEELAPALOOZA HOUSE PARTY

Words: Claire Dupree With the aim of showcasing some of Teesside’s

most exciting emerging musicians, the all-day Heelapalooza festival is a surefire highlight of the summer festival calendar, and organisers aren’t about to let a worldwide pandemic interfere with their plans. On Saturday 9th May they’ll be bringing Heelapalooza direct to your own home, as they stream live performances across two stages: the Facebook Live stage and the Instagram Live stage. Artists taking part in the festival include Leeds’ alt. rockers Dead Naked Hippies, psych popsters Van Houten, local rock act Motherland, songwriting duo Komparrison, ‘Boro rapper Eyeconic, noisy math band Kkett, thoughtful pop courtesy of Mt. Misery and engaging songwriter Finn Forster among many others, plus a Q&A from alt. grrrl band VENUS. “I really want Heelapalooza House Party to allow people to forget about the world outside at least for the day, with a typically eclectic Heelapalooza line-up ready to entertain them and create unique memories for everyone involved.” Says organiser Aaron Lythe. “I also hope that it can offer a platform for all involved to stay creative and connect with fans, new and old, at a time that is proving difficult to do so.” Each performer will be raising money for a charity of their choice, with donation links advertised alongside their sets. Follow Heelapalooza across their social media pages on the day, where they’ll direct audiences to the artists’ pages. “It’ll be just like a real festival but instead of going to a venue you’re going to the artists Facebook or Instagram page!” www.facebook.com/heelapalooza

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PREVIEW

Tunnel Club

MUSIC

expect this to be a fruitful, productive period for Human History. Human History. releases The Light of Your Soul (Feeds the Earth) on 8th May www.soundcloud.com/humanhistory

HUMAN HISTORY. RELEASES NEW SINGLE, THE LIGHT OF YOUR FILM SOUL (FEEDS THE TRANSMISSIONS EARTH) Words: Laura Doyle When we think of history, we might think of dusty books and retrospective exhibitions. But the truth is that anything and everything can be history; your secret diary, a bank statement – even this very magazine article might end up under the scrupulous eye of a historian studying these interesting times we’re living through. South Shields artist Robert Murray has taken it upon himself to do his own documentation under the guise of musical project Human History. (full marks for the artful inclusion of a full stop in his name). Murray has already made quite the mark on the local music scene with his work in Spies In Limbo and Prison Library, but this solo project is his chance for more introspective exploration. Human History.’s first single Choose Your Weapon is a fine example of this – the heartbreaking indie ballad looks into the damage done by a one-sided romance, when one person has already checked out and left another behind without reason. His brand new release doesn’t shy away from personal, emotive subjects either; The Light of Your Soul (Feeds the Earth) grapples with loss when you don’t know what awaits your departed loved ones. With soft, suitably mournful vocals and a well-paced, thoughtful tempo driven by its simple piano chord progression is truly a respectful tribute. Human History. has managed to achieve an ambient, orchestral sound in a song written and recorded during this time of limitations. Adversity breeds creativity, so

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Words: Claire Dupree As lockdown continues and artists and creatives find their financial futures even more precarious than usual, the announcement of paid commissions and projects are a godsend, and new work on display is a welcome diversion for us mere mortals whose cultural passions have been stifled. Transmissions is one such project which ticks both boxes. The online platform has been set up and funded by Gateshead’s BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art among others, and is providing commissions to artists to share their work within a DIY TV show format. Running every Thursday (kicking off on 23rd April, and repeated every Friday) via live streaming platform Twitch, a vast array of artistic practices will be on display. Artists involved include Sophie Jung, who works across text, sculpture and performance; Paris-based visual artist and poet Tarek Lakhrissi; Korean-American artist, writer and musician Johanna Hedva ponders the astrology charts of Tom Cruise and L. Ron Hubbard, among other things, alongside director Matthew Miller; musician Mykki Blanco hosts an hour of music and poetry readings; while poet CAConrad invites selected poets to read alongside them. Transmissions is screened via Twitch every Thursday, and repeated every Friday, from 23rd April-29th May www.baltic.art

MUSIC

TUNNEL CLUB EP RELEASE

Words: Beverley Knight The North East is home to a welcoming electronic and dance music scene, and stalwarts Graeme Stoker and Steve Key proudly play their part. They make up respected outfit Tunnel Club, fuelled by a devout love of electronic music. The pair met back in the day as part of the acid house era, and their passion for DJing drew them together. As Tunnel Club grew in stature, new audiences globally were reached through their monthly Timeless Radio Show, where listeners enjoy a cocktail of different dance music styles, all the way from the late 80s to the present day. The duo’s eighth EP, Elevate, sees them make a return to the studio and, as always, supporting producers from the region to create three interpretations of their song. With a stark beginning, the original track is strangely therapeutic, as the song grows in its depth while maintaining a steady beat and showcasing the duo’s trademark use of different genres from across the decades. The melodic quality is still upheld in Kovert’s version, but is more majestic and cinematic in its atmosphere, before embracing a dubstep vibe; while Sonomac’s drum and bass contribution packs a punch, and holds the highest energy levels of the three. Elevate is a tempting teaser as Tunnel Club work towards their third major studio album release in 2021. Tunnel Club release Elevate on 22nd May www.tunnelclubmusic.com


FEATURE

RESCHEDULED EVENTS WORDS: CLAIRE DUPREE Promoters and venues are working hard to reschedule events where possible, and we urge you to hang onto your tickets until new dates are announced and, if you’re able to, consider not requesting a refund on cancelled events – it’ll be a huge help to venues. Here, we’ve picked out some of the major highlights of rescheduled music, theatre and comedy shows.

MUSIC

SAT 15 AUG

WAX MACHINE @ THE CUMBERLAND ARMS, NEWCASTLE Incorporating spiritual jazz, Krautrock,

tropicalia and library music within their psychedelic sounds, Brighton’s Wax Machine are a thrilling live act. TICKETS

MUSIC

WED 2 SEPT

AGNES OBEL @ PLAYHOUSE WHITLEY BAY Danish songwriter and virtuoso pianist Agnes Obel will bring her stunning voice and moody chamber pop to the coast. Burd Ellen by Audrey Bizouern

MUSIC

THURS 16 JULY THE LOVELY EGGS @ THE CLUNY, NEWCASTLE

Surreal-psych wonders The Lovely Eggs’ recently released new album has been rapturously received thanks to its punky weird awesomeness.

MUSIC

THURS 30 JULY

SUN 26 JULY WARMDUSCHER @ GEORGIAN THEATRE, STOCKTON

Riotous post-punks Warmduscher make a hell of a tuneful racket, with a live show that’s highly recommended. TICKETS

MUSIC

THURS 3 SEPT

THE METEORS @ GEORGIAN JOAN SHELLEY @ THEATRE, STOCKTON Expect a fusion of punk, rockabilly and GOSFORTH CIVIC THEATRE distinctive rock ‘n’ roll when The Meteors This Jumpin’ Hot Club promoted show brings return to Stockton. TICKETS

TICKETS

MUSIC

TICKETS

MUSIC

FRI 14 AUG

THIS IS TOMORROW @ EXHIBITION PARK, NEWCASTLE Royal Blood, Gerry Cinnamon, Sam Fender,

Blossoms, The Kooks, Loyle Carner, Nadine Shah, Circa Waves and many more household names and local favourites will (hopefully!) provide a party like no other in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park. TICKETS

Louisville songwriter Joan Shelley to Gosforth Civic Theatre to showcase her impressive folk sound. TICKETS

MUSIC

FRI 4 SEPT

BURD ELLEN @ BOBIK’S, NEWCASTLE Creating beautiful and innovative folk sounds, Burd Ellen make their anticipated return to Newcastle, now with added support from equally as revered local folk act The Horse Loom. TICKETS

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FEATURE

COMEDY

FRI 4 SEPT

PHIL WANG @ TYNE THEATRE & OPERA HOUSE Bringing his uniquely titled Philly Philly Wang

Wang show to Tyneside, comedian Phil Wang explores sex, romance and politics in his uniquely smart and silly way. TICKETS

FILM

MON 8 SEPT

THE PARAPOD MOVIE @ ARC, STOCKTON The first podcast to be turned into a

feature-length film, The ParaPod Movie follows Ian Boldsworth and Barry Dodds as they visit the most haunted village in the world. TICKETS

COMEDY

THURS 10 SEPT

MUSIC

MUSIC

WED 30 SEPT

SAT 13 SEPT JOHN GRANT @ SAGE GATESHEAD

Impressively hirsute songwriter John Grant will perform classics from his back catalogue in stripped-down form. TICKETS

TICKETS

on the Lake will belatedly celebrate the release of their superb new album, Spook the Herd. TICKETS

MUSIC

MUSIC

SUN 4 / WED 7 OCT

FRI 25 SEPT ME LOST ME @ BOBIK’S, NEWCASTLE

Extraordinary folk/electronica artist Me Lost Me is joined by support acts Northering and Jasmine Padgett. TICKETS

MUSIC

RICHARD DAWSON @ SAGE GATESHEAD / WESTGARTH SOCIAL CLUB, MIDDLESBROUGH It’s likely that the ever-creative Richard Dawson will have several new tunes, if not entire albums (as with his Bulbils project), up his sleeve for these rescheduled shows. Snap up tickets quick-smart, his engaging and unique output makes him one of Tyneside’s most loved artists. TICKETS

SAT 26 SEPT

MARK THOMAS @ ARC, PEGGY SUE @ THE CLUNY STOCKTON 2, NEWCASTLE Activist comedian Mark Thomas’ new show 50 Things About Us uses his trademark mix of storytelling, stand-up and mischief to look at identity and a sense of place.

LANTERNS ON THE LAKE @ BOILER SHOP, NEWCASTLE Newcastle’s atmospheric indie rockers Lanterns

Indie duo Rosa Slade and Katy Young, aka Peggy Sue, fuse their love of 60s pop and 90s indie into a warm and inviting sound. TICKETS

COMEDY

FRI 9 / THURS 15 OCT

LEE KYLE @ BISHOP AUCKLAND TOWN HALL / MCNABS BOOKS, BARNARD CASTLE Much-loved South Tyneside comic Lee Kyle will attempt to explain how he became the most hated man in Australia. TICKETS

MUSIC

FRI 9 - SUN 11 OCT

WOMEN ARE MINT @ COBALT STUDIOS, NEWCASTLE The three day celebration of women and

female-identifying artists, Women Are Mint has been moved in its entirety from May to October, with a host of performances and workshops on the cards. TICKETS

COMEDY

THURS 15 / FRI 16 OCT

JESSICA FOSTEKEW @ ARC, STOCKTON / GALA THEATRE, DURHAM Absolute powerhouse and regular co-host of

The Guilty Feminist podcast, Jessica Fostekew brings her exceptional stand-up show, Hench, back to Stockton and Durham. Yazz Ahmed

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TICKETS


FEATURE

COMEDY

SAT 17 OCT

JARLATH REGAN @ ARC, STOCKTON

Expect expertly crafted and superbly timed stand-up comedy from London-based Irish comedian and podcaster, Jarlath Regan. TICKETS

MUSIC

SUN 18 OCT

BIG|BRAVE @ THE CLUNY, NEWCASTLE

Taking heavy rock to new, trance-like highs, Big|Brave’s experimental sound is dynamic and addictive. TICKETS

Big|Brave by Rachel Cheng

MUSIC

THURS 12 NOV

SUN 18 OCT

HIT THE NORTH @ VARIOUS VENUES, NEWCASTLE

The city-wide multi-venue festival features new additions including Tim Burgess and Pale Waves, who join DMA’s,The Amazons and more. TICKETS

FILM

and composer Yazz Ahmed blurs the lines between jazz and electronic sound design. She’ll perform her new album Polyhymnia alongside a 12-piece ensemble.

MUSIC

SAT 14 NOV

GOGO PENGUIN @ SAGE GATESHEAD Another jazz festival reschedule sees the

hugely popular Mancunian jazz rock band GoGo Penguin return to the region with their experimental sounds.

MUSIC

SONGS FROM NORTHERN BAD CINEMA CLUB @ BASE BRITAIN @ GEORGIAN CAMP, MIDDLESBROUGH THEATRE, STOCKTON Dedicated to screening the worst films in the The Kids Are Solid Gold and Tees Music

TICKETS

COMEDY

WED 11 NOV

SIMON BRODKIN @ THE WITHAM, BARNARD CASTLE Sloughing off his Lee Nelson persona, funnyman Simon Brodkin unleashes his funniest creation yet...himself! TICKETS

upbringing to produce a sound that’s very special indeed, Jordan Mackampa’s hybrid of alt. pop and soul is beguiling and uplifting. TICKETS

MUSIC

SUN 29 NOV

HOLY MOLY & THE CRACKERS @ GEORGIAN THEATRE, STOCKTON Tyneside alt. folk band Holy Moly & The

Crackers bring their tremendous fusion of sounds to Stockton. TICKETS

TICKETS

FRI 23 OCT / FRI 13 NOV SAT 14 NOV

world (in their opinion!) Base Camp have rescheduled two of their Bad Cinema Club events. On 23rd October they’ll screen the ridiculous and endlessly quotable Tommy Wiseau’s The Room and on 13th November you can catch Troll 2, in which a young boy tries to warn his family that evil trolls exist!

SUN 29 NOV

JORDAN MACKAMPA @ YAZZ AHMED @ SAGE WESTGARTH SOCIAL CLUB, GATESHEAD Previously booked as part of Sage Gateshead’s MIDDLESBROUGH jazz festival, British-Bahraini trumpet player Drawing on his Congolese roots and Midlands TICKETS

MUSIC

MUSIC

Alliance once more pull together a corking line-up of live music for the Songs From Northern Britain all-dayer, featuring Declan Welsh & The Decadent West, Catholic Action, Trunky Juno, Leopard Rays, Finn Forster, Micah Erenberg and more. TICKETS

MUSIC

THURS 19 / FRI 20 NOV

MUSIC

TUES 1 DEC

THE WHITE BUFFALO @ O2 ACADEMY, NEWCASTLE Jake Smith, aka The White Buffalo, has a supreme talent for songwriting paired with a rumbling, gravelly voice, making for a unique sound. TICKETS

MUSIC

THURS 3 DEC

REN HARVIEU @ THE CLUNY, NEWCASTLE Darkly enigmatic singer Ren Harvieu’s

hypnotic vocals accompany a sound rich in 60s pop, soul and modern rock. TICKETS

MARTHA HILL @ OLD MUSIC CINEMA LAUNDERETTE, FRI 18 DEC DURHAM / WESTGARTH HELEN MONEY @ THE SOCIAL CLUB, CLUNY 2, NEWCASTLE MIDDLESBROUGH Quirky alt. pop with an undeniable bluesy and Cellist Alison Chesley, aka Helen Money, concocts folky tinge, Martha Hill’s carving out a niche for her wonderfully evocative songwriting. TICKETS

a beguiling sound which effortlessly moves from black metal to ambient atmospherics. TICKETS

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INTERVIEW

INTERVIEWS MUSIC

Image by Stephen Sharkey

FIRST AVENUE STUDIOS HAVING BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE NORTH EAST’S MUSIC SCENE FOR 30 YEARS, TIM NISSEN FROM FIRST AVENUE STUDIOS TAKES A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE WITH BEVERLEY KNIGHT Heaton is a cosmic part of town where many a creative type decides to lay their hats, including the treasured First Avenue Studios. Celebrating its thirtieth birthday this year, I had a lovely trip down memory lane with studio head honcho Tim Nissen, who recalled the time when he had a revelation: “We arrived up here after watching that episode of Eastenders when Michelle or whoever announced she was going to live in Newcastle. Hmmm, we thought, that sounds cool. And so it was. We discovered tons of music going on everywhere, and at that time, not very much in the way of good quality rehearsal space.” After looking around for a suitable building, they opted for the former stable located at number 32 First Avenue, as Tim recalls. “The thing that swung it was that it was right next to a pub. Work to carry out the re-fit commenced, and the doors eventually opened in September 1990. The very first band in was a blue-eyed soul outfit called Tantobie Row – remember them?” The aim was to provide a serviced place to rehearse that you could book by the hour, and local acts clamoured to be part of it, not least the likes of Maximo Park, The Futureheads, Lanterns on the Lake, Milky Wimpshake, Kenickie, Warm Digits and many more. “A lot of bands had or tried to get a space for themselves to practise, but the running of the space was up to them, in other words, no service, just a room with some ‘leccy sockets and a kettle if you were lucky. The plan was to supply all the gear needed so any young’uns or not-so-young’uns could get practicing, with just their instruments under their arms, and the tunes in their heads.” After five years they decided to open up the upstairs into a little 8-track recording space, working with Dave Curle, ex-drummer of

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IN ESSENCE, FIRST AVENUE IS A PROFITABLE MICRO-BUSINESS AND PROUD OF IT local legends HUG. Tim marvels: “Dave turned out to be an excellent recording engineer, and that side of the business really took off. These were the days when bands made demos – remember them? Recording studio time was relatively expensive.” Despite that, the studio and practice rooms were busy: “We didn’t need to borrow any money to fund the purchase of expensive equipment – we just saved up a bit here and there, and bought what we could afford when we could afford it.” A major milestone was achieved around the turn of the millennium: “We got our first Pro-Tools rig in with help from a grant from Northern Arts – remember them? - who paid for half. That 5k grant was the only bit of funding the business ever received. In essence, First Avenue is a profitable micro-business and proud of it.” For the future, they hope to make sure the two people employed there, Dave, and another special fellow by the name of Jon O’Neill, are in a sustainable financial position: “No one is getting rich from this game, but we do it for the love...and a little bit of money.” After nearly 30 years in the biz, they must be doing something right, and the studio more than deserves its place in the hearts of many North East musicians. First Avenue Studios are currently running a GoFundMe page to help them out during lockdown www.firstave.co.uk


INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

Can I sit next to you, 80 x 80cm, acrylic and pastel on canvas, 2020

GORDON DALTON

BEVERLEY KNIGHT TALKS TO MIDDLESBROUGH-BASED PAINTER GORDON DALTON ABOUT EMBRACING DIGITAL SPACES FOR HIS NEW EXHIBITION Technology has been a friend to us recently, with people, especially in the arts, having to find new ways to enable them to operate for the time being. The online art exhibition, however, isn’t such a new concept and has been a welcomed addition for folk seeking a slice of culture. Artist Gordon Dalton is well used to the virtual world, and he told me more about his upcoming show Birdhouse Blues, which will be available to virtually view via Aleph Contemporary. The Middlesbrough-born painter studied fine art in Wales and then furthered his studies at Northumbria University, gaining an MA. He now resides in the coastal town of Saltburn and is a producer at Middlesbrough-based artist support project Creative Factory. “I’ve only recently moved back to Teesside after 25 years. My practice was always related to the natural and post-industrial landscape here, but now it’s on my front door. The big skies, cliffs, the moors, we are so lucky.” He explains. However, his work has worldwide appeal as he has recently completed a residency in Argentina and has shown work in far-flung places including Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, New York, and Copenhagen. Working mostly in acrylics, but also with pastels or whatever comes to hand, his work combines memories of places that he has have lived, visited or longingly imagined, as well as references to significant places and art history. Gordon expands: “The paintings

MY PAINTINGS REVEL IN THE CELEBRATION OF PAINTING, ASKING THE VIEWER TO LOOK LONGER AND HARDER AT WHAT PAINTING IS, AND WHY IT CONTINUES TO BE CURIOUS AND FASCINATING

are not directly of these paintings or places, but rather an idea of a place and the melancholy of longing and wanting to belong. An unfashionable romanticism grounded in the act of painting.” His creations have a real subject (landscape), but they are an invention, full of contrasts and spontaneity: “The seemingly offhand approach denies any superficial finesse to reveal a love of awkward imagery, polluted colours and a stuttering bad grammar. They have an anxious contradiction, with the work being self-conscious of what it is, its possible failings, yet strive for the simple pleasure of looking and a one-to-one relationship with a painting.” Although he is open to suggestions, he does favour a particular colour pallet. “It changes from time to time, but there’s generally a lot of underpainting with a bright pallet before trying to resolve the painting. I’m kind of addicted to Cerulean Blue and Yellow Gamboge.” Even given the current lockdown circumstances, Gordon is no stranger to working online; his forthcoming show was always intended to be the accessible type. “Aleph Contemporary in London had the viewing platform on their website before all this, but it’s become very useful.” Gordon reveals. “I had a number of shows cancelled including a big solo show in Middlesbrough.” He wants the audience to get a sense of place or belonging, being able to see things from a different perspective. “I hope they feel some kind of joy and enjoyment. My paintings revel in the celebration of painting, asking the viewer to look longer and harder at what painting is, and why it continues to be curious and fascinating.” View Gordon Dalton’s work on his website and via Aleph Contemporary’s gowithYamo! application www.gordondalton.com

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INTERVIEW

COMEDY

GAVIN WEBSTER

DAMIAN ROBINSON SPEAKS TO THE GEORDIE COMIC ABOUT HIS BRAND NEW SITCOM, I’VE GOT A JOB FOR YOU GAV One of the best known North Eastern stand-up comics, as well as a regular compare of comedy events across the region, Gavin Webster has developed something of a reputation for both making people laugh (particularly through telling surreal stories with loose political and social themes) and having a comprehensive understanding of the local region. If you’ve heard Webster’s tale about the twin towers of Byker then you’ll already have an understanding of Webster’s comedic process, and his ability to combine topical themes with a specific North Eastern style of storytelling and wit; if you haven’t heard the story then it’s worth hunting out and marvelling in Webster’s comedy process and ability to take grand ideas and localise them into regional structures. Continuing to work both on the comedy circuit as well as the large and small screens, the next evolution of Webster’s comedy is into its own sitcom, a place which provides Webster with time and space to develop his ideas taken from observational, North Eastern, themes and extend them out into humorous, and often very surreal, tales. Recently launched via Vimeo, and fully self-funded, I’ve Got A Job For You Gav follows Webster as a middle-aged, reasonably witty but occasionally boorish Newcastle taxi driver, who explores relationships with friends and loved ones as well as getting pushed

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I’VE GOT A JOB FOR YOU GAV BUILDS THROUGH HALF-HOUR EPISODES INTO A MOVING THINKPIECE ABOUT THE REGION AND THE COMEDY/ TRAGEDY MOMENTS OF THE AGEING PROCESS

towards Tyneside’s murky underworld. Describing his vision for the show, as well as his desire to augment reality with comedic turns and surrealism, Webster sees the sitcom as part slapstick entertainment, part Tyneside documentary; “I wanted to do something that’s a bit cartoon and outrageous, as well as having great one-liners and almost believable characters getting mixed up in the shop-soiled uncelebrated parts of Tyneside, and bringing forth the unsavoury practices that have gone on beneath the jolly and straight-laced exterior of the city.” Building on this understanding of the region, as well as reaching into the heart of the local community, was also essential for Webster when writing and shooting the series, providing new and interesting content. “We filmed locally and used a local crew and got local extras to do the parts. In one episode we used a barbers because we thought it had a great name and we decided to incorporate that into the script. The barber was so into the idea that we gave him a part. Craig Miller of Wallsend proudly used his shop and he’s in two short scenes. And he was excellent in it as well.” Streaming on Vimeo, I’ve Got A Job For You Gav builds through half-hour episodes into a moving think-piece about the region and the comedy/tragedy moments of the ageing process, with Webster at the heart; a man who senses his own mortality but doesn’t always make the right life decisions. Supported by a who’s who of North Eastern comics including Lee Kyle, Simon Donald, Katherine Tanney, Matt Reed, Ben Crompton and Dave Greener, I’ve Got A Job For You Gav is an interesting piece for anyone looking for surreal humour with, at times, heartbreaking moments. Watch I’ve Got A Job For You Gav via Vimeo now www.gavinwebster.co.uk


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

YOUNG MUSICIANS PROJECT

Image by Susana Hill

LAURA BREWIS INTRODUCES WE MAKE CULTURE’S YOUNG MUSICIANS PROJECT AND EXPLAINS HOW MUSICIANS IN SUNDERLAND ARE BEING ENCOURAGED TO CONTINUE TO CREATE It turns out it’s hard to be in the music business during a global pandemic. Obviously, we haven’t got it the worst – we’re hardly frontline NHS – but whether you’re a venue that’s shut down indefinitely or a band that just can’t get together to practise, it’s a rough time. Imagine if what you do involves getting a bunch of teenagers together every week at Pop Recs Ltd in Sunderland, to play instruments and write songs? That’s what we do at We Make Culture, with our Young Musicians Project. So, this has been quite the adjustment. A bit of back ground. Young Musicians Project has been running for five years but we took it over two years ago, when it was threatened with closure. Since then our weekly sessions have got really big – often 30 young people a week – and we now record, gig and produce, as well as work in schools and communities too. One of the reasons Young Musicians Project works so well is that it’s literally open to all. You don’t have to be able to play or write, you’ve just got to be interested in having a go. There’s no pressure to produce either; some people don’t write a song for six months and some never do, but they contribute through some other means – organising, taking photos, designing posters. But those who do write songs; we treat them like musicians. The group is led by people who know what it’s really like to try and get your work out there – Marty Longstaff (The Lake Poets), Natasha Haws and Beccy Young (This Little Bird). We regularly record in the Field Music studios and run a project for young people who want to record and produce, led by Jordan Miller (Vandebilt) and Eddie Scott (PICNIC). It’s essential that the young musicians we work with know that you CAN be a working musician and live in Sunderland. We want to show them ‘here are the people that are doing that and these are the ways you can do it’. And slowly this is paying off. There a definite upsurge in exciting

IT’S ESSENTIAL THAT THE YOUNG MUSICIANS WE WORK WITH KNOW THAT YOU CAN BE A WORKING MUSICIAN AND LIVE IN SUNDERLAND new musicians, bands and promoters in Sunderland again. Artists like Plastic Glass, Faye Fantarrow and Lottie Willis who have come through the project and are now doing exciting things – releasing tracks, doing gigs, getting signed – but it’s almost as exciting to see other musicians who don’t have anything to do with us, doing things too. What we’re doing has to be about supporting a music community to grow and get stronger, feeding musicians into local venues like Independent and Pop Recs, supporting new promoters like Unison, and new platforms like Spotlight Music, and seeing audiences get bigger for local music again. So, global pandemic or not, this hasn’t been the time to stop. After a quick adjustment over the last few weeks, we’ve found ways to make what we do work. We’re still meeting every Saturday to share what people have been working on; we’re offering free music one-to-ones for young people with our musicians on songwriting, singing and recording; we’ve got plans for online gigs and developing different ways of sharing our young musicians’ music. New people are still joining, too. No one knows what state things will be in when this is over, but we’re determined to be there on the other side. If you’d like any information about the project, please email laura@wemakeculture.co.uk and check out their social media pages www.facebook.com/youngmusiciansprojectsunderland

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COVER FEATURE

BLÓM

LINSEY TEGGERT TALKS TO THE RADGY NEWCASTLE PUNX ABOUT ENCOURAGING CONVERSATIONS AROUND GENDER, SEXUAL IDENTITY AND MENTAL HEALTH ON THEIR DEBUT ALBUM They’re the self-proclaimed “cute punx” playing “pure radge shit,” but Newcastle trio Blóm are so much more than that (although they are indeed pretty darn cute and radge as heck). Blóm are challenging the typically male-dominated alt. music scene to be a safer and more diverse environment, while encouraging conversations about gender, sexual identity and mental health. Blóm’s mission statement? Be kind. Since forming in 2017, the three-piece have been tearing up stages with their ferocious live performances and have released the singles Powerfrau/Skank Witch and Toxic Dependency. They’re now ready

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to unleash their debut album Flower Violence: a succinct five-track firecracker of a record that fizzes with frantic energy. With its witches’ brew of genres it’s the perfect introduction to Blóm’s noise rock hybrid. “We’re each influenced by such a broad spectrum of music – our tastes are so varied and vast! I think we mainly crossover on weird noise stuff and pop music and we unintentionally bring all those influences into Blóm,” explains vocalist Helen Walkinshaw. “The writing and developing of these album tracks was pretty much ongoing from us forming. We all aimed from the start to piece


COVER FEATURE

MUSIC

DO THE BEST YOU CAN WHERE YOU CAN, DON’T MAKE OTHER PEOPLE’S BUSINESS YOUR OWN AND MOST IMPORTANTLY LOOK AFTER YOUR SISTERS, NOT JUST YOUR CISTERS

together an album of sorts, with no other real intentions beyond that! We went in to record the tracks wide-eyed, but our pal Sam Grant at Blank Studios guided us through the process and we’re really pleased with how it’s turned out.” The frenetic, nervous nature and shifting pace of Blóm’s sound lends itself well to improvisation, with their live sets often taking on a fluid quality with tracks merging into one. It all adds to the intensity of the Blóm experience, with the listener fully submerged in their soundscape. In fact, Übermensch was approached in this way during recording, as bassist Erika Leaman explains. “We first wrote Übermensch alongside album track God after we first started gigging and needed to bulk our set up. It has been played live in various incarnations and originally had more of a hardcore D-beat feel to it. For the record we decided to break it down into a more minimal and droned out feel, which we briefly jammed once or twice. It was the last track we recorded and Liz [McDade, drummer] and I played live in separate rooms divided by a window, and just went for it! A lot of the timing for the intro was worked out by eye contact and working on each other’s body language, which is something we have always seemed to be in-tune with. I feel this gives a really tense and lurching atmosphere, especially considering the rest of the song. We managed to record the entire track in one take!” At the forefront of each track are Helen’s incendiary vocals which act

as the perfect conduit to deliver Blóm’s message. Just like her vocals, Helen’s lyrics pull no punches, exploring a vast range of themes from Twin Peaks to Christianity. Take the epic eight-minute-long Übermensch for example. “It’s a bit of a heavy one this,” muses Helen. “I read Crime & Punishment when I was at college and watched a lot of Woody Allen films around the same time (being a nerdy lit and film wanker!) Anyway, I was fascinated by how Allen interpreted Dostoevsky’s themes through some of his own work, justifying some of his own questionable choices – sort of hiding in plain sight and becoming this super-human auteur! I had all of this in the back of my mind when I was putting words to this; I initially wanted to write something about toxic masculinity and the idea of a ‘witch hunt’ and the social shaming of people who make the wrong ‘moral choices’ but I ended up going off on one about fate and revenge.” Then there’s empowering album closer Be Kind, which acts as a summary of Blóm’s mantra: “Stand together, try to be kind, speak the truth, speak your mind” yells Helen. “In short, it’s about just being kind, despite your differences,” she explains, “do the best you can where you can, don’t make other people’s business your own and most importantly look after your sisters, not just your cisters.” Subjects such as Dostoevsky, socio-economic challenges, gender identity and feminism may seem a little daunting to the casual listener, but Blóm are about inclusivity. “I think you can appreciate us without totally understanding. If people don’t fully understand the themes within our songs then that’s a step closer to them being a bit more educated on the subjects Helen shouts about,” says Liz. “I hope people can appreciate Blóm without knowing anything about the ‘themes’ we explore,” adds Helen. “Hopefully our live shows are providing a visceral experience and people don’t feel like they are getting lectured! These are just my experiences and our opinions, not everyone will agree. We don’t want the lyrics to be pummelled into people’s faces, but if they encourage conversations that’s amazing. We’d rather open a space for discussion, than expect people to blindly agree or be ignorant to these issues.” Blóm release Flower Violence via Box Records on 1st May www.weareblom.bandcamp.com

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INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

PAUL ANTHONY JONES’ SOOTHING WORDS FOR TROUBLED TIMES NEWCASTLE-BASED WRITER AND WITTY WORDSMITH PAUL ANTHONY JONES RELEASES HIS NEW BOOK THE CABINET OF CALM: SOOTHING WORDS FOR TROUBLED TIMES THIS MONTH, HERE HE TALKS ABOUT WORDS APPROPRIATE TO THE CURRENT SITUATION Ever since the Coronavirus crisis first emerged at the end of last year, we’ve all picked up a whole new vocabulary (albeit of not particularly welcome) words and phrases. Super-spreaders. Droplet transmission. Social distancing. These days it’s hard not to watch the news or open the newspaper without adding a new word or two to our language. But outside of all this talk of viral shedding and ventilators, what else does the English language have to offer to help us through these unparalleled and uneasy times? I’ve been researching, blogging, tweeting and writing about the English language’s most obscure and longest forgotten words for nearly a decade. And in that time I’ve come across more than a few that might seem particularly useful given the times we currently find ourselves in. With a third of the world’s population currently under some kind of lockdown or quarantine measures, it might be worth remembering the word oysterhood. First recorded in the mid 1800s, it’s a word for habitual seclusion or reservedness – think of it as a more figurative or poetical means of saying you’re being ‘socially distant’. Another nineteenth century term, housedove, was used of someone who preferred to stay at home and enjoyed their own space rather than anywhere else (though, admittedly, even they might be feeling a little frustrated by the prospect of weeks’ more isolation). These times are by no means easy of course, and we’re all likely missing someone, something or somewhere special while we’re following the rules of lockdown. For that, the English Dialect

AGATHISM IS THE BELIEF THAT ALL THINGS DO EVENTUALLY TEND TO GET BETTER 24

Dictionary has a couple of lovely terms well worth remembering right now: lonesome-fret is a feeling of sadness or upset caused by solitude, while misslieness is the downheartedness that comes from missing something dear to you. As difficult as these times are, however, it’s also worth keeping in mind that they will eventually come to an end. The restrictions that we’re all under will be lifted sometime, normality will start to re-emerge, and friends and families everywhere will be able to reconnect. That will be the time for angel-visits – a nineteenth century word for catch-ups with the people that you love that are all too few and far between. It’ll also be the time for hearthmusters (groups of friends or family gathered around a hearth), habbernabbing (celebrating a toast with friends), and raccommoding (repairing or renewing old friendships and connections). Borrowed into English in the 1800s, there’s also a beautiful French word that will be worth knowing in the months to come: retrouvailles (literally a ‘re-finding’) is the happiness felt upon reuniting with someone you haven’t seen for a long time. Until then, if there is just one word worth remembering given all that’s going on at the moment, perhaps it’s agathism. Coined in 1816, it derives from the Greek word for ‘good’, and is a word for the rational, more reasonable middle-ground between the two extremes of optimism and pessimism. In basic terms, agathism is the belief that all things do eventually tend to get better – it’s just that the means of getting there are not easy. The Cabinet of Calm: Soothing Words for Troubled Times by Paul Anthony Jones is published by Elliott & Thompson on 14th May. For more witty wordplay follow Paul on Twitter @haggardhawks www.paulanthonyjones.com


INTERVIEW

SWEARS

OUR MUSIC REFLECTS OUR FEELINGS TOWARDS THE OUTSIDE WORLD, THE DARKER AND CRAZIER IT GETS

MUSIC

LAURA DOYLE TALKS TO MIDDLESBROUGH’S ALT. FUZZ ROCKERS ABOUT RELEASING THEIR DEBUT EP IN EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES To an outsider, Middlesbrough might seem like an unexpected city to be such a haven for the budding musician. Those of us in the know, however, recognise the Teesside town as a source of some of the North’s most promising acts. SWEARS are seeking to add their name to this roster, with the release of their debut EP Seersucker this month. Getting out their first record has been a bit of a process, but at long last SWEARS have found their feet, and are ready to unleash their work upon the world. “We got together in the summer of 2017. We’d known each other for years via various bands, admired each other’s work and decided to give it a go together…” They explain. “We started this band with the idea to be a little more pop-orientated than in our previous bands, but as time has gone on and we’ve defined our sound, we’ve ended up becoming darker and heavier.” Any remnants of SWEARS’ pop sensibilities have certainly been buried beneath outlandish, grimy punk energy. Standout EP track Say Nothing is plucked straight from the 1970s alt. scene – blistering guitar riffs and purposefully lackadaisical vocals make for a fittingly misanthropic vibe. “These songs are all fairly new – in fact, I think we’d only played Warm To The Touch and Brain Dead live once or twice before we went to the studio. This is arguably us at our moodiest. Our music reflects our feelings towards the outside world, the darker and crazier it gets. We recorded the EP in December 2019, just after the UK general election. Although we’re not an overtly political band, I think we were all fairly disappointed with the result and the way that we thought the country was heading.”

Moody is an understatement: every song on this EP is a wellexpressed tirade against something – which is fair enough considering the turbulent past few years we’ve experienced. Warm To The Touch is a eulogy to a world seemingly bound for destruction (ironically written before the end-of-the-world began) with an old-school grunge vibe; Say Nothing is an angry, fast-paced punk song aimed at the divisive voices within our society while Catacombs is a sludgy gripe against toxic relationships and Brain Dead is a metal-infused mockery of religious and dogmatic ideals. SWEARS’ timing is impeccable, as there’s bound to be a few people in quarantine at the moment looking for some angry tunes to thrash about to. It’s unfortunate that we’re limited by circumstance as to how SWEARS can celebrate their debut, but at least they’re pretty much guaranteed an at-home audience for its release, even if it’s not exactly what they were hoping for. “We were in the middle of planning a big hometown release gig for our EP and booking some touring dates around the country, before this all went down. We also had a bunch of cool ideas for music videos which will probably never come to fruition now – they all involved being around people! At times like this, it’s important to be creative and think outside the box. We’ve still got a few ideas for promotional content to release – you should be seeing some of that. Who knows, if we get out of this situation soon enough, we might still be able to make a video or two.” SWEARS release their debut EP, Seersucker, on 22nd May www.swearsband.co.uk

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FEATURE

GIFT

T-B, L-R: Crack of Dawn by Greg Wohead. Copywright Paul Blakemore, As Far As Isolation Goes by Tania El Khoury & Basel Zaraa, Augmented by Sophie Woolley. Credit Helen Murray

FESTIVAL ORGANISERS AIM TO MAINTAIN THE IMMEDIACY OF A REAL-TIME FESTIVAL AND TO INSPIRE A ROBUST DIALOGUE ABOUT HUMAN CONNECTION AND RESILIENCE THROUGH CRISIS

CATHARINA JOUBERT DISCOVERS HOW GATESHEAD INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THEATRE HAS EMBRACED DIGITAL FORMATS TO DELIVER ITS FULL PROGRAMME Novelty is the driving force behind the Gateshead International Festival of Theatre (GIFT). Established in 2011, founder and festival director Kate Craddock wanted to present the best in innovative performance work that embodied the regenerative spirit of Gateshead, and the region as a whole, while supporting the professional development of contemporary playwrights. This year, the annual three-day festival carries on in the spirit of novelty by opening up a new virtual world of theatre. In response to the circumstances linked to Covid-19, GIFT has reimagined the entire festival as a digital experience, removing cultural barriers and bringing together artistic communities from the North East and abroad. Through the curation of an eclectic variety of performances, workshops, debates and sensory experiences, festival organisers aim to maintain the immediacy of a real-time festival and to inspire a robust dialogue about human connection and resilience through crisis. Kicking off on Friday 1st May, this year more than ever GIFT is placing artistic experimentation and collaboration at its core. While creative development in the North East is still at the forefront of this

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year’s festival, it is the collaborative connection between different artistic and cultural communities throughout the coronavirus pandemic that takes centre stage. Manifestos From Times of Crisis is one of several workshops that encourages out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to artistic creation in relation to the pandemic. Taking place throughout the festival, it creates an online space where a limited number of participants will have the chance to reflect on what is currently happening, how we are responding to it and how we want it to shape our future, gathering a collection of manifestos that will be posted over the course of the festival. On Friday night, the avant-garde play IT DON’T WORRY ME brings together the Catalan Company Atresbandes and duo Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas to showcase how GIFT establishes a connection between disparate organisations and giving exposure to artistic expression that would otherwise not have been seen in the region. Starting with an empty space that soon spirals out of control through conversation and visuals, the play questions the tense links between art and political correctness. Festival-goers can also join


FEATURE

STAGE

L-R: Luca Rutherford by Luke Waddington, Idol by Jamal Gerald - JMA Photography the renowned theatre makers for a post-show discussion and drinks in the virtual festival bar, chatting to the background of a playlist curated by the creators themselves. Reimagined for an online context, the live-streamed one-on-one performance of Tania El Khoury and Basel Zaraa’s As Far As Isolation Goes (Online) explores the physical and mental health experiences of refugees in the UK. Streamed daily throughout the festival it will use touch, sound and interactivity to bring audiences into contact with the issues raised. At GIFT, artists at all stages of their career and from all backgrounds get a chance to take risks and test out new ideas. In its UK online premiere, Music For Lectures/Get Lost invites its audience to go for their daily escape from the house and, during their walk or run, to listen to Wendy Houston discussing the humorist and tragic aspect of lostness, while accompanied by a rock band. On Saturday, Crack of Dawn promises to be a unique theatrical experience as audiences can stay for as long as they want during Greg Wohead’s improvised performance, which lasts from sunrise to sunset and has the enigma of understanding one another at its heart. Continuing in this radical vein, Newcastle-based writer-performerartist, gobscure international presents ships-ov-fool: a performance and sound installation that taps into the mind of a teenager and their descent into madness after a breakdown (Friday 1st). The North Sea: A (radio) Play in Three Pints brings experimental conviviality to the programme. Written by Norwegian-based writer Nick Hegreberg and brought to life by a team of North Eastern creatives, it recreates the atmosphere and intrigue of a North East pub in a radio play designed to be enjoyed over three pints and performed throughout the festival. On Saturday, Augmented is a one-woman performance from writer Sophie Woolley which details her experiences of being able to hear again after 22 years of progressive deafness; while Gudrun Soley Sigurdardottir’s Elision explores themes of otherness and ideas of belonging in a funny and tender show performed from the Icelandic artist’s home in Glasgow. Taking place from 9pm Saturday to 9pm Sunday, the festival’s live

radio show, RadiOh Europa, is produced by Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse. They’ve recorded love songs since 2018 while travelling through Europe and present their collection in a deep-listening experience that broadcasts thousands of people’s vision of love and heartbreak in 46 different languages. On Sunday, Scratch ‘n’ Scran consists of works by North East theatre makers Luca Rutherford and Greg Wohead to be enjoyed over lunch. Rutherford’s work looks into the power of stories to reshape and disrupt our world, while a return to your origins forms part of Wohead’s new material. In Praise of Forgetting: Part 2 is the sequel to a stage piece which premiered in December, and examines acts of memory and forgetting. Leeds-based artist Jamal Gerald concludes the festival with an Instagram intervention that invites audience members to centre themselves through the cleansing act of washing their hands and burning incense, while listening to extracts from Idol, the artist’s musical exploration of religion, pop culture and Black representation. Over the course of the three days there will also be many thought-provoking talks, including The Climate Emergency, which delves into the climate crisis; Exploring Process by the creators of IT DON’T WORRY ME on collaboration and different methods of making theatre; and International Working and Sustainability, which touches on the environmental impact of setting up international festivals and ways of producing art projects sustainably. GIFT continues to showcase a creative interpretation of Gateshead as an embodiment of cultural and commercial regeneration by bringing theatre to our homes in a way we have never experienced before, inviting self-isolating artists and audiences from all over the world to engage in the conversation on boundary-pushing theatre and by presenting stories with daring creativity that will make us realise how deeply connected we really are. GIFT takes place from Friday 1st-Sunday 3rd May. See their website for information on how to purchase ‘pay as you feel’ tickets www.giftfestival.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

Image by Art Mouse Design

WAX HEART SODALITY CLAIRE DUPREE PENETRATES THE HEART OF THE TEESSIDE SECRET SOCIETY DETERMINED TO DELIVER GARAGE ROCK-FUELLED SOCIAL COMMENTARY There is power in anonymity. Many use a cloak of secrecy to further a hidden agenda, but some – like the masked crusaders of graphic novels – use it for good. Teesside’s Wax Heart Sodality are firmly in the latter camp. Emerging late last year with a distinct garage rock sound, rich baritone vocals and lyrical themes which highlight society’s ills while also seeking to question the status quo, the band have remained cloaked in anonymity; something they deem necessary in getting their messages out there. “Anonymity is key because physical identifiers can weigh people down and act as a barrier or deterrent to getting where you need to go and, from a creative point of view, it can interfere with how others perceive the work you are trying to put out there.” They explain. “By wearing the masks we’re nullifying prejudice and expectation, allowing audiences to focus on our work and forcing us to use movement or musical intensity to

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compensate for a lack of face. Plus, masks look nice and we enjoy making them and matching them with clothes to create different looks.” The band explain that their primary focus is to “try and elevate those lost and in despair, in contrast to other sections of society that purvey seductive, yet irrational attitudes and beliefs to those who want to belong, leading people down a much murkier life path.” If this is all coming off a bit ‘caped crusaders wage war against social injustice’ it’s not intentional; behind the glittery masks and Goth exteriors lay a group of musicians with a serious determination to create absorbing and thought-provoking music. Their output to date has dealt with subject matter which ranges from, in Hoodwinked, the perils of mainstream media and intellectual elitism, all wrapped up in an undeniably catchy refrain of frenzied, grungy guitar work and unhinged vocals; and on debut release Alphas, the conflicting


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

THE BAND’S SOCIAL COMMENTARY IS ULTIMATELY ROOTED IN DISABUSING THEIR LISTENER OF THE NOTION THAT THEY ARE SIMPLY PASSIVE CONSUMERS

personality traits of ‘generation Alpha’ amidst unceasingly intense garage rock. “The lyrics toy with various buzzwords, concepts, trends, etc. that filter into the mainstream culture and social media. New meaning is then extracted from them and dressed up in vague language until that meaning becomes accessible to the point of dilution. I guess that means there are elements of postmodernism in there but that would only be as a by-product of the songwriting process.” They explain. “The tone of the music suggests darkness and despair but within the lyrics lie more questions than answers. Where we do provide opinion we usually follow it up with doubt, a feeling underutilised and one of the biggest instigators of progress. The lyrics are purposefully quite generic and ambiguous, in terms of the language used, so that songs can still be enjoyed for standard entertainment purposes (which we see as our primary goal as a band – entertainment value should not be underestimated) or so that they can be interpreted and meaning can be harvested/easily digested for those who want to dig a little deeper. Thinking about it, I guess you could say that, like us, the songs themselves wear masks...” Latest single Incel-Dumb Scene Kid lays out its intentions more firmly; the opening is as close to a ballad as WHS are likely to get, the deceptively gentle beginning and wistful lyrics soon take a more typical dark turn, as the now trademark baritone vocal howls give way to an ominous Gothic blues and intense garage rock sound that the band are becoming increasingly respected for. It’s a song which offers more on every listen; from the exciting crescendo to the multi-layered lyricism and instrumentation which turns from upbeat to creepy in the flick of a guitar pick. “We were fascinated at

how the internet is an excellent tool for creating fanatics to the point where it can even radicalise hopeless romantics into a disturbing underground mob that bully, intimidate and even kill. It’s terrifying but turning the blame away from the individual and aggressively focusing it elsewhere is commonplace in modern political discourse. Don’t believe us? Then switch on the TV.” The band’s social commentary is ultimately rooted in disabusing their listener of the notion that they are simply passive consumers. Within the tropes they use – from the often ambiguous nature of their lyrics to their own anonymity – they urge their audience to question, to come together, to create. Creativity, in fact, is at the very heart of what they do and, in these most disturbing of times when imagination and innovation can be impeded, they’re the band we sorely need. “Be creative and forward-looking and bathe in the positivity that it brings.” They urge. “Do not indulge in the destructive nature of this potent brand of extreme nostalgia and regression that has become so on-trend right now, it stagnates the spirit and putrefies the heart.” When asked how they intend to inspire their listeners to feel hopeful about the future, their message is simple. “The fact we exist could potentially inspire our listeners. It suggests that life can turn on a sixpence. That one minute, you can be an old, bloated, worn down wreck with the best days behind you and then the next you slip on a mask and some jazzy fineries from ASOS’ bargain basement and become a rejuvenated frontman of a garage rock band.” Wax Heart Sodality release Incel-Dumb Scene Kid on 29th May www.soundcloud.com/waxheartsodality

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

COMPETITION

Image by Grace Denton

NEWCASTLE MUSICIAN COMPETITION DISCUSSES RESOURCEFULNESS, ENGAGEMENT AND HIS NEW ALBUM REPETITITIVE MUSIC WITH MARK CORCORAN-LETTICE Seemingly straightforward yet with something astray in clear sight: the deliberately misspelled title for Competition’s latest album Repetititive Music is an apt microcosm of how Craig Pollard’s work mixes straightforward, quasi-confessional songwriting with an arch wit and a subtle but unmistakeable taste for abstraction. Encompassing strains of modern R&B on Oh Know (“It strips away a number of songwriting conventions but is still recognisable as a song – I think”) and beatific drone on 30% before moving to the engaging, questioning monologue of Misery Space (“basically me trying to articulate some of the weird power dynamics that exist in left-leaning spaces, institutions and communities that are really important but that often make people feel uncomfortable, intimidated or not welcome”), there’s an impressive diversity within such a unified and minimalist collection. Outlining some of his artistic motivation, Pollard explains: “I’m interested in efficiency and resourcefulness, and a certain politics of resistance that might be framed within that. That feels quite dry in a lot of ways, but it begins to feel more interesting or exciting (to me) when explored alongside feelings of intimacy and/or immediacy. There’s a certain point at which a sense of compositional sparseness begins to blur with the ‘drama’ of the song (for lack of a better word), creating a carefully exposed environment for the vulnerability of a vocal performance.” Asked to what extent his simple microphone and sampler set-up comes out of deliberate choice or necessity, Pollard replies: “It’s both I guess. It’s unremittingly practical to be able to tour and play shows with just a backpack of gear. But I’m also interested in (a politics of) efficiency and smallness, and do think a lot about weaving that into the work. In recording, I don’t spend much time working on the sampler itself, I work in the DAW (mainly Logic) using that as instrument, and then only really get the sampler out when it comes to prepping the songs for performance.” Pollard’s background in multimedia promotions as part of Wild Pop

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I’M INTERESTED IN EFFICIENCY AND RESOURCEFULNESS, AND A CERTAIN POLITICS OF RESISTANCE THAT MIGHT BE FRAMED WITHIN THAT and academic writings on popular music also inform his approach to his own music. “I did a PhD at Newcastle University in the music department so I do have an academic perspective on things, for better or worse. I see all of those activities – be it making music, doing research, organising events – as the same thing, they all overlap. They’re all ways of engaging with the world as it exists, figuring out your own place within it, making connections and relationships with other people. And that’s what I’m ultimately interested in, I guess.” As his second release for imprint Slip, Competition sits alongside a roster of other boundary pushing talent such as Ashley Paul, Chaines and Yeah You, and the label is run by Newcastle-based friends Laurie, Suze and Tom. “At a certain point they asked if I’d like to put something out on Slip and I was flattered. I’d sort of assumed they might not be interested in the things I was doing, as a lot of their releases felt committed to a certain type of ‘new music’, in a very tasteful way, emerging from particular sections of contemporary composition. I think I expressed that to Laurie and I remember him saying ‘it’s a lot weirder than you think it is’, which was actually reassuring! But I’m really glad to be part of that little family with lots of music I really love, I like the way the work all seems to sit together too. It’s been a nice experience working with friends to put these last two tapes out.” Competition releases Repetititive Music via Slip on 1st May www.healthy-competition.bandcamp.com


INTERVIEW

MUSIC

JODIE NICHOLSON

Image by Rebecca Flynn

DAMIAN ROBINSON TALKS TO THE DARLINGTON MUSICIAN ABOUT RELEASING HER DEBUT ALBUM ON VINYL THIS MONTH Perhaps, like me, you’re tiring of the words ‘Covid-19’ and its appearance in just about every article you pick up. Whilst not detracting from what is truly a horrific time, it’s maybe also important to question if everything needs to be, or even should be, contextualised in a coronavirus setting. Some things, unfortunately, can’t avoid the subject. Recorded last year, and previously released online and on CD, the vinyl release of Darlington songwriter Jodie Nicholson’s debut album offers interesting questions about the current state of the musical world and what newer artists can do to promote their music; especially in times when the live setting is unavailable and the social media space more crammed than usual. “Not being able to play live has shaken plans for the vinyl release for sure,” confirms Nicholson. “I had planned a really special launch in Darlington so coming up with alternative ideas has proven challenging.” Written about love, loss and healing, Nicholson’s debut, Golden Hour, is a delicate piece of soulful pop music. Mostly performed in a minimal acoustic setting, the album’s success lies in its ability to use cleverly composed, open spaces and moods as a way to communicate reflective and personal thoughts about the world and relationships. “I see Golden Hour as an album for anyone who’s experienced loss or heartbreak in some way and have, or are experiencing, the healing process and the journey of self-discovery that comes after.” She explains. Having received laudable reviews, as well as plays on national radio, a recent successful Kickstarter campaign has allowed the album to move into phase two of its life cycle, and the soon to be released 12” vinyl version is something Nicholson feels is important to the album’s overall identity. “In some ways this feels like the last piece of the puzzle, and as the whole album was self-funded part of me always knew that vinyl would have to come at a later stage.” Reflecting on the initial success of the album, and being able to

I SEE GOLDEN HOUR AS AN ALBUM FOR ANYONE WHO’S EXPERIENCED LOSS OR HEARTBREAK IN SOME WAY re-contextualise the album in a different format, has also allowed Nicholson the space to consider her work in a different perspective. “It makes me realise everything I went through emotionally to produce the music and how much I’ve grown as a person since writing most of those songs.” She’s also becoming aware of how much composing and managing her music has led to personal growth. “I look back and think of a much braver, more fearless Jodie. Self-releasing a whole album, having never released anything before, is a pretty ballsy move and now I think this is what I achieved by myself, so imagine what I can do knowing what and who I know now.” Outside of the record’s release, the current plan is to keep Golden Hour alive and help it reach further than its current audience; some recent livestreaming has proved popular (and an album launch will now follow the same format) as have changes to her social media identity. “I wouldn’t say I’m the best at social media, but creating content for Kickstarter and doing my first ever livestream gig has forced me to be much more present and active on my socials; my approach now has shifted and it’s showing more of who I am as a person.” We may be living in strange times but perhaps we can all learn new skills, just like Jodie. Jodie Nicholson releases Golden Hour on vinyl on 15th May via her website. Keep an eye on her social media pages for details on her album launch livestream, and in the meantime see her via The Georgian Theatre’s virtual gigs series on Saturday 2nd May at 7.30pm www.jodienicholsonmusic.com

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INTERVIEW

ART & LIT

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Artwork by PFW Wolf


INTERVIEW

ARTISTS IN RECOVERY

THIS ISN’T OUTPATIENT ART THERAPY. WE HAVE ARTISTS WITH PHDS AND PROFESSIONALS WHO HAVE WORKED IN THE FIELD FOR OVER 30 YEARS

CAITLIN DISKEN TALKS TO MARK ANDERSON, RUSS COLEMAN AND SARAH LOVELL ABOUT THEIR INVOLVEMENT WITH ARTISTS IN RECOVERY, WHICH SUPPORTS AND PROMOTES ARTISTS RECOVERING FROM ADDICTION It all started at George Street Social, a cafe which provides a safe, alcohol-free social space for people in recovery. “I was sat with Russ Coleman and Kirk Teasdale, and I said ‘have you noticed how many people we know are in recovery?’” remembers Mark Anderson. “And between us we reeled off ten names of active artists who were also in recovery from drugs or alcohol. This then led us to discussing how we could get them all together and do an exhibition.” From this one conversation the collective Artists in Recovery, or AIR, was born. Despite not being an artist, Mark, whose background is in marketing, stepped up to organise the group. “From the three of us, we reached out to a few people we knew, and they reached out to a few others. We’ve now grown to be a group of 21 practicing artists. This isn’t outpatient art therapy. We have artists with PhDs and professionals who have worked in the field for over 30 years.” Mark’s efforts have resulted in AIR becoming a Community Interest Company, fully operated by volunteers. AIR have exhibited at Tynemouth station and West Jesmond station, as well as exhibiting at St Nicholas’s Cathedral in Newcastle. “I usually don’t give the artists a brief, and what’s so nice about that is that the exhibitions are just so varied, I’m completely surprised all the time,” Mark notes. Indeed, as the group is made up of painters, sculptors, illustrators and even musicians, the diversity of the work on display is remarkable. “Our art is considered, expressive work that is always to a high standard,” says Mark. “The artists in AIR are artists first, who just happen to be in recovery.” Whilst recovery is rarely an explicit theme in AIR’s work, promoting recovery is integral to the group’s exhibitions. “Addicts will always say: ‘we are still addicts, we just don’t do it anymore’,” Mark, a recovered addict himself, is keen to emphasise. He sees AIR as a way to promote the support available to those that need it. AIR’s exhibitions have been marked by people approaching Mark with personal stories, often seeking help. “We support all recovery organisations, and we really try to get that information out at our exhibitions. It’s really useful to have all the information available. You just can’t recover on your own.” Indeed, for artist Sarah Lovell, who creates work under the name of PFW Wolf, the support of other people was integral to recovery. “In early sobriety I was homeless for nine months,” she remembers. “I was lucky enough to have friends who allowed me to sofa surf, one in particular saving my life.” Realising how terrified she was of this happening again, Sarah, an extremely talented painter, embarked on what she describes a ‘portfolio career’. Surprisingly, initially Sarah had followed a different path, studying psychology at university. “I did a third year module on art, the mind and the brain, which was all about how we decide we like art and how we produce things. There was so much in that course I was inspired by.” It was during Sarah’s final year that she started the recovery process.

“Initially I really struggled with where my creativity came from without alcohol,” she says. “The creativity is still definitely there, but you just have to work so much harder to find inspiration in sobriety.” Sarah’s work is now characterized by her experimentation in using bright colours, different textures and even glitters. Life-drawing is a huge part of Sarah’s work, as she says it helped her to level out her own body image, and she has since created a series of extraordinary paintings. “Art is trying to find a fully formed thought,” she says. “I’m probably happiest when I’m freestyling with very little planned.” Sarah’s work both contrasts and compliments the work of fellow AIR artist, sculptor Russ Coleman. “I’ve always been interested in the physical material world,” Russ, who originally trained as a monumental mason, tells me. “I like to know how things are made and what they’re made of. I’ve always wanted to be a sculptor.” After doing an art foundation course, Russ remembers how it felt like he’d run away with the circus. It was during this course that he got sober 29 years ago. “My adult art career is entirely the result of me being sober,” he says. “It’s given me the wherewithal to carry on practices, and I’m doubtful that I would still be alive if I wasn’t sober.” Russ sees his creativity as a way of paying back the help he’s received over the years, as well as noting how recovery has granted him a resilience in dealing with the precarious lifestyle of an artist. Coming up to his thirtieth sober year, Russ is embarking on a project entitled 11,000 Days to commemorate his recovery. The project involves creating 11,000 blocks, which he will then give away. “I’m celebrating sobriety by giving a piece of work away. I recovered with Alcoholics Anonymous, and for that I was never charged, the help was freely given.” Russ notes that his involvement in AIR is flexible enough for him to focus on 11,000 Days whilst also preparing for AIR’s next exhibition at The Word in South Shields, which opens next year. For many of the artists, a community has been found in AIR. Mark hopes that the AIR model can be exported to other cities. “Where there’s poverty, there’s addicton. I want little organic centres in cities like Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow based on the model that we’ve built in Newcastle. Just like every Alcoholics Anonymous is independent, I’d like a national AIR to be run along those lines.” For Mark, Sarah and Russ, an integral part of AIR is sending a message to those in recovery. “I guess our main message at our exhibitions is ‘recovery is possible’,” Mark says. “I want people to look at all of these wonderful people alive and well, who would be dead if they hadn’t recovered. Addicts are not bad people. We are simply sick people trying to get well.” Visit AIR’s website for more information and to view artists’ work www.artistsinrecovery.co.uk

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INTERVIEW

MUSIC

DEXTRO

ALI WELFORD TALKS TO NEWCASTLE-BASED ONE-MAN MUSICAL POLYMATH DEXTRO ABOUT HIS NEW RELEASE “An Hour Is A Sea is the title of a poem by Emily Dickinson,” explains Ewan Mackenzie, the multi-instrumentalist and one-man musical polymath behind Dextro. “It’s a play on the psychology of time; I like the idea that an hour can become a vast sea, musically and psychologically – but I also think this idea reminds us that we are often out of sync with deeper ecological timeframes.” Moreover, this 19th Century verse provides the title for Mackenzie’s newest full-length; his most focused and explicit exploration to date of a recurring thematic thread. “I’m particularly engaged with modern day human-centric notions of time and how they tend to obscure our awareness of – and engagement with – deep time,” he elaborates. “I guess the Dextro material tries to subtly pull our attention towards wider contexts in terms of both time and ecology, where we can appreciate our existence in relation to much bigger systems.” Although An Hour Is A Sea is only his fourth album under the Dextro moniker, the project dates back as far as 2001, when Newcastle-based Mackenzie still resided in his native Scotland. “I still use some of the same methods, but it’s come a long way from using just an Atari ST and a sampler! I think a few fundamentals have remained though, in a commitment to experiment and deconstruct sound, and the manner in which rhythm remains key even though the ambient parts are more ‘ambient’ than before. I

I LIKE THE IDEA THAT AN HOUR CAN BECOME A VAST SEA, MUSICALLY AND PSYCHOLOGICALLY – BUT I ALSO THINK THIS IDEA REMINDS US THAT WE ARE OFTEN OUT OF SYNC WITH DEEPER ECOLOGICAL TIMEFRAMES 34

obviously have different gear now too, and there are a few magic boxes that I am very fond off.” In many ways his most eclectic and enveloping work to date, the new record’s dramatic, ethereal swathes of sound stem from a meticulously crafted base. Ostensibly, its two lengthy, drone-heavy pieces are awash with E-Bow guitar and synth, yet this sonorous melange also seamlessly incorporates violin, acoustic guitar, piano and found sound samples; all while drums provide an essential, often hypnotic shot of dynamism. “I don’t tend to think about it in terms of either electronic or traditional instrumentation, but rather what works for the story or the music,” he says. “A key aspect though, is whether it can be performed live, and so I try to make sure that doing it live is feasible, and that Dextro is more than just a studio project. “In the past the live performances have always, to some degree, fed into the records. Yet on this occasion I felt that recent live material was closer to what I wanted the next release to sound like than ever before. Making the record was mainly about developing the structure of that material and bringing it to life. I wanted to create something with a more sprawling musical theme – there are a series of ‘songs’ within each piece, yet they necessarily interconnect and speak to each other.” While Covid-19 has put paid to any live plans, the current crisis offers An Hour Is A Sea a unique window in which to dazzle – an opportunity to be wholly absorbed by listeners passing weeks in isolation. Lofty yet concise, it’s an ambiguous, shape-shifting sonic collage; a captivating return from one of the region’s most elusive yet consistently rewarding creators. An Hour Is a Sea is released on 8th May through 16k Records and Inverted Grim Mill Recordings www.dextro.co.uk


INTERVIEW

BULBILS

IT’S HARD KEEPING THE INSTRUMENTS REIGNED IN SOMETIMES, THEY OFTEN WANT TO GALLOP AWAY OVER THE FIELDS, BUT I RECKON IT’S NICE TO GO AT A SLOW PLOD, STICK TO THE PATH

MUSIC

RATHER THAN DEALING WITH THE AWFULNESS BY READING MOBY DICK OR CLEANING THE FRIDGE, BULBILS ARE CONSTANTLY CREATING. LEE FISHER CHATTED TO RICHARD DAWSON AND SALLY PILKINGTON ABOUT THAT ‘DIFFICULT 16TH ALBUM SYNDROME’ At the time of writing, Bulbils have released 24 albums in a little over a month. This is clearly no ordinary project. Richard Dawson and Sally Pilkington (of Hen Ogledd etc) have said they hope to “be of comfort/company” as well as helping themselves through lockdown. The name was chosen because it suggests spring and the outdoors and, as Dawson points out, “it’s hard to find a name that hasn’t been used already…Spores, Fungus, Soil, Weather, Mole... they’d all been snapped up.” It’s tempting to assume that the Dawson/Pilkington household is one of constant creativity and that Bulbils is a reflection of that, but Pilkington points out this is only generally true when they’re practising for something. “Now and again we’ll just play for fun, but I guess it helps to have some kind of goal to focus on, it acts as a propellant.” Bulbils’ soothing, gentle, often wordless music certainly serves as a comfort/company to the listener, but is it helping them as well? “It’s mostly been very helpful in bringing some kind of structure to an otherwise potentially shapeless time,” explains Dawson. “One or two days it’s felt like a pressure to make something…We had classic ‘difficult 16th album syndrome’ a couple of weeks ago, maybe we were forcing it a bit. But I think we’re back on track now.” “I’ve had a few days when I felt like I didn’t really have much music in me,” adds Pilkington, “but it’s still been good to play. So far Richard’s been doing all the hard work of editing and putting the tracks on Bandcamp, so he’s a bit more involved – I’ll often listen to back to what we recorded the previous day and have no recollection of playing it!” Recordings may start with a key idea or limitation, explains

Dawson. “We might choose the instrumentation, or the sorts of sounds we’ll use and generally stick with them. Or have a particular mood we want to explore. It’s hard keeping the instruments reigned in sometimes, they often want to gallop away over the fields, but I reckon it’s nice to go at a slow plod, stick to the path.” So far, the Bulbils recordings have only featured one other musician, Dawson’s long-time collaborator and friend Rhodri Davies, who added harp from his home in Swansea, but there are plans to involve more people and Pilkington hints at some ideas about a spoken word incarnation. I wondered if there were plans to revisit any of the releases once The Awfulness is at an end. Pilkington sounds unconvinced. “I quite like the idea that we’ll only do it whilst lockdown is happening. I doubt we’ll expand on any of these pieces. I’ve been pondering what it would be like to try and replay some of the tunes, or perform them live. I think it might kill the magic.” Although the pair are keen to pursue the project throughout lockdown, the pace may lessen somewhat. “One of the keys was to make something that might be of company and comfort to people,” explains Dawson, “and I don’t think we’d be failing in that if we put out two or three albums a week instead of five or six. Let’s see though! If it dries up completely then we’d be fools to continue, and if it keeps coming up through the bottom of the boat then we’d better keep bailing.” Bulbils’ releases are available from their Bandcamp page on a ‘pay what you want’ basis www.bulbils.bandcamp.com

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FEATURE

Dovetail Joints virtual gallery

REACTING & ADAPTING WORDS: CAITLIN DISKEN / CLAIRE DUPREE / DAWN STOREY Something that’s becoming increasingly obvious as we come to terms with our current situation is the need to effectively adapt our behaviour in order to survive, whether that’s as cultural institutions or as consumers. Our region’s creatives have already embraced new ways of working. Whether it’s indie cinema Star & Shadow branching out into radio programming; comedy club The Stand hosting regular weekly streaming shows; life-drawing artist Bernadette Koranteng and burlesque performer Kristi Lennon, aka Trixie Blue, taking their lessons online; or theatre maker Serena Ramsey creating her brand new show, Bobby Dazla, in her dad’s back garden, and discovering a newfound love for her Newcastle roots in the process. We spoke to four North Eastern cultural practitioners about their work, and discovered they’re reacting and adapting with typical inventiveness.

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FEATURE

ART & LIT

STAGE

DOVETAIL JOINTS VIRTUAL MORTAL FOOLS GALLERY Words: Claire Dupree Having begun life as a joint collaboration between Pineapple Black’s Bobby Benjamin and Connor Clements back in 2016, Dovetail Joints has since found new life as a virtual gallery project. After studying for a BA(hons) in Architecture, Connor put his skills to work. “A great deal of the Virtual Gallery project is just repurposing skills I had picked up through architectural education, which allowed me to really begin to consider designing and modelling space, with the contemporary art and curation side of things still in the back of my mind while I learned the essential drawing, modelling and software skills.” Having recently taken part in The Auxiliary’s artist-in-ownresidence project, ABODE, he picked up essential 3D animation techniques which helped to bring Dovetail Joints’ virtual space into reality. “It’s a lot like a cross between one of the old point and click games like Myst, crossed with Google street view, crossed with the MOMA exhibition archives,” he explains. “The whole idea is to capitalise on the lack of restrictions which physical spaces hold. Spaces can be designed fully to suit the needs and concepts of the art displayed in them, and can be constantly expanded meaning artists' works don't need to be removed to make way for new exhibitions.” On entering, visitors are greeted with a main entrance and a series of spaces where they can explore artwork on display. Currently exhibited is the first in a series of Conversation exhibitions where submitting artists are paired up and placed into a space which highlights their conceptual/narrative/aesthetic common ground. “Right now we're able to exhibit near enough everything a real life gallery can show.” Connor has every intention to continue the gallery in its current form after lockdown has ended. “I'd say the main positive to come out of developing the project in response to Covid-19 is how it acted as a catalyst to create something for the organisation to stay mobile, and also inject some of my own experience into it to bring something new to the table within the Middlesbrough arts scene.” To get involved in the project, email Connor on dovetailjoints51@ gmail.com www.dovetailjointsvirtualgallery.co.uk

Words: Claire Dupree Multi-award-winning theatre, drama and creative learning charity Mortal Fools were poised to launch a raft of new initiatives when lockdown hit. Not least a touring creative intervention package for schools, entitled MELVA, supporting children’s mental health and a production called Relentless, co-created by their Ensemble Youth Theatre, which was due to begin a Northern tour the day after they shut all their activities down. Kiz Crosbie, Mortal Fools’ artistic director and CEO, was determined to move from the inevitable ‘survival mode’ into ‘reinvention mode’ as quickly as possible and her team’s ideas came thick and fast. “We’re a creative organisation, after all, so it was important to steady the ship and give everyone what they needed to be able to get their creative brains back in gear and focus on what we could control, rather than what we can’t.” The most fruitful idea has been working with young people as new Digital Ambassadors. “They are leading us in reaching out to young people with Eddie’s Weekly Address To The Nation, publishing their reviews of online shows and activities, sharing their Spotify playlists and participating in Young People’s Panel Discussions, exploring how this situation is affecting them.” They’re also facilitating young people taking part in the Coronavirus Time Capsule Project, which has gone global. “You can’t just stick cultural experiences online and expect that people will come. And that is especially true for young people.” Kiz emphasises. “Those people with relationships with young people – personal and professional – have a responsibility to maintain and build those relationships and support them to access culture that is relevant to their lives. For us, that means working closely with our new Digital Ambassadors, signposting young people to activities, setting up watch parties so that young people can enjoy culture in community with others and, for us, continuing to find ways to co-create wherever we can.” www.mortalfools.org.uk

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FEATURE

Metroland

COMEDY

PETE FIRMAN

Words: Dawn Storey When lockdown began, Middlesbrough-born comedy magician Pete Firman was about to start touring his new show. Pete Firman & The Amazing TBC was due to visit Stockton’s ARC and Durham Gala Theatre this month. "I managed to do one gig and then all the UK venues shut down. I’m not taking it personally though... Luckily we've managed to move them all to later in the year." Instead of touring, Pete was one of the first entertainers to stream a live gig online in March. "I fancied doing something to fill the gap. It was a bit of fun really and an attempt to find a different way to reach an audience. It was lovely that people really responded when I floated the idea on Facebook. I was just at home doing it in my joggers! It is strange knowing you are being seen by hundreds of people yet you can't hear any response. I'm hoping to do more." Pete's rescheduled dates begin in September, with new dates for Stockton’s ARC on Saturday 5th, The Forum in Northallerton on Sunday 6th and Durham’s Gala Theatre on Monday 7th. "Every performance I'm joined by a surprise special guest, who becomes my double act partner for the evening. They don't know what to expect and genuinely get thrown in at the deep end. It's so much fun to do as it’s different every night." Pete particularly looks forward to returning to the North East. "The audiences are fantastic. I feel like I know them and I hope they feel like they know me. I’m from Middlesbrough, so it's home turf and it's always nice to go home to visit Mum and Dad." As for how he's coping with the lockdown, he says: "I go between really productive days, to days of just bumming around. Then again I'm used to not having a typical working week structure, so that's pretty much what I'd be doing anyway!" www.petefirman.co.uk

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FILM

SUNDERLAND SHORTS

Words: Caitlin Disken Way back in 2006, Sunderland became the first and only non-capital city to sign a Friendship Agreement with Washington DC. Fast-forward fourteen years, and the agreement is still succeeding in culturally enhancing the city: Sunderland Shorts, an annual four-day film festival was borne out of the partnership, and celebrates local, national and international filmmaking talent. “The festival is all about bringing international talent to the region, whilst also shining a spotlight on the creatives in the North East,” says Chris Allan, the festival’s organiser. Taking place at the Empire Cinema in Sunderland, the festival has a range of screenings spread over four days, alongside events such as Q&As with actors and directors. “We work entirely on a submissions basis,” says Chris, who has been involved with the festival for six years. “We opened for submissions at the end of February, and we’re open to anyone who has a film that’s under 20 minutes long, across any genre.” The festival is due to take place from Wednesday 7th-Saturday 10th October. “We’re cautiously leaving the date there for the time being, and we’ll be accepting submissions until the end of July.” Chris says. However, Sunderland Shorts has already been forced to adapt its project Filmhouse Sunderland, which began in January and was set to offer film screenings every Thursday night. “We wanted to promote independent cinema all year round by offering Filmhouse Sunderland,” says Chris. The project has now been replaced by an initiative entitled Best of the Fest, which is run online. “We’re using our online platforms such as Facebook to offer screenings showcasing the festival’s alumni. It’s been taken up well, so we’ll continue doing this with filmmaker support.” If you’re a filmmaker interested in submitting your work, head to the website to find out more. www.filmfreeway.com/SunderlandShorts


LIVE

DEMOS WE WANT YOUR MUSIC!

IF YOU’RE AN UP AND COMING BAND OR MUSICIAN, AND WOULD LIKE YOUR MUSIC REVIEWED IN OUR DEMO SECTION, EMAIL A TRACK TO INFO@NARCMEDIA.COM AND TELL US MORE ABOUT YOURSELF! WORDS: TOM MCLEAN

DEMO OF THE MONTH

Analogue Blood - Never Fall Down Darlington-based electronic duo Ian Hanratty and Lee Teasdale fire out Never Fall Down, a Prodigy-esque pulsator born of a collaboration with fellow lyricist and vocalist Chris Davison. Inspired by the death of the Prodigy’s front man, Keith Flint, Never

Poor Man’s Break - You’re Not The Same

You’re Not The Same bursts into life with a guitar riff that Led Zeppelin would be proud of. For a newly formed blues rock band, this track demonstrates maturity beyond the group’s years, undoubtedly calling on personal experience to deliver a lovelorn track that we can all relate to during this period of isolation. Superbly written music, lyrics and production values mean this track would be just as at home in a seventies rock compilation album as it is now. If you’re a fan of the genre, Poor Man’s Break are a band to keep your eye on and You’re Not The Same is the song that proves it. www.facebook.com/poormansbreak

Keiran Bowe - Into The Night

Former band front man turned solo singer/ songwriter, Keiran Bowe’s new single Into The Night is an indie rock number that will whip up nostalgia and fanfare amongst eagle-eyed

Fall Down delivers a message of existential importance that will never lose gravitas or meaning: there’s always a reason to live. Elevated by a rhythmic bedrock of post-apocalyptic electronica, this track inspires and invigorates. One for your work-out playlist. www.facebook.com/analogueblood

followers of top class, noughties-era indie bands. In particular, fans of The Libertines, Kings of Leon and more recently Jake Bugg, might find a new star to follow here, so pay attention. Into The Night blends lively hooks with a hopeless romantic vibe that could see Bowe swiftly establish himself as a summer favourite. www.facebook.com/keiranbowemusic

Michael McCluskey - Shit TV

Michael McCluskey’s Shit TV is an anthem in the making for student unions and open mic nights everywhere. Its catchy, acoustic sound makes this bittersweet ballad an instant ear worm. However, scratch beneath its humorous surface and Shit TV is a tune lamenting the loss of the glorious mundane that comes as part and parcel of any relationship. A song of self-reflection coloured by a warm heart, McCluskey’s honest lyrics and cheerful tones are the perfect accompaniment for fond remembrance of a love lost. This artist clearly

has an ear for a ditty and will surely employ it moving forward. www.soundcloud.com/cluskmusic

The Flaccid Cactus - We Wanna Scream! Psychedelic blues band The Flaccid Cactus take us on a dream-inducing journey with their track We Wanna Scream. Drawing on influences like Pink Floyd and The Black Keys, this track exposes and explores the inherent seriousness of mankind and society, gently posing the question, “Where is the fun?”. With its colourful, hippy-esque sound, We Wanna Scream feels inherently pacifist and encourages the listener to explore their own part in society while maintaining a calming, ethereal sound throughout. It probably won’t fire you up and into action but it’ll certainly lull you into a state of calm contemplation. www.soundcloud.com/the-flaccid-cactus

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TRACKS WORDS: JAMIE TAYLOR

T-B, L-R: Hassle , Paul Tyson, Megan Dhalai Are you down to your last tin of beans? Is toilet roll nothing but a distant memory? Fear not dear reader because, just like the Tesco delivery driver, this month’s Tracks page is here to stock up your metaphorical cupboards with all sorts of goodies. Let’s dive into those shopping bags and see what we’ve got... First up are BType with Love Beds; a rather silly serenade to all things mattress related. This little Super Mario 8-bit chip hopper sees the lads rap lyrical about the bright side of being depressed. It’s this month’s most charming track by a mile. Out of the bag next is Megan Dhalai’s Blue Bird. The country feel of this beautiful stick-or-twist love story made me come over a little weepy. Thank God I ordered that extra box of tissues. We all deserve a non-essential item now and then and here’s mine in the shape of NOPRISM’s Pieces. This mouth-watering track reminded me of Jungle with its modern soul vibes, arpeggiated keys and fuzzy bass lines. This is definitely one to savour. Subject to buying restrictions, up next we have Tired of Fighting with Night Dwellers. One of this month’s highlights, I’m all over this emo-tinged crowd pleaser. Singer Nic Woods delivers his poetic lyrics with a grace and aplomb that really got me. Rarer than a bottle of hand sanitizer, it’s Hassle’s new track, Life Is For Living. An actual bona fide number one, this song recently topped the UK reggae charts and is well worth seeking out for that fact alone. Next we have a store cupboard essential in the shape of The Inklings’ Secret. There’s nothing flashy here, just a good old indie punk number that goes great on toast. Now, where’s my tin opener?

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Looks like we have an item replacement here. I’m sure I ordered Spanish chorizo but I seem to have gotten some of Simon Taylor’s Geordie tapas instead. Bolero Loco is an odd mix of Latin guitar and Taylor’s broad, lisping vocals. Strangely, a bit like peanut butter and Marmite, it just kind of works. If the whispery vocals on Women of Western Liberty are anything to go by, it sounds like Soever has found the coffee and cigarettes I ordered. This is a nice enough indie track that reminded me a little of Lou Reed. Not my cup of tea (or coffee), but worth a listen if you’re into that kind of thing. Talking of tea, Paul Tyson is absolutely my mug of the brown stuff. His new techno house banger, Give It Up, is brimming with interesting ideas. The vocal hook is a stone cold killer that adds elegance to this dark and menacing number. Thank God these guys are still in stock: it’s Cultivo with Dark Blue. The dusty lead vocals and horns on this neo-soul number had me in bits from the get go. Wonderful stuff. Here’s something I’m sure I didn’t order: Kites and their latest track Soulblind. I checked the back of the packet and it looks like this song contains up to 120% of my recommended daily allowance of 90’s Britpop. That’s a little bit much for me, so I think this one’s going to the back of my cupboard for now. Last out of the bag we have Fossway with Grey Clouds. There’s more than a whiff of Alice In Chains about this one, which I must say I really liked. Definitely one I’d put on my shopping list again.


ALBUMS 4/5 BADLY DRAWN BOY BANANA SKIN SHOES (AWAL)

4.5 / 5 Ghostpoet by Emma Dudlyke

GHOSTPOET I GROW TIRED BUT DARE NOT FALL ASLEEP (PLAY IT AGAIN SAM)

Words: Ikenna Offor Amidst the mire of our current malaise, in swoops the ever-enigmatic Ghostpoet (aka Obaro Ejimiwe) with an amply funereal yet invariably sanguine rejoinder to these uncertain times. Indeed, this is hardly new terrain for the twice Mercury-shortlisted electro-rapper-cum-indie-virtuoso – each of his four previous outings have not only presciently mirrored the fraught zeitgeist of their day, but more crucially, dredged the riverbed of our collective psyche for life-affirming respite. With its deft balance of grim humour and glinting angst, I Grow Tired But Dare Not Fall Asleep is rooted not in nihilistic scepticism, but rather an astute grasp of those contemporary complexities that squarely evince the sheer oddity of narrow taxonomies. Cerebral and visceral in equal measure, Ejimiwe’s searingly wry musings are, as ever, steeped in gravitas and woven through with both a sure knack for storytelling and well-honed eye for vivifying detail. At times, there’s an ostensibly concerted effort to channel the Orwellian social commentary of HTTT-era Radiohead, as on the tautly moody lead cut Concrete Pony, which unpreachily extols the virtues of digital detox. Elsewhere, Rats In A Sack subtly but surely dissects both the skewed racial and political hierarchies that have long governed British social relations with mordant aplomb. Stylistically, the record builds further on the gutsy sonic palette of its acclaimed predecessor, 2017’s Dark Days + Canapés, with a sure-handed flair for indelible melody. Robustly angular riffs further heighten the noirish dread of paranoia-soaked second single Nowhere To Hide Now; meanwhile, the title track’s panoramic soundscape is adroitly peppered with punctiliously precise licks. These punk-esque flourishes are tempered by gentler moments, courtesy of both the ominous tranquillity of This Trainwreck Of A Life and When Mouths Collide’s amorous melancholy. In tethering arresting introspection to mesmeric backbeats, both engender charged poetics that are lucidly structured and shot through with urbane wit. That said, it’s the languid transcendence of Social Lacerations that best attests Ejimiwe’s rueful charm. By the time its rapturous crescendo kicks into full swing, you’re at the point where, even as our hero resignedly laments his woes, it feels like being wrapped in a warm embrace. Released: 01.05.20 www.ghostpoet.co.uk

ALSO OUT THIS MONTH Melenas – Dias Raros (Trouble In Mind (08.05) //Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Reunions (Thirty Tigers, 15.05) // Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – Temple (Ribbon Music, 15.05) //Darren Hyman – Home Time (Fika Recordings, 22.05) //Marsicans – Ursa Major (Killing Moon Records, 22.05) // Erland Cooper – Heather Blether (Phases, 29.05) / / Diet Cig – Do You Wonder About Me? (Frenchkiss, 01.05) //Bill Nace – Both (Drag City, 22.05) //Sex Swing – Type II (Rocket Recordings, 15.05) // Deerhoof – Future Teenage Cave Artists (Joyful Noise, 29.05) // The Blinders – Fantasies of a Stay At Home Psychopath (Modern Sky UK, 08.05) // Nightingales – Four Against Fate (Tiny Global Productions, 22.05) //Hanni El Khatib – Flight (Innovative Leisure, 15.05) // Desert Storm – Omens (APF Records, 01.05) //Tim Burgess – I Love The New Sky (Bella Union, 22.05) //Johanna Warren – Chaotic Good (Wax Nine Records, 01.05) //Choir Boy – Gathering Swans (DAIS, 08.05) // He Knows She Knows – The Past Was Tense (Self-Release, 22.05) //Lettuce – Resonate (Round Hill Records, 08.05) //King Buzzard – Gift of Sacrifice (Ipecac Recordings, 15.05)

Words: Paul Broadhead The notoriously moody Richard Gough sounds like he’s having fun on his first record in eight years, finding a fine line between the likes of the familiar uplifting soul pop of Funny Time Of Year and the experimentation of the ambitious Colours. “Break free from this plastercast, leave your past behind,” he urges on the funky hip-hop mish-mash opener Banana Skin Shoes before revelling in the Madchester sound of the politically charged Is This A Dream? The Motown soul of Mr Wilson Said sees him revisiting Manchester on a record that brims with positivity, from the jaunty brass section of I’m Not Sure What It Is to the upbeat reflection on a broken relationship in I Just Wanna Wish You Happiness. Released: 22.05.20 www.badlydrawnboy.co.uk

4/5 JIM WHITE & MARISA ANDERSON THE QUICKENING (THRILL JOCKEY) Words: Lee Fisher A White/Anderson collaboration makes so much sense, it’s almost a surprise it took so long. The almost psychic connection between Anderson’s guitar playing – emerging I guess from the folk and American primitive tradition but embracing so much more – and White’s distinctive drumming style means that these pieces sound so simpatico it’s sometimes hard to believe they’re wholly improvised. Starting with Gathering, which sounds like a throat-clearing exercise, all skittering drums and guitar shimmer, the album moves through ten fairly short pieces that offer mostly engaging variations on the simple set-up. The Other Christmas Song, Lucky (with Anderson playing a new Mexican guitar bought for the session) and Pallet are the most immediately affecting, but taken as a whole The Quickening is a lovely thing. Released: 15.05.20 www.thrilljockey.com

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3/5

5/5

4/5

ROSE CITY BAND SUMMERLONG (THRILL JOCKEY)

SPARKS A STEADY DRIP, DRIP, DRIP (BMG)

PERFUME GENIUS SET MY HEART ON FIRE IMMEDIATELY (MATADOR)

Words: Lee Fisher When the Rose City Band debut was released quietly last year, the involvement of Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shijps/Moon Duo) went largely unmentioned. But anyone hearing it would have immediately known it was a Johnson project – that voice! that shimmering guitar! – with him adding a little country flavour (Harvest Moon Duo, if you will). And it was a great record, appropriately bucolic and languid and perfect for long drives down country roads. Summerlong sees Johnson emerging from behind the barn to stake his claim, but the album is a little less satisfying; the country element feels dialled down somewhat and that’s a shame. There are some great songs – Only Lonely is a standout – but I’d recommend seeking out the debut. Released: 15.05.20 www.thrilljockey.com

Words: Lee Fisher If this Sparks album – their 24th! – only contained iPhone (“put down your fucking iPhone and listen to me”) it would still make any worthwhile end of year list. It’s that good. But so is the rest of the album. Of course it is: it’s Sparks, stupid. In many ways Sparks have maintained a trademark, instantly recognisable sound for fifty years – Russ’ remarkable falsetto, Ron’s lush and inventive songs and arrangements – but the settings have changed, from art rock through high energy and disco to the opera-tinged grandeur of their latest releases. Nothing is dated, you can tell Ron (an avowed hip-hop fan) is way ahead of the Coachella kids production-wise, and this is fresh as fuck. Nobody else is writing songs about how awesome their lawnmower is. Released: 15.05.20 www.allsparks.com

Words: Kristopher Cook Love, sex and mitigating bravado are the ties that bind on the fifth full-length project from Perfume Genius, the moniker of eclectic singer/songwriter, Mike Hadreas. Curtain-opener, Whole Life, acts as the perfect header, boldly stating “half of my whole life is gone” – a call that is both damning and playfully optimistic. Lead singles, Describe and On The Floor, have a very unique, yet similar, relationship – the former, however, taking a much more distorted approach. The spiritual successor to 2017s No Shape, has all the hallmarks of a true, holistic experience – one that sews between swathes of overtly emphatic textures, offset with a never-ending feeling of spring; consider this essential listening to those endlessly ‘twined in transition. Released: 15.05.20 www.perfumegenius.org

5/5

3/5

4/5

BOSTON MANOR GLUE (PURE NOISE RECORDS)

KATIE VON SCHLEICHER CONSUMMATION (FULL TIME HOBBY)

CAR SEAT HEADREST MAKING A DOOR LESS OPEN (MATADOR)

Words: Laura Doyle Boston Manor’s reputation as one of Britain’s most diverse, exciting current musical acts has been cemented with third album GLUE. If you thought 2018’s Welcome To The Neighbourhood was a tirade against a tired status quo, wait until you hear this one. Boston Manor grapple with the most pressing concerns of contemporary society: climate change, prejudice, poverty – nothing is off limits from their grunge-tinged punk diatribe. Everything Is Ordinary’ lampoons our desensitised society that has enabled an epidemic of inequality; its psychedelic cousin, Plasticine Dreams, surreptitiously compares idealism with reality – a Shiny Happy People for the forthcoming decade. Heartfelt and balladic, Stuck In The Mud illuminates ‘man-up culture’ for its true malignancy: when the world is going to hell, it should be okay to cry about it. Released: 01.05.20 www.bostonmanorband.com

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Words: Paul Ray After discovering Katie von Schleicher opening for Big Thief at Think Tank? in 2017, her album from that year, Shitty Hits, quickly became one of my favourites – a captivating record of twisted lo-fi pop miniatures. Her new album, Consummation, finds her breaking through to a wider indie appeal, and not quite succeeding. The album’s turn away from scuzzy distorted textures in favour of spare dream pop results in an atmosphere of listlessness, the album’s conceptual lyrics let down by decidedly low-stakes musical arrangements. It has its moments – the final track’s nihilistic refrain is wonderfully anthemic, reminding me of the darkness I loved in Shitty Hits – but in general this feels like a transitional release for Katie von Schleicher. Released: 22.05.20 www.k-v-s.net

Words: Cameron Wright As one of the most genuinely interesting faces in indie rock to recently emerge, Car Seat Headrest have been gaining an increasing level of traction due to their assertive lo-fi sounds and frontman Will Toledo’s unusually intriguing voice and compelling lyrics. This new release has the potential to really divide its fanbase. Forceful, distorted guitars and thunderous rhythm sections are replaced by a stripped-back approach, placing focus on Toledo’s lyricism and expanding musical visions. With every album Toledo seems to grow in confidence, both as a songwriter and as a performer and this more intimate, tender record is no exception. The release shows the band depart from their typical abrasive sound favouring a mature stylistic change that sees them experimenting musically and sharpening lyrically. Released: 01.05.20 www.carseatheadrest.com


ALBUMS

5/5

4.5 / 5

4/5

WARGIRL DANCING GOLD (CLOUDS HILL)

THE COOL GREENHOUSE S/T (MELODIC)

PSAPP TOURISTS (THE STATE 51 CONSPIRACY)

Words: Francoise Harvey Wargirl’s second studio album is a tonic for the times. From the kinetic beat of opening song Drive, Dancing Gold is a transportive experience that makes you want to close your eyes and dance like you’re in a Coke ad (you know the one). Consciously uplifting music written collaboratively by six musicians blending seven(ish) different genres, the album is 70s disco for the 20s, by way of punk, Afrobeat and easy listening. Yes, that sounds like a lot and yes, it works – the result is sunshine and freedom; nostalgia for road trips we never took. Hang On in particular has Donna Summer vibes, while Pretend is ripe for a mash up with The Zombies’ She’s Not There. Released: 29.05.20 www.wargirlband.com

4 /5 MASAKI BATOH SMILE JESUS LOVES YOU (DRAG CITY) Words: Robin Webb Introspective Japanese psychedelia recorded entirely through analogue means, this is Batoh’s fifth solo outing with contributions by fellow Ghost & The Silence members including the free drummer Hiroyuki Usui. Masaki sings in English, Spanish, Latin and his native language throughout this panoramic worldwide sound trip into his apolitical, ambiguously critical, non-religion specific aural universe (don’t let the title fool you) “…Now clap your hands in empty sky…” The duality of light and dark portrayed here perfectly paints the horrors of our lives in subtle but permeating strokes, whilst the joy invoked escaping our human existence is scattered to infuse an overall optimistic, multi-coloured and psyched out impression. The album closes with a cover of Are You Experienced? Now I am. Released: 08.05.20 www.masakibatoh.bandcamp.com

Words: Robin Webb At first listen this debut album release serves up a spoken lyrical style much akin to Mark E Smith at his most obtuse; however delve further and you find Tom Greenhouse’s words eventually sinew their full sardonic meaning, laser focused as vitriolic social commentary. The Fall influence doesn’t end there, its insistent driving, dissonant yet simple chord riff structure builds to intense electric atmospheres overlaid with wigged out space age lo-fi synth noodling, which in turn starkly accentuates the band’s caustic satirical monotone message. If you’re quick off the mark you can grab a limited vinyl with free seeds, the first to grow and photo their plant wins the original cover art. The Cool Greenhouse don’t need any gimmicks though. Released: 29.05.20 www.thecoolgreenhouse.bandcamp.com

3/5 AUSTRA HIRUDIN (DOMINO) Words: Eugenie Johnson While Katie Austra Stelmanis’ 2017 album Future Politics gazed outwards to wider power structures, her fourth record HiRUDiN focuses inwards, examining patterns of behaviour in toxic relationships and the strength to break them. Reflecting its core subject matter, this is a more contemplative version of Austra. A gentleness characterises the likes of All I Wanted, which has an almost baroque-tinged feel. Not that she has completely shunned maximalism; I Am Not Waiting is a defiant, all-out electro pop jam, while Anywayz is her own version of melancholy disco. Yet sometimes it doesn’t connect emotionally: the pitch-shifted hook of Risk It and child chorus punctuating Mountain Baby feel distant and grating. These moments take some of the emotional weight out of what is otherwise Austra’s most introspective work yet. Released: 01.05.20 www.austra.fyi

Words: Robin Webb Proponents of the toytronica sound, Psapp maintain their belief that anything can be a musical instrument of worth, constructing sweet pop melodies and upbeat rhythms with everyday stuff – jars, tabletops and bicycle parts. This in no way makes it gimmicky or captive to the novelty of creating tunes with non-musical instruments; far from it, their process is seriously evidenced by this thoughtful fifth album. Headphones reveal a strangely compelling weave and complexity particularly in the title track, Tourists, that must have taken an age to construct. Along with pristine sultry vocals by Galia Durant and subtle sonic experimentation of Carim Clasmann, the gloriously lush A Fit is a perfect example and a clear sign of their maturing craft. Released: 15.05.20 www.psapp.net

4/5 CHEMTRAILS THE PECULIAR SMELL OF THE INEVITABLE (PNKSLM) Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice While the MO of Chemtrails hasn’t changed significantly since they first started in 2016 – a corrosive, psychedelic take on lo-fi garage rock – a recent relocation from London to Manchester has seen them change line-up and, with their second full-length The Peculiar Smell of the Inevitable, release their strongest work to date. Key to this album’s success is how they’ve been able to harness the uncanny valley studio sheen of modern home and DIY recording technology to their advantage – songs like Saint Vitus thrive on a sweetened discomfort that, alongside the high-and-even-higher vocal harmonies of bandleaders Mia Lust and Laura Orlova, ensure that their classicist pop moves land with a welcome bite. Nastier and glossier than before, this sounds like Chemtrails hitting their stride. Released: 15.05.20 www.adoseofchemtrails.bandcamp.com

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ALBUMS

4/5

5/5

4/5

THE SOFT PINK TRUTH SHALL WE GO ON SINNING SO THAT GRACE MAY INCREASE? (THRILL JOCKEY)

MODERN STUDIES THE WEIGHT OF THE SUN (FIRE RECORDS)

SURF ROCK IS DEAD EXISTENTIAL PLAYBOY (SELF-RELEASE)

Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice Last time we saw Drew Daniel (better known as one half of Matmos) operating under the moniker of The Soft Pink Truth, it was with the wonderful sub-cultural protest record Why Do The Heathen Rage?, an album of synth pop covers of black metal complete with see it to believe it cover art. This latest revival of the project is a hard left turn towards deep dance and classical minimalism. A highly collaborative album, including a vocal chorus of Angel Deradoorian, Colin Self and Jana Hunter, this is a patient and stoic work whose conceptual nature is of a piece with his work in Matmos but one in which the rich, carefully manipulated layers of live instrumentation and vocal drone achieve a new, spiritually nourishing context. Released: 01.05.20 www.thesoftpinktruth.bandcamp.com

4.5 / 5 PETE BEAT NOTHING IS PERFECT (SELF-RELEASE) Words: Stephen Oliver Combining the modern folk-tinged lyrics with electric rhythms, loops and occasionally strings, is Pete Beat’s trademark and this continues with his second album. He uses parochial phrases in his lyrics which make it clear that he is from the North East; there is also that Geordie sensibility and humour which percolates throughout Nothing Is Perfect. Each track is a musical journey, a story in its own right. Rather than follow any pop song formula, the listener is presented with the world according to Pete Beat. Even when he gets political in Capitalism Must End he is charming rather than shouty, suggesting that there is an alternative to life as we know it. Nothing Is Perfect is a delightfully charismatic collection of musical episodes. Released: 06.05.20 www.petebeat.net

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Words: Robert Nichols The Scottish-via-Lancashire psychedelic folk rock quartet serve up storm tossed tales of love, life and loss on this their third long player. It is nurture out in nature interweaving instrumentation with the sun, stars, tides and seasons. Lyrically luscious, at the heart of the matter is the strange chemistry between shimmering folky phrasing of Emily Scott and the more brittle, angular, husky voice of fellow songwriter Rob St John. Add to the blend the sweeping arrangements above and beyond sometimes craggy bass and rippling rolls of percussion. This is in parts mystic, cerebral, atmospheric and cosmic, but above all a joyous and sumptuous celebration. The sun shines through on this beautiful album. Released: 08.05.20 www.modernstudiestheband.com

3/5 WOODS STRANGE TO EXPLAIN (WOODSIST) Words: Elodie A. Roy Much of the appeal of Woods’ music lies in its infinitely soft, blurry edges. The band’s identity is both tied to a fuzzy recording medium (reel-to-reel tape) and to singer Jeremy Earl’s idiosyncratic tales, delivered in a warm, distinctively hesitant drawl. However, the Brooklyn band’s eleventh studio album marks a turning-point in their sound and approach to songwriting. Abandoning the intuitive psychedelic folk collages of their earlier days, Woods have suddenly acquired neat and curiously formal contours. Strange To Explain brings to mind the sleek dream pop of Mercury Rev, Low’s more radio-friendly moments, and the jazz of Hailu Mergia. There are still a few personal songs, but mostly these 11 tracks seem to be reflections of things heard and seen, rather than original visions. Released: 22.05.20 www.woodsist.com

Words: Damian Robinson Shoegaze has taken many twists over the past decade, most noticeably jumping back into vogue early in the 2010’s with the appearance of new ‘gazers (DIIV, Tame Impala) and the re-appearance of old favourites (Ride, My Bloody Valentine). Yet since the early 2010’s hardcore ‘gazers have not only had to endure the tediousness of watching their tribe hop in and out of fashion, but they’ve also had no new act to champion. Looking to pick up that mantle, the debut from Surf Rock Is Dead takes shoegaze’s love of loud, repurposed, guitar lines and nudges them well into standards of minimalism and arpeggiation; filtering tracks like Diabolik and Miss You with atmospheric textures, strong melodies and dream-like vocals. There are new heroes on the scene. Released: 01.05.20 www.surfrockisdead.bandcamp.com

4.5 / 5 BRANT BJORK S/T (HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS) Words: Stephen Oliver Some albums are made for playing loud in the car. However, Brant Bjork’s 13th album is the perfect soundtrack for cruising on your motorbike along the long dusty roads of California. In a departure from recent offerings, Brant performs all of the instruments resulting in a warm cohesiveness. He hits a heavy psychedelic groove from the opening bar of Jungle In The Sound which permeates throughout each of the eight songs; the strong hook on the standout track Jesus Was A Bluesman will become your new earworm. This self-titled collection is not afraid to organically let a song run for over six and a half minutes if the groove permits, and his mellow voice adds a warmth to the heavy rock vibe. Released: 08.05.20 www.brantbjork.net


MIXTAPE WORDS: TONY EASTLAKE, GUERILLA PA

Around 1980 I was in a marquee in Ashington watching Dexys Midnight Runners. Dexys carried over the spirit of the soul revue, tight and rehearsed but full of meaning. In those days music was a tribal sport, a gig wasn’t a happening without a ruck; skins v mods, mods v hairys, locals v everyone else. This was no different and me and my brother ended up back to back in our Harringtons punching away a rival tribe, the gig stopped for a while, we were bruised but still dancing… The era of punk and new wave had really got me into live music, and gave budding singers and musicians the confidence to have a go. I was in various bands over the next few years and was lucky enough to ‘serve’ with people who ended up as proper musicians, in bands with records released! Gary Lang of St James Infirmary, Steve Malley of Crane, Unit Ama and Horse Loom, Nick Bunker of ‘the Coterie’, never huge artists but stalwarts of local scenes. I was a better promoter/manager than singer though, and was able to work with many cult bands including Fugazi, Cud and Death by Milkfloat, many of them staying at my home. I’ve been lucky enough to convert my hobby into a job, Guerilla PA has meant I have continued to be able to promote local and national unsigned bands. Bombskare, New Town Kings and Illustrators amongst the first – my love of pop, ska and reggae showing – but every genre has been covered. The time you are doing a sound check with another unknown to you band, and have to stop to listen with amazement at a gem of a song is still the best of things for me. The Winterhill Transmission got me like that, as did Grandfather Birds and more recently Hector Gannet and Bugman. Anyway, back to my story...almost 40 years later I get to work with Big Jim Patterson of Dexys, I recall our fracas and apologise for stopping the show. Jim laughs, remembering that he was watching with such interest that he accidentally lost the front tube of his trombone in the crowd! My day was made, knowing that I was part of someone else’s musical memory in the way that all these bands and music are part of mine, albeit in a different way! www.facebook.com/guerillapa

DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS TELL ME WHEN YOUR LIGHT TURNS GREEN A storming soul belter begging a deity to notice him? Or is it? Can you tell what Kevin says?! Listen

THE DAMNED NEW ROSE Two minutes-ish of a perfect pop song. Recorded in a ramshackle but superb way. Listen

ST JAMES INFIRMARY EIGHT FOR A FIVER Lyrically brilliant tune of our times, it’s a football terrace indie chant. Listen

CRANE ASLEEP Guitar-driven horror flick awesomeness. Listen

CUD ONLY A PRAWN IN WHITBY I like Whitby, but the plastic Goths in binocular top hats can do one. I like prawns. Listen

FUGAZI WAITING ROOM Me and Ian Mckaye chucked a drug dealer down some stairs once… Listen

HECTOR GANNET DEAD NAG Great band, North Shields’ finest, and my own son is in the video filmed at Guerilla HQ! Listen

BOMBSKARE THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STUPID Could have been written yesterday, but its ten years old. Listen

NEWTOWN KINGS NEWS STAND Mmmm..political. Me? In my condition? Listen

THE WINTERHILL TRANSMISSION JUPITER Every band Pete Moffat has been in has been fab. It may be coincidence. Listen

BUGMAN (ALSO KNOWN AS RYANISFUN) JOBSEEKER Lo-fi pop cheeky bedsit brilliance. Tip of the iceberg of the vast talent… Listen

GRANDFATHER BIRDS HIGHER BRIDGES The son of one of my old band members makes music way better than us, and the band members continue to do so. Listen

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