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Lea Seydoux: “Like many actors, I have a lot of instinct, but I’m also scared, even if I often feel comfortable on a set.”

Lea Seydoux follows in a long line of sulky, petted lip and iconic French actresses, of which there are quite a few – I would argue that she’s already up there with the likes of Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Seydoux is a famed art-house actress (The Lobster, Blue is The Warmest Colour)  with a penchant for staring in blockbusters (James Bond).  Here, we discuss her new movie Deception, ‘a profession of faith’ based on the eponymous Philip Roth novel, and her latest collaboration with the brilliant and prolific director Arnaud Desplechin. 

 

 

The softness of your voice in Deception is striking, almost hypnotic, from the opening scene where you are facing the camera. Was it a given from the start? 

 

I have had few such a talkative roles in my career, moreover with such demanding text. Here the words had to be expressed incisively and quickly. We surely all have several voices according to different periods and situations in life. My voice in Oh Mercy! was clearly different from the one I have in Deception. In this film it is closer to mine in life. 

 

You all seem to have an erotic relationship with the text in this film… 

 

This comes from Arnaud, who has a very close relationship with literature. I think that words, language, literature are essentially erotic. I am convinced that creation in general has a close relationship with eros. It’s a libidinal transformation. And this is the case in Deception. Throughout his films Arnaud narrates feelings supported by the text.

 

 

It is also a sensual film, as close as possible to faces and bodies. Did you feel enveloped by the camera and the light? 

 

I wasn’t exactly aware of the work the camera was doing while I was acting, but I loved working with the DP, Yorick Le Saux, who brought so much energy. There was such a special energy on this shoot. When you work with Arnaud, you want to espouse his cause. The actors he directs are thrilled on set. At his side, we feel transcended. He manages, with great youthfulness, to infuse a childlike excitement on set. His enthusiasm is contagious. He has fire in him and manages to communicate it to you. It’s as if he was handing us the torch. Then it’s up to us to seize it and make it blaze. Under his gaze we want to give the best. Arnaud inspires me enormously. In addition, he has the gift of choosing subjects that fascinate me. 

 

Can you say more? 

 

I like the way he talks about feelings. I especially like his viewpoint, his subjectivity. At his side, I feel I’m learning as much about cinema as about life, one not being distinct from the other. Thanks to him I have understood that one thing always goes with its opposite. That is why he doesn’t blame his characters, even those whose behaviour is reprehensible. He is always looking for their humanity. This was at the very heart of Oh Mercy! And it’s also the case in Deception. We can discuss the fact that adultery is immoral, but Arnaud films the love between my character and Philip. He always manages to make humanity triumph. His films never moralize; feelings always prevail, which gives dignity to the characters. I think that’s wonderful.

 

What was your feeling when you read Arnaud Desplechin and Julie Peyr’s screenplay?

 

I had the feeling of understanding the film immediately. And it was the same thing on set: when Arnaud gave me directions, I knew instantly what he wanted, it was evident… Sometimes it only takes one sentence in a screenplay for you to understand the whole film, a sentence around which the film revolves. In this case, it’s the final sentence, when my character says to Philip: “Because it was so tender…. unless I was mistaken.” He tells her no, she wasn’t mistaken. The whole film is in these two sentences, there’s no misunderstanding, tenderness did exist between the two of them. This sentence is related to the beginning of the film, where she asks him if he feels the same way she does. There are often misunderstandings in love. Here, both of them agree at the end: they did understand each other. By the end of the script, I was in tears! And I was in the same state when I played that scene. Our world cruelly lacks tenderness. Yet tenderness has to do with giving, with generosity. It’s overwhelming. And there are many such scenes in the film. 

 

Were you familiar with Philip Roth’s world before shooting this adaptation? 

 

I discovered it thanks to Arnaud. Roth is both vulgar and poetic. It seems to me that paradox runs through his oeuvre. This is probably why he is so fascinating to so many. 

 

 

 

 

 Did you work differently with Arnaud Desplechin on this film than on the one before? 

 

I was almost more intimidated on Deception than on Oh Mercy! It seems to me that it was the opposite for Arnaud. I thought he was more confident on this one. 

 

We perceive you as a tightrope walker in this film, constantly between two states, often overwhelmed by emotion… 

 

I played this woman as if she was on the edge of a precipice and that’s how I felt on set. I was very shy during this shoot. I was so exposed… My character offers herself: this woman is in love. You feel very vulnerable when you’re in love. Because you want to be loved in return, you expect something. So I felt very fragile. My smiles are a way of masking my distress and emotion. Playing a lover is daunting. 

 

What did you tell yourself about your character, who has no first name? Did you secretly give her a name? 

 

In the screenplay she’s referred to as “The Lover”. It’s as if the characters were conscious of being characters… Because apart from Philip and Rosalie, no one is named in the story. Philip is like a sun around which everyone orbits. My character is neglected by her husband. We sense a great loneliness in her. She is a woman who doesn’t work, she’s financially dependent on her husband and therefore not free. “Without income you don’t have dignity,” she says. This sentence summarizes her situation, her state. I see her as an imprisoned woman. Her lover is her escape. 

 

Did her sophisticated look, her meticulous outfits, her stylish hair help you find the core of her character? 

 

I blended with this character quite naturally. I could dress like her in life. I wear some of my clothes in the film and bought some of the costumes after the shoot! The costume designer, Jürgen Doering, who has worked for Saint-Laurent, has beautiful taste. I loved wearing the clothes in the film, I felt very at ease in them. They are both chic and comfortable. 

 

What kind of acting partner is Denis Podalydès? 

 

He is firstly a man with whom I absolutely love to have conversations in between takes. We got on very well. He is as inspiring as Arnaud can be, and like him knows how to open up new perspectives. He’s also attentive, caring, strong. He is a theatre actor, his feet on the ground, he’s earthy. This was precious to me, as I was playing a febrile character. 

 

Did Arnaud Desplechin direct you together? 

 

He gave each of us different indications. Arnaud is great actor’s director, the greatest perhaps. Being directed by him is an immense pleasure. He is as intelligent as he is sensitive. 

 

Denis Podalydès says he had the feeling that you were always one step ahead of him… 

 

Is it because I never know what I’m going to do before the camera starts rolling? It can be destabilizing for my partners. I can go through peaks and abysses, which no one is aware of but me. I feel like a wild animal, one that hasn’t allowed itself to be tamed and which, emotionally speaking, has no reference point. Like many actors, I have a lot of instinct, but I’m also scared, even if I often feel comfortable on a set… although sometimes not. So I too am one thing and it’s opposite! 

Were you inspired by the sets, the 80s accessories? 

 

The sets are sensual and vibrant. I liked their “French charm”, while the action is set in England. Arnaud embodies French elegance! 

 

Did this experience trigger some inner change in you? 

 

I feel as if this was my first role as a woman and that I am in synch with my age, with my own life. I wouldn’t have been able to play this part five years ago. My experience in life nourished me for this film.

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Horace Panter: “Our message was serious but our music was uplifting”

The Specials emerged from an era of British music like few others; one that combined the influences of both homegrown political dissidence and Jamaican dance-house music. In the late 1970s, The Specials produced the first and finest combination of multi-racial (and also collaborative) music that the UK had ever seen, inventing the term ‘Two Tone’ in the process. Many since then have tried to hold the cue, but few have managed to do so or execute with such originality. I do doff my hat to those who have tried. In terms of being related to the quality of ‘ska’ music The Specials dealt (and continue to deal) in,  I can only raise the name of the Fat White Family, a band who seldom sound in the same genre, but do very much carry the energy, wave of originality, popular tunes, humour, and indeed political messages of The Specials. The common political message can be left up to the reader to decide. 

Horace Panter was in the Specials and played Bass in their original and current line up. These days, he’s very eager to get The Specials back touring (COVID forgiving) and also spends his time working with his own Pop-Art, adapting to being a ‘technophobe’, whilst also on the verge of being a grandfather. Felten Ink caught up with Mr Panter to discuss such matters. 

 

Horace, what is the difference between being a ‘musician’ and an ‘artist’? 

 

Being a musician gives instant feedback. If you’re doing good, an audience applauds or your bandmates acknowledge you. If you’re doing bad, you know about it pretty quickly too. There is a lot of adrenaline involved! With painting, the satisfaction and contentment is something internal. I guess, to use a pop psychology word, it’s ‘mindful’. The validation from an audience comes more slowly but it is there. I get a kick every time someone buys one of my paintings.

 

To me your own artwork looks like it would come under the term ‘pop art’? 

 

Yes, I’d say I follow the Pop tradition. I take everyday objects and paint them, elevating the mundane. Andy Warhol had his soup cans, I have my cassettes, Japanese Vending Machines, American diners. I don’t mind people putting structure around my work – it doesn’t affect how or what I paint.

 

Do you look at everyday things and feel the need to make something?

 

I look at all genres of art (which is why I miss being able to go to galleries/exhibitions). Everything inspires me: it could be a colour or a shape or an object that suddenly takes on a specific meaning that I think could be transferred to a painting. A fellow artist once said to me ‘lots of people can draw/paint to a level that is extraordinarily but, as an artist, you have to have an idea’. I’d say it’s far harder to have an idea than it is to be technically brilliant. I don’t want to follow trends in art though I’m aware of them. I guess my strongest influences come from Pop Art, given that I was a child of the 60s when everything ‘cool’ came from across the pond: pop music, art, fashion. I love Peter Blake’s work but he was also influenced by American Pop culture.

 

What has being a musician taught you (if anything) about your own exploration into making your own art – to me your artwork doesn’t seem too personal?

 

As a musician, I’m a team player. I need a drummer and other musicians to create my music; it’s collaborative. I always refer to my art as ‘my solo album’. The work stands or falls on its own merit and by my own efforts. I have done a few pieces of ‘personal’ art but I keep them for myself!

 

I would love you to share some… I’ll keep it a secret, I promise. When is the best time for you to work, create, and why?

 

I prefer to paint in the daylight (natural light) which has been difficult with the short winter days. After walking the dog I spend most of the day in the studio but I do go out to see my printer or framer a couple of times a week. I try to take a break at weekends but if I’m on a roll, that often goes out of the window. The painting itself dictates how I work I guess.

 

It seems to me there are perhaps few other modern bands continuing the work of The Specials. Do they exist?

 

Where are the new Specials? I think various aspects of The Specials are observable in a lot of British music – the reggae/ska influence, the dance style, but nothing has come that close. Jerry (Dammers) once said he thought that Galliano were like The Specials. There are, of course, bands that, lyrically, resemble the band, but I think our USP was the message and the dance. Our message was serious but our music was uplifting.

 

I once read you saying nice things about Sleaford Mods (not my bag, to be honest).  Personally, I think Fat White Family are one of the greatest bands currently on earth who at least share the attitude of a band like The Specials. What else is are you into musically?

 

I’m not familiar with Fat White Family – I’ll look them up – but Terry thinks highly of them. I thought the Sleaford Mods were mesmeric performers and it was great to have them on tour with us. I don’t listen to too many new acts (where do you find them these days if you don’t have Spotify… I don’t because I’m a bit of a technophobe!). I think my vast knowledge of rock’n’roll is something of a millstone around my neck. Everything I hear seems to sound like something else – spot the influence if you will. I have tickets to see The Drive By Truckers in June in London, re-scheduled from last year… I hope they play. Bands send me stuff on social media and, now and again, I prick up my ears and listen to a song all the way through. These days I’m quite impatient, if it sounds generic in the first few bars, I’m gone. I’m not cynical, maybe just have too many tunes in my head already!

 

I first got into the Specials in the days of indie dance floors back in my late teens/ early 20s (a long time ago now). Why do you think The Specials continue to be so important for newer generations? 

 

Well, firstly: The tunes are great. The lyrics are easy to sing and are still relevant. The rhythms are irresistible. The live shows are full on – 100% full tilt celebration. Got your ticket for the 2021 gig yet?

 

Not yet, but… How has this ongoing lockdown treated you and have you been able to develop or at least maintain yourself as an artist, i.e. your own artwork and with the band?

 

All the Specials’ work for 2020 was rescheduled for 2021. Then, even our 2021 tour was put back from March/April to September/October. Between the lockdowns I did three small gigs, two with a Cajun/Zydeco outfit and one with a Blues band. They were all great and made me realise how dependent I am on performing as a release. During this current lockdown I’m one miserable mother-fucker. There’s only so much you can practice playing the bass! Art-wise, I’ve never been busier. There are new projects and new opportunities, making it an exciting time. Counter-intuitively, people have still been buying art, which is great for me. I’ve managed to paint a whole new series of cassettes which will be exhibited in the next couple of months. Obviously, the exhibition will be virtual which takes some of the fun out of it as it’s nice to build up to a physical exhibition and to meet people at the opening. Nothing is as usual though is it? I stay home, walk my dog in the countryside twice a day and do everything I can to stay sane!

 

What has this current situation given you that normal life would have restricted? 

 

We (my wife and I) moved house a week before the first lockdown, from Coventry to a small village in Warwickshire. Love it. We have spent our time since then exploring the area, finding remote places to walk the dog (border terrier called Mijj!), had builders in, who have been great company… builders always are aren’t they! As well as concentrating on painting, I’ve had lots of time to read and think. Our son and daughter-in-law moved from South London to Warwick just before Christmas. It is a huge frustration that we can only see them in a socially-distanced situation, so no long boozy dinners together! I miss playing Blues/Cajun/Zydeco in pubs. Socialising in general. Visiting museums and art galleries. I was planning a road to trip to visit friends in the USA so god knows when that will be possible!

 

I don’t want to spend too much time on COVID but as it’s affecting everyone – what are your own thoughts on how the UK is dealing with it? Will we get back to normal (I tend to think aside from pubs and gigs, normality was overrated)?

 

I don’t think there was a single country in the world that was prepared for the virus (except perhaps Taiwan). We had to make it up as we went along didn’t we. There were always going to be conflicting interpretations of scientific data and weighing up the economic consequences. I don’t think we’ve felt those consequences fully yet. The performing arts industry has been decimated. The current debacle about musicians/performers needing permits to perform in Europe is a farce that needs to be fixed. Maybe bands like The Specials can take that on the chin, given they have a management structure capable of sorting all that out. It is young bands and musicians (including choirs, small opera companies, etc) that will feel it as they often go out on a shoestring budget and they won’t be able to absorb the extra costs. I’m just hoping to play in pubs again!

 

I’m now in my mid-30s and feel it – does one chill out more as they get older – You’re 67 now so what does age do to you?

 

Haha! It makes me jealous of anyone who is 30 years younger! Stuart Copeland once said to me “musicians stay younger longer” – I hold to that thought constantly!! Less angry, sure. More chilled, sure. Without the mist of anger I have been able to think more deeply about things like politics… I’m less reactive and more contemplative. I look for context in everything, despite the fact that context is often obscured. I see that MSM and social media are designed to make me angry so I back off. I’m going to be a grandfather this year and that gives me a deep sense of joy. The personal stuff, family, friends, etc., is the important stuff. 

 

In terms of your artwork, I love your cassette art in particular – how do you choose who to stick on there. I was thinking you should do a mixtape version and link to a playlist on Spotify… with the help of the one they call ‘Alexa’? 

 

With the cassettes there are self-imposed boundaries. Circa 1970 – Circa 1995 are the boundaries. Having said that, more bands are recording and releasing cassettes as they have achieved a kind of iconic status. All the cassettes are the same dimensions. The interesting bits are small, overlooked factors like the screws (do they have screws?), or the window. Are there numbers folded into the front place under the window? (what use were these anyway?). These small factors inform how the cassette looks. Yes, I only do bands I like. No way would I do an Abba cassette – or Queen! Don’t even mention Queen! Having said that, my new series doesn’t feature bands/songs; it celebrates the object alone and I’ve concentrated on design/colour. The idea of Alexa scares me shitless!

 

I agree with you on ABBA, God forbid Alexa decided to play me that. Are you ever bored with making music?

 

Never! Music is such a wonderful thing to be able to perform. I can’t possibly imagine my life without it. Now and again I get fed up with a painting I’m doing so I’ll put it aside or scrap it. I never get fed up playing music!

 

Are you cynical about older bands getting back together to tour or make new music? I don’t wish to be crude, but making money is important – thoughts?

 

Well, at my age, I ain’t in it for the travel and I do have a family to support. I would by lying to you if I said that the money didn’t matter. You might be surprised that I still have a mortgage and I don’t have a pension plan, or even a new (or old) BMW! I have never been close to being a millionaire, more’s the pity haha! My accountant says that in a good year I make about the same as the average builder. The Specials is a big band with a large crew, the cost of doing a tour is eye-watering. Regardless, I love it! Being with Terry (Hall) and Lynval (Golding) and the gang is like being with family… we have decades of history!

 

Interview with Horace Panter – January 2021. To be continued…

www.horacepanterart.com

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Abdel Bendaher: “I tend to observe a lot and am careful to not be noticed”

Samir Guesmi’s directorial feature debut is described as being a ‘rites of passage’ in which a father and son will slowly grow to know and understand each other when ‘botched robbery’ and the need to satisfy older friends offer no end of conflict. Newcomer Abdel Bendaher plays Ibrahim, a youth hell-bent on finding himself and others at the same time. Here, Abdel Bendaher answers some questions about the role itself, working with director Samir Guesmi and finding his own feet in when dipping his toes into the world of filmmaking. 

 

Abdel, How did you end up being a part of this project? 

 

It was a bit of an eventful Sunday for me and my friends: we went to watch a friend – totally outclassed by older players – play a football match. At half time we dropped our ball near the spot where Samir Guesmi was. I felt he was staring at me. With his motorcycle helmet in hand and big as he is, we thought he was a cop! He introduced himself, and explained he was a director and actor. We didn’t believe him. He had to show us his Wikipedia page with a photo before we took him seriously. Then he asked if he could film us. Weeks went by and Christel Baras, the casting director, contacted me. I did a test with her first, then more casting sessions. I gave myself completely each time, because I felt the pressure mounting and I wanted to believe in this. When I found out I’d got the part I was really happy! 

 

What was your relationship with cinema before this experience?

 

 I only went to the cinema to watch American blockbusters. But with my best friend we often fantasied about making a film about our friendship and the bullshit we used to come up with together. Now I’ve started to watch French cult films, I’m opening myself up to cinema and it fascinates me. 

 

Do you remember your reaction when you read the script of IBRAHIM 

I remember feeling it was really alive. I was immersed and I believed in everything I was reading. I quickly identified with Ibrahim, who is a high school student like me. He’s shy and reserved too. It was easy to project myself into this role. I liked the friendship between Ibrahim and Achilles as I much as his relationship with his father and the connection he develops with Louisa.

 

What did you tell yourself about Ibrahim? The truth? 

 

Nothing! I told myself I was going to play Ibrahim as I am. I understood that’s why I had been chosen, that I should stay as close to who I am in life to play the role of Ibrahim. I just thought he was an unlucky boy, not a victim. He wants to do things right and avoid problems, but his mate Achilles involves him in his bullshit and exerts a big influence on him. I also think he and his father love each other very much, but don’t dare tell each other. Ibrahim is a very observant character… Like me! I tend to observe a lot and am careful to not be noticed. I’m a champion at looking away if someone I’m looking at turns his head towards me. So I had no trouble finding the right attitude for Ibrahim, and Samir helped me a lot too. He guided my gaze, sometimes even during scenes. 

 

How did Samir direct you, in other respects? 

 

He told me to not act, to be natural. The fact that he himself is an actor helped me. During the first weeks we shot the scenes in Ibrahim’s and his father’s apartment. They were complicated scenes, because their relationship is complicated. The first days, Samir didn’t want to talk to me. He had warned me that the beginning of the shoot would be tough, and he piled the pressure on me. That’s how I felt about it anyhow, and it did help me to find the right emotions for the film. At first I concentrated on my character; I was in my corner and repeated the lines to myself, I was hunched up, like Ibrahim. I quickly felt I was the character. Bit by bit I understood this was Samir’s strategy, but I didn’t hold it against him. All the more so since at the end of the first week he came to talk to me and explained why he had talked to me so little at first. Little by little I started to feel more at ease with everyone. 

 

Did you manage to forget the camera?

 

Only after several days. I got used to it gradually. I also had to get used to the crew, I was a bit overwhelmed by all these people around me. What helped me was being invited to participate in the location scouting. I got to know some technicians and quickly felt accepted. But on set, I was intimidated. It was really intense, and I felt there was no room for mistakes. I didn’t know that films were made like that. I thought you shot in front of a green screen with dialogues written on cards! Those first days were crazy – hallucinated the first few days: no comparison! 

 

How did you find your character physically? Did the wardrobe help… the chapka hat for example?

 

Yes, even if at the beginning I thought that the shoes I had to wear were lousy! These must have dated from the time of Louis XVI, these trainers! I swear to God! I wore a chapka hat, a coat, had a green bag… At first when we shot the scenes at the high school, with kids around us who hadn’t necessarily understood we were shooting a film, I was a little ashamed in these ugly clothes! But it allowed me to feel like Ibrahim. The chapka hat physically defines his character. He wears it all the time, he’s attached to it. When Ibrahim takes it off the people who look at him feel they are discovering a new face. 

 

Did you see Samir’s short film, C’EST DIMANCHE! before the shoot? 

 

This short film helped me. It doesn’t describe the same father-son relationship but it gave me clues. 

 

How did you work with the other actors? 

 

They were all older than me and had experience on films. They acted like big brothers and sisters to me. They helped me a lot and made me feel at ease, by rehearsing my lines with me between takes, for example. 

 

Were you able to leave this role easily? How did you emerge from this first film experience? 

 

When I went back to school after filming, I was shyer than before, as if Ibrahim had rubbed off on me. But that changed quickly, particularly when I was back with my friends. It’s funny, because at the beginning, I was in a hurry for this shoot to be over with. But at the end, I was sad and wanted to start again as soon as possible. I really want to carry on acting. I know how lucky I was to have met Samir. I’ve always loved the idea of trusting my destiny. Samir arrived at the right time: I had bad grades in third grade, I wasn’t sure which way to head. This film has changed everything for me. I’m like a new person, in a way, thanks to this film. It is also the first step towards the professional world. When I finished the shoot, I was a bit proud of myself, without having become big-headed. Just proud to have taken on a challenge and to have been able to play a part in a beautiful film.

With thanks to the lovely people at Wild Bunch. 

 

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Deji Ijishakan: “I felt like I had to act like Zarathustra in a sense… just go to war with ideas”

Deji Ijishakan is a 21-year-old jazz musician from south London, his primary instrument being the tenor saxophone. Over a relatively short time he’s developed an eclectic and unique musical personality, infusing his passion for philosophy into his music, and forging an entirely new subgenre he calls jazz-drill. He plays in a number of jazz and fusion bands including Levitation Orchestra, Nihilism and Hypernova Militia. Over the lockdown he’s started releasing his own solo work under the name Xvngo. Ashwin Tharoor sat down with Deji to talk about his music, philosophical influences and new projects.

 

Deji, Xvngo [Shango] is your stage name, right? Where did that come from?

 

It actually originates from a Yoruba god, an Orisha in the Yoruba tradition. They have their own their pantheon and like, Shango was the god of thunder, fire and willpower. I was inspired by that.

 

How was your lockdown?

 

It’s been really up and down you know. I’ve had some really high moments, like for instance I just started releasing my music under the alias Xvngo, as a solo artist. I also finished my degree, got into the Masters I wanted to do and started a business. At the same time, in other areas it’s been quite negative. I know someone quite dear to me who’s been affected by coronavirus. I’d definitely say it’s been more positive than it has been negative.

 

That’s good to hear.

 

I think it’s good to go through some difficult times, because it makes you stronger, psychologically.

 

So, when did you start playing music?

 

I’ll never forget my earliest memory engaging with music, I think I must’ve been like 8 or 7 years old. It was on a laptop, not a music programming laptop or anything like that. There was this programme on there, for a game or something. I remember there being a wizard involved. I remember playing on a keyboard that allowed you to play [music] with the keyboard of the laptop. Testing sounds and being like, oh wow, what is this!

 

Did you have any big musical influences in your family or at home?

 

Funnily enough, one of my uncles is a saxophone player. And my dad forced me to play the keyboard when I was quite young, and at first, I was against it. Even though I must’ve shown him some type of musical inclination. But yeah, he wanted me to play and I was rebellious at first but then I really got into it and began to love it. So, my dad was a big musical influence, and then growing up throughout secondary school I was very much involved in music.

 

What about your first musical love, in terms of an artist or a band?

 

The first really profound musical love I had was for John Coltrane. I’d say when I learnt about Charlie Parker, I was like, wow, this is amazing. I was about 13 years old, so I was quite lucky to be introduced to bebop music. The way that I got into bebop is quite funny. I’d been playing the piano up until I was 13, and I used to go to this mentorship. And, at the time I listened to a lot of hip-hop music and my mentor looked at all the music I was listening to and he was just cussing me out for like an hour, and he was telling me I need to stop listening to this stuff.

 

What was he cussing you out for?

 

Like, he has quite a conservative taste in music, listens to Ben Webster and that type of thing. He said like anything after the 1980s is almost sacrilegious music (laughs), you know what I mean? But yeah, he was cussing me out for listening to like MGK, Giggs, Waka Flocka Flame, even Jamie Fox.

 

Sounds like he didn’t like hip-hop at all.

 

Yeah, he was very anti-hip-hop. And then after that, out of fear, I started listening to some jazz music. And I was like, you know, I really like this. Once I’d been introduced to it in that way I really began to fall in love with it. Then I started playing the clarinet. But when I found Charlie Parker as a result of this awakening, this jazz awakening, it really blew my mind. I couldn’t believe someone could make a sound like that, like a human being. I really couldn’t even comprehend. Now that I play bebop, and I can take the lines and I can play it, it’s kinda different. But when you’re standing completely beholden to it…

 

With no conception of how it’s made…

 

Yeah, it’s just so sublime. And then time went on, I kept on listening to jazz, and I found John Coltrane. It was beyond sublimity with Coltrane, because you could just see a man on a journey with music. And, he’s just leaving everything else behind, he doesn’t care about anything. He’s almost channelling – like he’s a vessel for his own unconscious mind. All the potential things in his brain, that he could release, to do with music. Like he’s trying to exhaust his whole potential musically. Which is such a beautiful thing to see.

 

I really like the way you put it. So, which jazz musicians do you really like on the scene today?

 

Well I’d say in terms of modern guys, I’d say like Joe Armon-Jones. I love his music; I play with him as well. Moses Boyd as well, really good music, KOKOROKO, Wonky Logic just put out some music. There’s hella people, Ezra [Collective]. And then you got other people like Levitation Orchestra, PYJÆN. I really like Empirical, another modern UK jazz band. There’s a lot of heads lying about doing some sick stuff, taking all different angles towards the music.

 

So as far as I know, you’re in four bands? Hypernova Militia, Levitation Orchestra, Nihilism and KOKOROKO? Is that last one correct?

 

Yeah, I’m not a member of KOKOROKO, but I play with them. I’m in the KOKOROKO family, but I wouldn’t call myself a member. But the other three yeah, I play in all of them.

 

Are they all active at the moment?

 

Hypernova’s active, Levitation Orchestra’s got some music coming out, Nihilism we’re gonna be getting in the studio to record an album.

 

Nice! I’ve seen Hypernova and Levitation Orchestra live and they were both amazing, but how would you differentiate the styles of the bands that you’re in?

 

With Hypernova, I’m the band leader, and the whole mission of Hypernova is one big philosophical, comical, abstract, absurdist, mess.

 

It’s off the rails.

 

The way that I approach that is gonna be way more primitive, and like almost letting your unconscious mind take control of the whole situation, whereas with Levitation Orchestra I’ll take a backseat. With Levitation Orchestra we’re all trying to write music together, so I’ll just try to contribute to the collective composition, as opposed to trying to drive it all. And with Nihilism as well it’s very collaborative, and a whole other sound world from Hypernova – which is typically bebop. The funny thing is we’re now putting the drill music with the bebop. On our EP there’s gonna be a drill track where we’re playing on it. First drill track with live horns.

 

That sounds sick, tell me more about jazz drill? And your new single Entropy?

 

Jazz-drill really started with me and Matt from Harris Westminster [our Sixth Form]. At university in first year, when I had my saxophone, I’d be hanging out with people but I’d also wanna practice and they’d be playing drill music and so I’d just play over the changes. And then, I was like, let me just keep doing this it’s good fun, it’s different. Now it’s become a thing of its own and I’m just trying to make as much of it as I can.

One thing I appreciate about being an artist and putting out music, is you can just superimpose anything you’re experiencing or anything you find interesting into the general story behind the music, the artwork, or the name of it. With Entropy, it’s a nod at this thing called the free energy principle. It’s a neuroscience theory that says your brain is an inference machine, so your brain is always trying to make predictions about reality. Once you have a system making all these predictions, it means that entropy will play a role in it. What entropy is, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, is that we’re constantly moving towards more disorder. We’re constantly moving into more micro-states than previously were. Now as a statistical machine, what does it mean for you to be moving into more micro-states, moving into more disorder? It when there’s a prediction error, it’s when the statistical machine predicts something but then is surprised when the information it gets doesn’t marry up with what it was supposed to get.

[Neuroscientist] Karl Friston has been using mathematical equations behind thermodynamics and entropy to apply it the brain, but there’s just so many implications behind it. There are even implications for psychedelic drug use. There’s this thing called the entropic brain hypothesis made by this dude called Robin Carhartt-Harris doing research at Imperial [College] about this right now. Saying how psychedelics increase the entropy of the brain, and that’s why it can help people with depression.

 

That’s really interesting. How did those ideas inform the music, if at all?

 

I don’t know if I could say that I consciously felt it informing it, but once I’d made the music, I feel like it represented that. And the music that I make is always in some way gonna be related to whatever I’m reading or whatever I’m thinking about.

 

Was there any particular inspiration for how you incorporate philosophy into your music?

 

I mean, Mr. Stone [from Harris Westminster] used to teach philosophy of music (laughs). But I can’t really think of any artists off the top of my head who used to incorporate philosophy directly into their music. I just felt like doing it, I just felt like it had to happen.

 

What do you want people to feel coming way from your gigs? Especially Hypernova, which I guess is the most…

 

Visceral!

 

Yeah!

 

I want them to feel confused, I want them to feel entertained, want them to feel like they may be learnt something. I want them to feel like they need to start questioning the way they view reality.

 

What else do you like to listen to, other than jazz?

 

I love classical music. I love Beethoven, Bach, Shostakovich, Vivaldi, I love Vivaldi. I love Stravinsky as well. Other than jazz music, I mainly listen to classical music. Listen to some dub, listen to some drill music. But I also listen to some indie rock stuff, I listen to whatever I’m feeling.

 

Yeah, nice! You gotta have a mix. What’s on the horizon for you, in terms of new music you’re making or releasing?

 

Hypernova records the EP this weekend, that’s gonna be released sometime before I die. (Laughs)

 

Fingers crossed.

 

In terms of my solo project I’ve always got music coming out. I’ve got another single coming out in the next three weeks. You can always rely on me to have a single coming out.

 

I know you’re an avid reader of philosophy, but when did that start?

 

When we were at Sixth Form, I was into philosophy but I never really read it properly. Mr Stone actually inspired me quite a lot. And from then on, I was very much into metaphysics, Plato, Kant as well. Having that philosophical viewpoint helped me when I got to university, but I think my real engagement with philosophy started when I started watching Rick and Morty. There was a period in my life, I think Year 13, when I used to believe a load of these crazy theories, like some batshit crazy theories. Then I remember watching Rick and Morty, and seeing Rick and seeing how much he only allowed what he believed to be dependent on logic, rationality, reason and science. That kind of broke down a lot of the way that I was perceiving things. From then on, I was introduced to Existentialism and Nihilism and started getting into Nietzsche. When I got to university, I was like I’m just gonna read as much as I can. I just devoted myself to it. I read Thus Spake Zarathustra and that changed my life.

 

How did it change your life?

 

For me, after I read that book, I felt as though anything that was some trouble or something that caused me pain, it felt more like a war. Like a righteous war. Because after reading Thus Spake Zarathustra, I felt like I had to act like Zarathustra in a sense, and like just go to war with ideas. That helped me ground myself philosophically and intellectually.

 

Since you’re the band leader of Hypernova Militia, how do you incorporate philosophy into the music live?

 

There are several ways that I do it. There are some commands that I do, I give the band commands. Some of them would be stupid shit like, ‘quantum spin’ and then everyone spins around or like ‘roid rage’ and then everyone plays this mad music. But then also I’d just randomly get on the mic and say some philosophical passages. Whenever I feel like it, within songs. I also say some political stuff like ‘free the market’ (laughs). But like, there’s philosophy always being drawn throughout the whole thing.

 

In terms of improvisation on the sax, is there a particular way you approach it? Feel free to get technical, or spiritual.

 

For me, playing the saxophone is so therapeutic. It allows me to escape into myself and let my unconscious mind just be expressed aesthetically, artistically. At first, whilst I was learning how to play the saxophone, there was various ways I would approach it technically. You know you have to learn your scales, gotta learn the harmony. But even the way that I approach harmony, I see the whole thing as one big game. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, or like a maths problem. Harmony, composing, improvisation as well.

 

When I play music with other people, I often feel a kind of metaphysical, mind-melding connection. How do you feel about that?

 

I get what you mean, there definitely is a metaphysical component to it. There’s the band right, but there’s the non-physical, non-temporal elements of the band, you know? Even if you killed every single member of Hypernova, as an idea it would still exist. Like, the meaning behind you guys playing together, and obviously the idiosyncrasies of the musicians themselves. Personally, when I play in a group setting it’s all about listening. Trying to produce something that’s conversational.

 

As someone who performed live so much are you itching to get back out there?

 

It has been a while, but one good thing about the whole lockdown is I could just focus on being in my room and studying and going on all these other intellectual journeys. So, I was able to explore that part of myself even more, and almost forget about performing. But then also, I really wanna perform. Human desires are really all muddled up.

 

How do you feel about the government’s response to the whole music industry?

 

(Laughs) I think they tried…We can’t spend an unfathomable amount of money on any project, any domestic policy, because it will cause problems for the economy in the future. And then people end up dying as a result of it, whether we like it or not. So, we have to be reasoned in what we do. I think they’ve given it a shot; they’ve tried. There’s always gonna be problems. We’re in unprecedented circumstances. I mean, I’m fundamentally a libertarian – stop the government from having too much power.

 

During lockdown you started a project with the slogan ‘Buy, Back, Build’, what was the name of it?

 

The name is Owó, and it means money or business in Yoruba.

 

What are your aims with this project?

 

So, we’re creating a black business directory app, so you can use the app to find your local black business, and you can also use it find venues and galleries and that type of thing. And, eventually, I’d also like to incorporate information on finance, and that type of thing. With that project, it was in response to the George Floyd death. For me, the reason why I made it was because I was like, I’m seeing people respond to this in a way I don’t think is gonna effect change in the long term.

 

What do you mean by that?

 

Just posting on social media this, posting on social media that, putting up black squares. There’s no long-term impact of this, this is all performative. People are like, I’m in solidarity, but people actually end up dying because of real economic problems. My whole approach, I don’t wanna be on the whole political thing, I’m more on the economic development approach to it. That’s why I decided to make the app. I think that many of the problems black people face in this country are class problems as opposed to race problems. And that’s an economic issue as opposed to a policy issue.

 

Do you not think they’re interconnected in a lot of ways? Policy and economics, but also class and race?

 

Policy and economics are definitely connected, but the reason why I favour an economic perspective on it is because policy is top-down, but economic development is bottom up. If you build a company, or you and your people build companies, then you can actually put money back into the community. You don’t have to wait for my man to change the law, so that he’ll give more money, you can actually do it yourself. I’m not a fan of top-down control, I’m not a fan of government getting involved in everything. So, I think the economic route is the most prudent thing to do.

 

Isn’t top down change necessary to provide the conditions in which black businesses can thrive?

 

Yeah, there do have to be some policy concessions, for instance allowing for small business owners to not have to pay ridiculous rates on licenses, and random regulations for starting businesses. Freeing up the market basically, but especially for small business owners. Yeah, we need policy change to happen, but if you take the economic route first, the policy won’t even matter to you.

 

Finally, what would you say to the thousands of young musicians coming up now, trying to do stuff and be original?

 

First thing I’d say is, listen to as much music as you can, so you can see what you’re naturally disposed towards and hone in on that. Another thing I’d say is, know that there’s gonna be times when you feel like you’re not perfect at your craft, but that’s the whole point of it. It’s the whole point of it. It’s a dialectical process, you know what I mean? You need to come up against the problems and then get through the other side. So, keep fighting the good fight, keep making that music, keep listening to music and just do your thing.

 

I think that’s about it. Thanks a lot for chatting with me.

 

My pleasure bro.

 

You can follow Deji on Instagram at @xvngo and his bands:

@hypernova.militia

@levitationspacebase

@nihilismband_official

Ashwin Tharoor is a 22-year-old graduate living in London with a passion for music, writing and visual media.

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Stanley Donwood: “I like staring into space and doing nothing”

Stan Donwwod

There there, there’s no getting away from it. There was no hope in hell that an interview with Stanley Donwood would be concluded without mentioning Radiohead, the band whose music he’s so brilliantly illustrated since 1994’s ‘The Bends’. Since then he’s created some of the most iconic, dystopian, beautiful yet apocalyptic visions the graphic art world has witnessed, and all to inch-perfectly fit that band’s own sound, a collaboration which continues to evolve to this day.

That being the case, my interview with the visual artist did manage to cover other topics such as drugs, ageing, planetary destruction, and his own books of design and visuals which he seeks to ‘be understood by every human being on the planet’. 

 

I understand you like a glass of white wine, hopefully you’re having one now.

Stanley, speaking as someone who is raging receder, when did you go bald and did you worry about it at all?

 

I went completely bald overnight when I was 23. I have not a single hair upon my person. I didn’t worry about it at the time and I don’t worry about it now. I think hair is stupid. And yes, I’ll have a glass of Picpoul, thank you.

 

In our first email exchange you mentioned you would be away in terms of being offline – do you need to be away from such things as the internet in order to work, focus, etc?

 

I suppose that putting a ‘vacation response’ on your email account is a modern equivalent of pinning a not to the door – ‘back after lunch’ or whatever. Being attached to the internet in its various forms has recently become very normal and seems mostly to be a positive thing; although it must be said that the effect of the internet on our public and private lives has yet to manifest itself entirely. It may be that it turns out to be inimicable to liberal democracy. Wouldn’t that be funny?

 

Pass. And for you?

 

I don’t need to be away from anything to work, or to focus (not that I’m sure I ever really do) or for anything really. Sometimes I go to places that don’t necessarily have easy access to electricity, so of course, things like the internet are much more difficult to use. Like most people I usually have a phone, but the battery runs down, and so that’s it. When I’m in places with no electricity I don’t really work very much, unless it’s just drawing or something like that, partly because when there’s no electricity there are lots of things that need doing manually and partly because I like staring into space and doing nothing.

 

Can the ‘planet be saved’ or what about civilisation? I’ve always had a notion that this thinking is our need to correct ourselves…

 

I’m sure that the planet will be absolutely fine; it’s just that we have made some small alterations that will mean the future of our civilisation is untenable. It really isn’t a battle at all; not something we can win or lose. It’s just a tragedy. But regarding the survival of our civilisation – yes, I am quite pessimistic; although for many species, if they can survive the relatively short and undoubtedly messy period of our demise, this may turn out to be a net positive. If we manage to destroy much more than we already have (and we have done it in such a very short time) then it isn’t only humanity that will disappear, but much else besides. It seems such a waste; planets that sustain life are so rare, and we are fucking this one up just for short-term gain. Just for social status or money or transitory pleasure, or for convenience.

 

How do you feel about ageing?

 

I don’t mind about my own ageing… or perishing. Well, actually I quite like it. I have no desire to be young again. I detest the idea of eternal life as promoted by various religions, and more scientific methods of prolonging or preserving life such as cryogenics send a shiver along my spine. I very much hope that death is nothingness.

 

What does age do to you, apart from the obvious?

 

I’ve become less grumpy and cross the older I’ve become. I’m certainly happier now than I was in my 20s or 30s. I’ve become more fatalistic but also more accepting of the futility of existence.

 

Age often comes changes in approach, which brings me to drugs. I understand you had a liking for magic mushrooms – when did you stop and why? 

 

I used to be very interested in drugs and how they change your perceptions and emotions, how they can affect your mood and your senses. I haven’t tried everything by any means – new things seem to be conjured into existence all the time – and although I’ve had some unpleasant experiences I don’t think I’ve been damaged by any of them. And – I haven’t stopped taking magic mushroom; for me they’re very much a seasonal thing, and I’m a picker-and-eater, so I have to wait until late autumn and for when the weather is right, so lots of rain, but not too recently, a good drying wind, and I have to go somewhere where they grow. I moved to the south coast of England recently and I can’t find them anywhere. It’s not for want of looking. I think the soil is too alkaline or something.  As for my other favourite, which is/was hash, I gave up smoking a couple of years ago which has completely screwed that up. I’m very familiar with the traditional tobacco/hash joint or spliff or whatever you want to call it, but without tobacco it’s very hard to judge what’s going to happen. I think maybe I’ve just got bored with it. I went through a while when I was very enthusiastic about MDMA but that seems to have faded too. I think I’m just getting old. I’m definitely buying more expensive wine these days.

 

Are they beneficial to your kind of work?

 

I’m not at all sure if drugs are an aid or a hindrance to creativity. On the whole I think probably they are a kind of benefit, but you also tend to come out with some dreadful bilge.

 

I’ve heard it said that being an artist isn’t so much an occupation, it’s more of an existence… 

 

Well yeah, I guess so. It certainly is for me. I get kind of jealous of people with actual jobs sometimes – not proper envious, but just a bit. I would quite like to be able to go home and switch off. Or go on holiday and switch off. Or be able to meditate, or anything really. Just a break would be nice. But hey ho. I guess I should count my blessings.

 

You’ve wrote that ‘Everything you’ve done has been a disaster’ – don’t you think that’s a bit extreme…

 

A bit extreme! Yes, it is. I just exaggerate for dramatic effect, darling.

 

Can I ask about your recent illustration book ‘Bad Island’ – firstly I’m inclined to think it was partly inspired by Britain… 

 

No, it’s not anything to do with the UK. The title came along a while after I’d started cutting the pictures from linoleum. An island is in many ways a microcosm, and I guess I was thinking of our planet and how it’s a very lonely, very tiny island in an unimaginably huge ocean of nothing. And islands are intrinsically intriguing, fascinating places; an island can be a kind of Petri dish where uniqueness can flourish. Or it can be a terrible prison. There’ve been loads of islands in literary history; Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, The Lord of the Flies, Web, The Island of Doctor Moreau and so on. It was partly inspired by Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, but mainly I wanted to make a book which could have been made at any time in the past or any time in the future and be understood by every human being on the planet.

 

And you’ve recently collaborated with writer and lecturer Robert McFarlane on ‘Ness’, what does he bring to your own work?

 

I’m hoping his standing in the literary establishment and the fact he teaches at Cambridge will confer a small amount of respectability on my sorry person.

 

Now onto … Radiohead… how did you first become involved with them?

 

I was trying to earn a living by hitch-hiking around the country and doing fire-breathing on street corners, and on one occasion my act was meant to be the support for a band called On A Friday who were performing in the upstairs room of a pub in Oxford called the Jericho Tavern. The band secured management that very night and a record deal shortly afterwards. I had been prevented from doing my act by the landlord who cited fire regulations, an act of callous sabotage my fire-breathing career never recovered from. Fortunately, the band renamed themselves ‘Radiohead’ and phoned me up, asking if I was any good at doing record covers. I didn’t know, but I thought I could give it a go.

 

I consider your work on ‘Hail to the Thief’ as a true masterpiece, enough so that I have hung on my walls. What’s your personal favourite work you’ve created for them?

 

That’s a hard one. I think maybe ‘In Rainbows’. Or ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, perhaps. Neither of those ended up even remotely as I’d intended, which for me’s a good thing. I did like ‘Hail To The Thief’ too though.

 

What is the process like between the band working on an album, coming to you with the concept and you producing your final work – do they give you a brief?

 

No, there’s no brief or concept. Usually I started pretty much when they did, so quite early, when they’re rehearsing and making songs and trying out ideas. I’ve worked in the studio, or quite close to it. For ‘Moon Shaped Pool’ I was working in a kind of barn that was across a courtyard from the recording studio, and we had a wire running across and some big speakers installed in the barn. That was a great painting studio. It was in Provence and it was fucking brilliant. Beautiful countryside and lots of white wine.  Sometimes Thom has some visual ideas that he’s tried to convince me of but then again, sometimes I have ideas too. Usually, we try to utilise our initial ideas, but they haven’t ever really worked. I suppose they’re a useful place to start. I frequently begin with a hollow sense of yawning emptiness and fear that I’ve run out of steam and my paltry abilities will be exposed to the harsh light of reality. It’s quite horrible.

 

Strange because your art seems to always fit perfectly with the feel or sound of what the band release… 

 

Well, that’s always good to hear. I do try. It’s probably because I’m immersed in the music throughout.

 

Have they ever rejected or been unhappy something you’ve produced?

 

There was an instance when I wanted to make giant topiary cocks out of chicken wire and astroturf for the record that became Hail to The Thief, but usually things have been pretty chill. You can read about this, as well as various other indignities in a book I made called There will Be No Quiet. Thames & Hudson, twenty-five quid. A bargain, that’s only 50p for each year of my life.

 

Obviously you listen to Radiohead, night and day. Are there any other artists you think ‘yeah, I’d do a good job of creating their artwork’?

 

I hardly ever listen to Radiohead normally. I think I overdo it while making the artwork. Well, I definitely overdo it. I kind of wish I’d done a cover for David Bowie. A lot of his later record covers were a little questionable. But then, maybe mine are, you know. It’s all extremely subjective.

 

What is your own favourite creation?

 

My favourite thing out of everything might be Hell Lane or February Holloway. And in 2007 I made a series of photographic etchings I was very happy with. Oh yeah, and I made a load of drawings for an as-yet unrealised project called Modernland. I used some of them on Thom’s record that was called Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. They were very serious, quite threatening pictures which were meant to be documents from a destroyed world. Messages from the future.

 

Are you dark by nature?

 

I’m a pussycat. Ask anyone.

 

Who do you steal from the most?

 

I’ve really done that less the older I’ve got. I used to nick off anyone, but I think particularly Robert Rauschenberg. ‘OK Computer’ was directly inspired by his work. And I tried to steal from Gerhard Richter although that was a disaster; not only was I incapable of painting like him I was also useless with oil paint. It was a humiliation, and well-deserved. But lately, not really anyone. I’m very, very into 19th century Russian landscape painters, but my own skills are negligible so it’s just a romantic dream to be able to steal from them. It’s not actually possible.

 

Are you still involved in the nuclear abolishment movement?

 

I’m involved still, I guess; if you consider making films about nuclear weapons to be ‘involved’. But I’m not a member of CND or anything like that. Along with many people my awareness of matters atomic had been kind of off the boil in recent years, but when I got asked to art direct the film ‘the bomb’ by Eric Schlosser and Smriti Keshari my deep fear came flooding back. There is no question that nuclear weapons are a truly terrible idea for a species as aggressive and idiotic as our own. It’s not if with these fucking things, it’s when. We should absolutely do everything we can to get rid of them.

 

What’s been your own experience of Lockdown?

 

Well, I’ve got quite fit because I’ve taken up long distance running. It’s quite slow running and the idea is that if you can’t talk and laugh while doing it you’re going too fast. Also I’ve been swimming a lot because I moved to the coast. Most of my paid work was cancelled or delayed or postponed so there are vast holes in my financial universe. I started a new project called The Lost Domain to try to refill the holes and also to give some work to people I know, and to raise some cash for charities, as they’ve been really hit by the consequences of the virus. So I’m working much more locally, and also quite a lot less. Essentially there are good things as well as bad that have come out of it, as far as I’m concerned. But of course, peoples’ experiences differ wildly.

 

Tell me about your next projects?

 

I don’t have anything to promote really. I’m a bit tired of working and tomorrow I’m going to go away to a place with no electricity. But eventually I will have to return to the modern world and immerse myself once more in the tepid bathwater of earning a living. To which end I’ve been working on some new screen prints. It’s taken ages because, basically, of the pandemic. During the lockdown me and my partners in the screen printing business started turning the studio into a self-contained printing workshop, which took much longer than we’d anticipated. So now, about six months later we are pretty much ready to go, and we’ve been working on some of the pictures from Bad Island; photographing the actual inked linocuts themselves, rather than the prints taken from them. So we’ll be able to show all the cut marks and so on. They should be ready in September. I’ve also been painting, although quite why, or what for I don’t really know. I guess I want to show them in a gallery, but I can’t think how at the moment.

 

Whats the latest with the Thomas Hardy stuff?

 

Yes, I’m working on a load of pictures to illustrate the poetry of Thomas Hardy, lately of Dorchester, England. He’s been dead for a long while, so he can’t object to my interpretation of his oeuvre. The edition will be published by the Folio Society, so it’ll be well fancy.

 

Theres something you cant talk about, it’s ‘utterly secret’. Obviously this is a new project with the greatest talent in the world – with Dear Thom Yorke – please tell me something…

 

I cannot tell you anything. I myself have deliberately forgotten about it until after I’ve had a bit of a holiday.

 

Stanley, Dan, thank you. 

 

 

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Lea Seydoux: “Like many actors, I have a lot of instinct, but I’m also scared, even if I often feel comfortable on a set.”

Lea Seydoux follows in a long line of sulky, petted lip and iconic French actresses, of which there are quite a few – I would argue that she’s already up there with the likes of Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche. Seydoux is a famed art-house actress (The Lobster, Blue is The Warmest Colour)  with a penchant for staring in blockbusters (James Bond).  Here, we discuss her new movie Deception, ‘a profession of faith’ based on the eponymous Philip Roth novel, and her latest collaboration with the brilliant and prolific director Arnaud Desplechin. 

 

 

The softness of your voice in Deception is striking, almost hypnotic, from the opening scene where you are facing the camera. Was it a given from the start? 

 

I have had few such a talkative roles in my career, moreover with such demanding text. Here the words had to be expressed incisively and quickly. We surely all have several voices according to different periods and situations in life. My voice in Oh Mercy! was clearly different from the one I have in Deception. In this film it is closer to mine in life. 

 

You all seem to have an erotic relationship with the text in this film… 

 

This comes from Arnaud, who has a very close relationship with literature. I think that words, language, literature are essentially erotic. I am convinced that creation in general has a close relationship with eros. It’s a libidinal transformation. And this is the case in Deception. Throughout his films Arnaud narrates feelings supported by the text.

 

 

It is also a sensual film, as close as possible to faces and bodies. Did you feel enveloped by the camera and the light? 

 

I wasn’t exactly aware of the work the camera was doing while I was acting, but I loved working with the DP, Yorick Le Saux, who brought so much energy. There was such a special energy on this shoot. When you work with Arnaud, you want to espouse his cause. The actors he directs are thrilled on set. At his side, we feel transcended. He manages, with great youthfulness, to infuse a childlike excitement on set. His enthusiasm is contagious. He has fire in him and manages to communicate it to you. It’s as if he was handing us the torch. Then it’s up to us to seize it and make it blaze. Under his gaze we want to give the best. Arnaud inspires me enormously. In addition, he has the gift of choosing subjects that fascinate me. 

 

Can you say more? 

 

I like the way he talks about feelings. I especially like his viewpoint, his subjectivity. At his side, I feel I’m learning as much about cinema as about life, one not being distinct from the other. Thanks to him I have understood that one thing always goes with its opposite. That is why he doesn’t blame his characters, even those whose behaviour is reprehensible. He is always looking for their humanity. This was at the very heart of Oh Mercy! And it’s also the case in Deception. We can discuss the fact that adultery is immoral, but Arnaud films the love between my character and Philip. He always manages to make humanity triumph. His films never moralize; feelings always prevail, which gives dignity to the characters. I think that’s wonderful.

 

What was your feeling when you read Arnaud Desplechin and Julie Peyr’s screenplay?

 

I had the feeling of understanding the film immediately. And it was the same thing on set: when Arnaud gave me directions, I knew instantly what he wanted, it was evident… Sometimes it only takes one sentence in a screenplay for you to understand the whole film, a sentence around which the film revolves. In this case, it’s the final sentence, when my character says to Philip: “Because it was so tender…. unless I was mistaken.” He tells her no, she wasn’t mistaken. The whole film is in these two sentences, there’s no misunderstanding, tenderness did exist between the two of them. This sentence is related to the beginning of the film, where she asks him if he feels the same way she does. There are often misunderstandings in love. Here, both of them agree at the end: they did understand each other. By the end of the script, I was in tears! And I was in the same state when I played that scene. Our world cruelly lacks tenderness. Yet tenderness has to do with giving, with generosity. It’s overwhelming. And there are many such scenes in the film. 

 

Were you familiar with Philip Roth’s world before shooting this adaptation? 

 

I discovered it thanks to Arnaud. Roth is both vulgar and poetic. It seems to me that paradox runs through his oeuvre. This is probably why he is so fascinating to so many. 

 

 

 

 

 Did you work differently with Arnaud Desplechin on this film than on the one before? 

 

I was almost more intimidated on Deception than on Oh Mercy! It seems to me that it was the opposite for Arnaud. I thought he was more confident on this one. 

 

We perceive you as a tightrope walker in this film, constantly between two states, often overwhelmed by emotion… 

 

I played this woman as if she was on the edge of a precipice and that’s how I felt on set. I was very shy during this shoot. I was so exposed… My character offers herself: this woman is in love. You feel very vulnerable when you’re in love. Because you want to be loved in return, you expect something. So I felt very fragile. My smiles are a way of masking my distress and emotion. Playing a lover is daunting. 

 

What did you tell yourself about your character, who has no first name? Did you secretly give her a name? 

 

In the screenplay she’s referred to as “The Lover”. It’s as if the characters were conscious of being characters… Because apart from Philip and Rosalie, no one is named in the story. Philip is like a sun around which everyone orbits. My character is neglected by her husband. We sense a great loneliness in her. She is a woman who doesn’t work, she’s financially dependent on her husband and therefore not free. “Without income you don’t have dignity,” she says. This sentence summarizes her situation, her state. I see her as an imprisoned woman. Her lover is her escape. 

 

Did her sophisticated look, her meticulous outfits, her stylish hair help you find the core of her character? 

 

I blended with this character quite naturally. I could dress like her in life. I wear some of my clothes in the film and bought some of the costumes after the shoot! The costume designer, Jürgen Doering, who has worked for Saint-Laurent, has beautiful taste. I loved wearing the clothes in the film, I felt very at ease in them. They are both chic and comfortable. 

 

What kind of acting partner is Denis Podalydès? 

 

He is firstly a man with whom I absolutely love to have conversations in between takes. We got on very well. He is as inspiring as Arnaud can be, and like him knows how to open up new perspectives. He’s also attentive, caring, strong. He is a theatre actor, his feet on the ground, he’s earthy. This was precious to me, as I was playing a febrile character. 

 

Did Arnaud Desplechin direct you together? 

 

He gave each of us different indications. Arnaud is great actor’s director, the greatest perhaps. Being directed by him is an immense pleasure. He is as intelligent as he is sensitive. 

 

Denis Podalydès says he had the feeling that you were always one step ahead of him… 

 

Is it because I never know what I’m going to do before the camera starts rolling? It can be destabilizing for my partners. I can go through peaks and abysses, which no one is aware of but me. I feel like a wild animal, one that hasn’t allowed itself to be tamed and which, emotionally speaking, has no reference point. Like many actors, I have a lot of instinct, but I’m also scared, even if I often feel comfortable on a set… although sometimes not. So I too am one thing and it’s opposite! 

Were you inspired by the sets, the 80s accessories? 

 

The sets are sensual and vibrant. I liked their “French charm”, while the action is set in England. Arnaud embodies French elegance! 

 

Did this experience trigger some inner change in you? 

 

I feel as if this was my first role as a woman and that I am in synch with my age, with my own life. I wouldn’t have been able to play this part five years ago. My experience in life nourished me for this film.

Horace Panter: “Our message was serious but our music was uplifting”

The Specials emerged from an era of British music like few others; one that combined the influences of both homegrown political dissidence and Jamaican dance-house music. In the late 1970s, The Specials produced the first and finest combination of multi-racial (and also collaborative) music that the UK had ever seen, inventing the term ‘Two Tone’ in the process. Many since then have tried to hold the cue, but few have managed to do so or execute with such originality. I do doff my hat to those who have tried. In terms of being related to the quality of ‘ska’ music The Specials dealt (and continue to deal) in,  I can only raise the name of the Fat White Family, a band who seldom sound in the same genre, but do very much carry the energy, wave of originality, popular tunes, humour, and indeed political messages of The Specials. The common political message can be left up to the reader to decide. 

Horace Panter was in the Specials and played Bass in their original and current line up. These days, he’s very eager to get The Specials back touring (COVID forgiving) and also spends his time working with his own Pop-Art, adapting to being a ‘technophobe’, whilst also on the verge of being a grandfather. Felten Ink caught up with Mr Panter to discuss such matters. 

 

Horace, what is the difference between being a ‘musician’ and an ‘artist’? 

 

Being a musician gives instant feedback. If you’re doing good, an audience applauds or your bandmates acknowledge you. If you’re doing bad, you know about it pretty quickly too. There is a lot of adrenaline involved! With painting, the satisfaction and contentment is something internal. I guess, to use a pop psychology word, it’s ‘mindful’. The validation from an audience comes more slowly but it is there. I get a kick every time someone buys one of my paintings.

 

To me your own artwork looks like it would come under the term ‘pop art’? 

 

Yes, I’d say I follow the Pop tradition. I take everyday objects and paint them, elevating the mundane. Andy Warhol had his soup cans, I have my cassettes, Japanese Vending Machines, American diners. I don’t mind people putting structure around my work – it doesn’t affect how or what I paint.

 

Do you look at everyday things and feel the need to make something?

 

I look at all genres of art (which is why I miss being able to go to galleries/exhibitions). Everything inspires me: it could be a colour or a shape or an object that suddenly takes on a specific meaning that I think could be transferred to a painting. A fellow artist once said to me ‘lots of people can draw/paint to a level that is extraordinarily but, as an artist, you have to have an idea’. I’d say it’s far harder to have an idea than it is to be technically brilliant. I don’t want to follow trends in art though I’m aware of them. I guess my strongest influences come from Pop Art, given that I was a child of the 60s when everything ‘cool’ came from across the pond: pop music, art, fashion. I love Peter Blake’s work but he was also influenced by American Pop culture.

 

What has being a musician taught you (if anything) about your own exploration into making your own art – to me your artwork doesn’t seem too personal?

 

As a musician, I’m a team player. I need a drummer and other musicians to create my music; it’s collaborative. I always refer to my art as ‘my solo album’. The work stands or falls on its own merit and by my own efforts. I have done a few pieces of ‘personal’ art but I keep them for myself!

 

I would love you to share some… I’ll keep it a secret, I promise. When is the best time for you to work, create, and why?

 

I prefer to paint in the daylight (natural light) which has been difficult with the short winter days. After walking the dog I spend most of the day in the studio but I do go out to see my printer or framer a couple of times a week. I try to take a break at weekends but if I’m on a roll, that often goes out of the window. The painting itself dictates how I work I guess.

 

It seems to me there are perhaps few other modern bands continuing the work of The Specials. Do they exist?

 

Where are the new Specials? I think various aspects of The Specials are observable in a lot of British music – the reggae/ska influence, the dance style, but nothing has come that close. Jerry (Dammers) once said he thought that Galliano were like The Specials. There are, of course, bands that, lyrically, resemble the band, but I think our USP was the message and the dance. Our message was serious but our music was uplifting.

 

I once read you saying nice things about Sleaford Mods (not my bag, to be honest).  Personally, I think Fat White Family are one of the greatest bands currently on earth who at least share the attitude of a band like The Specials. What else is are you into musically?

 

I’m not familiar with Fat White Family – I’ll look them up – but Terry thinks highly of them. I thought the Sleaford Mods were mesmeric performers and it was great to have them on tour with us. I don’t listen to too many new acts (where do you find them these days if you don’t have Spotify… I don’t because I’m a bit of a technophobe!). I think my vast knowledge of rock’n’roll is something of a millstone around my neck. Everything I hear seems to sound like something else – spot the influence if you will. I have tickets to see The Drive By Truckers in June in London, re-scheduled from last year… I hope they play. Bands send me stuff on social media and, now and again, I prick up my ears and listen to a song all the way through. These days I’m quite impatient, if it sounds generic in the first few bars, I’m gone. I’m not cynical, maybe just have too many tunes in my head already!

 

I first got into the Specials in the days of indie dance floors back in my late teens/ early 20s (a long time ago now). Why do you think The Specials continue to be so important for newer generations? 

 

Well, firstly: The tunes are great. The lyrics are easy to sing and are still relevant. The rhythms are irresistible. The live shows are full on – 100% full tilt celebration. Got your ticket for the 2021 gig yet?

 

Not yet, but… How has this ongoing lockdown treated you and have you been able to develop or at least maintain yourself as an artist, i.e. your own artwork and with the band?

 

All the Specials’ work for 2020 was rescheduled for 2021. Then, even our 2021 tour was put back from March/April to September/October. Between the lockdowns I did three small gigs, two with a Cajun/Zydeco outfit and one with a Blues band. They were all great and made me realise how dependent I am on performing as a release. During this current lockdown I’m one miserable mother-fucker. There’s only so much you can practice playing the bass! Art-wise, I’ve never been busier. There are new projects and new opportunities, making it an exciting time. Counter-intuitively, people have still been buying art, which is great for me. I’ve managed to paint a whole new series of cassettes which will be exhibited in the next couple of months. Obviously, the exhibition will be virtual which takes some of the fun out of it as it’s nice to build up to a physical exhibition and to meet people at the opening. Nothing is as usual though is it? I stay home, walk my dog in the countryside twice a day and do everything I can to stay sane!

 

What has this current situation given you that normal life would have restricted? 

 

We (my wife and I) moved house a week before the first lockdown, from Coventry to a small village in Warwickshire. Love it. We have spent our time since then exploring the area, finding remote places to walk the dog (border terrier called Mijj!), had builders in, who have been great company… builders always are aren’t they! As well as concentrating on painting, I’ve had lots of time to read and think. Our son and daughter-in-law moved from South London to Warwick just before Christmas. It is a huge frustration that we can only see them in a socially-distanced situation, so no long boozy dinners together! I miss playing Blues/Cajun/Zydeco in pubs. Socialising in general. Visiting museums and art galleries. I was planning a road to trip to visit friends in the USA so god knows when that will be possible!

 

I don’t want to spend too much time on COVID but as it’s affecting everyone – what are your own thoughts on how the UK is dealing with it? Will we get back to normal (I tend to think aside from pubs and gigs, normality was overrated)?

 

I don’t think there was a single country in the world that was prepared for the virus (except perhaps Taiwan). We had to make it up as we went along didn’t we. There were always going to be conflicting interpretations of scientific data and weighing up the economic consequences. I don’t think we’ve felt those consequences fully yet. The performing arts industry has been decimated. The current debacle about musicians/performers needing permits to perform in Europe is a farce that needs to be fixed. Maybe bands like The Specials can take that on the chin, given they have a management structure capable of sorting all that out. It is young bands and musicians (including choirs, small opera companies, etc) that will feel it as they often go out on a shoestring budget and they won’t be able to absorb the extra costs. I’m just hoping to play in pubs again!

 

I’m now in my mid-30s and feel it – does one chill out more as they get older – You’re 67 now so what does age do to you?

 

Haha! It makes me jealous of anyone who is 30 years younger! Stuart Copeland once said to me “musicians stay younger longer” – I hold to that thought constantly!! Less angry, sure. More chilled, sure. Without the mist of anger I have been able to think more deeply about things like politics… I’m less reactive and more contemplative. I look for context in everything, despite the fact that context is often obscured. I see that MSM and social media are designed to make me angry so I back off. I’m going to be a grandfather this year and that gives me a deep sense of joy. The personal stuff, family, friends, etc., is the important stuff. 

 

In terms of your artwork, I love your cassette art in particular – how do you choose who to stick on there. I was thinking you should do a mixtape version and link to a playlist on Spotify… with the help of the one they call ‘Alexa’? 

 

With the cassettes there are self-imposed boundaries. Circa 1970 – Circa 1995 are the boundaries. Having said that, more bands are recording and releasing cassettes as they have achieved a kind of iconic status. All the cassettes are the same dimensions. The interesting bits are small, overlooked factors like the screws (do they have screws?), or the window. Are there numbers folded into the front place under the window? (what use were these anyway?). These small factors inform how the cassette looks. Yes, I only do bands I like. No way would I do an Abba cassette – or Queen! Don’t even mention Queen! Having said that, my new series doesn’t feature bands/songs; it celebrates the object alone and I’ve concentrated on design/colour. The idea of Alexa scares me shitless!

 

I agree with you on ABBA, God forbid Alexa decided to play me that. Are you ever bored with making music?

 

Never! Music is such a wonderful thing to be able to perform. I can’t possibly imagine my life without it. Now and again I get fed up with a painting I’m doing so I’ll put it aside or scrap it. I never get fed up playing music!

 

Are you cynical about older bands getting back together to tour or make new music? I don’t wish to be crude, but making money is important – thoughts?

 

Well, at my age, I ain’t in it for the travel and I do have a family to support. I would by lying to you if I said that the money didn’t matter. You might be surprised that I still have a mortgage and I don’t have a pension plan, or even a new (or old) BMW! I have never been close to being a millionaire, more’s the pity haha! My accountant says that in a good year I make about the same as the average builder. The Specials is a big band with a large crew, the cost of doing a tour is eye-watering. Regardless, I love it! Being with Terry (Hall) and Lynval (Golding) and the gang is like being with family… we have decades of history!

 

Interview with Horace Panter – January 2021. To be continued…

www.horacepanterart.com

Abdel Bendaher: “I tend to observe a lot and am careful to not be noticed”

Samir Guesmi’s directorial feature debut is described as being a ‘rites of passage’ in which a father and son will slowly grow to know and understand each other when ‘botched robbery’ and the need to satisfy older friends offer no end of conflict. Newcomer Abdel Bendaher plays Ibrahim, a youth hell-bent on finding himself and others at the same time. Here, Abdel Bendaher answers some questions about the role itself, working with director Samir Guesmi and finding his own feet in when dipping his toes into the world of filmmaking. 

 

Abdel, How did you end up being a part of this project? 

 

It was a bit of an eventful Sunday for me and my friends: we went to watch a friend – totally outclassed by older players – play a football match. At half time we dropped our ball near the spot where Samir Guesmi was. I felt he was staring at me. With his motorcycle helmet in hand and big as he is, we thought he was a cop! He introduced himself, and explained he was a director and actor. We didn’t believe him. He had to show us his Wikipedia page with a photo before we took him seriously. Then he asked if he could film us. Weeks went by and Christel Baras, the casting director, contacted me. I did a test with her first, then more casting sessions. I gave myself completely each time, because I felt the pressure mounting and I wanted to believe in this. When I found out I’d got the part I was really happy! 

 

What was your relationship with cinema before this experience?

 

 I only went to the cinema to watch American blockbusters. But with my best friend we often fantasied about making a film about our friendship and the bullshit we used to come up with together. Now I’ve started to watch French cult films, I’m opening myself up to cinema and it fascinates me. 

 

Do you remember your reaction when you read the script of IBRAHIM 

I remember feeling it was really alive. I was immersed and I believed in everything I was reading. I quickly identified with Ibrahim, who is a high school student like me. He’s shy and reserved too. It was easy to project myself into this role. I liked the friendship between Ibrahim and Achilles as I much as his relationship with his father and the connection he develops with Louisa.

 

What did you tell yourself about Ibrahim? The truth? 

 

Nothing! I told myself I was going to play Ibrahim as I am. I understood that’s why I had been chosen, that I should stay as close to who I am in life to play the role of Ibrahim. I just thought he was an unlucky boy, not a victim. He wants to do things right and avoid problems, but his mate Achilles involves him in his bullshit and exerts a big influence on him. I also think he and his father love each other very much, but don’t dare tell each other. Ibrahim is a very observant character… Like me! I tend to observe a lot and am careful to not be noticed. I’m a champion at looking away if someone I’m looking at turns his head towards me. So I had no trouble finding the right attitude for Ibrahim, and Samir helped me a lot too. He guided my gaze, sometimes even during scenes. 

 

How did Samir direct you, in other respects? 

 

He told me to not act, to be natural. The fact that he himself is an actor helped me. During the first weeks we shot the scenes in Ibrahim’s and his father’s apartment. They were complicated scenes, because their relationship is complicated. The first days, Samir didn’t want to talk to me. He had warned me that the beginning of the shoot would be tough, and he piled the pressure on me. That’s how I felt about it anyhow, and it did help me to find the right emotions for the film. At first I concentrated on my character; I was in my corner and repeated the lines to myself, I was hunched up, like Ibrahim. I quickly felt I was the character. Bit by bit I understood this was Samir’s strategy, but I didn’t hold it against him. All the more so since at the end of the first week he came to talk to me and explained why he had talked to me so little at first. Little by little I started to feel more at ease with everyone. 

 

Did you manage to forget the camera?

 

Only after several days. I got used to it gradually. I also had to get used to the crew, I was a bit overwhelmed by all these people around me. What helped me was being invited to participate in the location scouting. I got to know some technicians and quickly felt accepted. But on set, I was intimidated. It was really intense, and I felt there was no room for mistakes. I didn’t know that films were made like that. I thought you shot in front of a green screen with dialogues written on cards! Those first days were crazy – hallucinated the first few days: no comparison! 

 

How did you find your character physically? Did the wardrobe help… the chapka hat for example?

 

Yes, even if at the beginning I thought that the shoes I had to wear were lousy! These must have dated from the time of Louis XVI, these trainers! I swear to God! I wore a chapka hat, a coat, had a green bag… At first when we shot the scenes at the high school, with kids around us who hadn’t necessarily understood we were shooting a film, I was a little ashamed in these ugly clothes! But it allowed me to feel like Ibrahim. The chapka hat physically defines his character. He wears it all the time, he’s attached to it. When Ibrahim takes it off the people who look at him feel they are discovering a new face. 

 

Did you see Samir’s short film, C’EST DIMANCHE! before the shoot? 

 

This short film helped me. It doesn’t describe the same father-son relationship but it gave me clues. 

 

How did you work with the other actors? 

 

They were all older than me and had experience on films. They acted like big brothers and sisters to me. They helped me a lot and made me feel at ease, by rehearsing my lines with me between takes, for example. 

 

Were you able to leave this role easily? How did you emerge from this first film experience? 

 

When I went back to school after filming, I was shyer than before, as if Ibrahim had rubbed off on me. But that changed quickly, particularly when I was back with my friends. It’s funny, because at the beginning, I was in a hurry for this shoot to be over with. But at the end, I was sad and wanted to start again as soon as possible. I really want to carry on acting. I know how lucky I was to have met Samir. I’ve always loved the idea of trusting my destiny. Samir arrived at the right time: I had bad grades in third grade, I wasn’t sure which way to head. This film has changed everything for me. I’m like a new person, in a way, thanks to this film. It is also the first step towards the professional world. When I finished the shoot, I was a bit proud of myself, without having become big-headed. Just proud to have taken on a challenge and to have been able to play a part in a beautiful film.

With thanks to the lovely people at Wild Bunch. 

 

Deji Ijishakan: “I felt like I had to act like Zarathustra in a sense… just go to war with ideas”

Deji Ijishakan is a 21-year-old jazz musician from south London, his primary instrument being the tenor saxophone. Over a relatively short time he’s developed an eclectic and unique musical personality, infusing his passion for philosophy into his music, and forging an entirely new subgenre he calls jazz-drill. He plays in a number of jazz and fusion bands including Levitation Orchestra, Nihilism and Hypernova Militia. Over the lockdown he’s started releasing his own solo work under the name Xvngo. Ashwin Tharoor sat down with Deji to talk about his music, philosophical influences and new projects.

 

Deji, Xvngo [Shango] is your stage name, right? Where did that come from?

 

It actually originates from a Yoruba god, an Orisha in the Yoruba tradition. They have their own their pantheon and like, Shango was the god of thunder, fire and willpower. I was inspired by that.

 

How was your lockdown?

 

It’s been really up and down you know. I’ve had some really high moments, like for instance I just started releasing my music under the alias Xvngo, as a solo artist. I also finished my degree, got into the Masters I wanted to do and started a business. At the same time, in other areas it’s been quite negative. I know someone quite dear to me who’s been affected by coronavirus. I’d definitely say it’s been more positive than it has been negative.

 

That’s good to hear.

 

I think it’s good to go through some difficult times, because it makes you stronger, psychologically.

 

So, when did you start playing music?

 

I’ll never forget my earliest memory engaging with music, I think I must’ve been like 8 or 7 years old. It was on a laptop, not a music programming laptop or anything like that. There was this programme on there, for a game or something. I remember there being a wizard involved. I remember playing on a keyboard that allowed you to play [music] with the keyboard of the laptop. Testing sounds and being like, oh wow, what is this!

 

Did you have any big musical influences in your family or at home?

 

Funnily enough, one of my uncles is a saxophone player. And my dad forced me to play the keyboard when I was quite young, and at first, I was against it. Even though I must’ve shown him some type of musical inclination. But yeah, he wanted me to play and I was rebellious at first but then I really got into it and began to love it. So, my dad was a big musical influence, and then growing up throughout secondary school I was very much involved in music.

 

What about your first musical love, in terms of an artist or a band?

 

The first really profound musical love I had was for John Coltrane. I’d say when I learnt about Charlie Parker, I was like, wow, this is amazing. I was about 13 years old, so I was quite lucky to be introduced to bebop music. The way that I got into bebop is quite funny. I’d been playing the piano up until I was 13, and I used to go to this mentorship. And, at the time I listened to a lot of hip-hop music and my mentor looked at all the music I was listening to and he was just cussing me out for like an hour, and he was telling me I need to stop listening to this stuff.

 

What was he cussing you out for?

 

Like, he has quite a conservative taste in music, listens to Ben Webster and that type of thing. He said like anything after the 1980s is almost sacrilegious music (laughs), you know what I mean? But yeah, he was cussing me out for listening to like MGK, Giggs, Waka Flocka Flame, even Jamie Fox.

 

Sounds like he didn’t like hip-hop at all.

 

Yeah, he was very anti-hip-hop. And then after that, out of fear, I started listening to some jazz music. And I was like, you know, I really like this. Once I’d been introduced to it in that way I really began to fall in love with it. Then I started playing the clarinet. But when I found Charlie Parker as a result of this awakening, this jazz awakening, it really blew my mind. I couldn’t believe someone could make a sound like that, like a human being. I really couldn’t even comprehend. Now that I play bebop, and I can take the lines and I can play it, it’s kinda different. But when you’re standing completely beholden to it…

 

With no conception of how it’s made…

 

Yeah, it’s just so sublime. And then time went on, I kept on listening to jazz, and I found John Coltrane. It was beyond sublimity with Coltrane, because you could just see a man on a journey with music. And, he’s just leaving everything else behind, he doesn’t care about anything. He’s almost channelling – like he’s a vessel for his own unconscious mind. All the potential things in his brain, that he could release, to do with music. Like he’s trying to exhaust his whole potential musically. Which is such a beautiful thing to see.

 

I really like the way you put it. So, which jazz musicians do you really like on the scene today?

 

Well I’d say in terms of modern guys, I’d say like Joe Armon-Jones. I love his music; I play with him as well. Moses Boyd as well, really good music, KOKOROKO, Wonky Logic just put out some music. There’s hella people, Ezra [Collective]. And then you got other people like Levitation Orchestra, PYJÆN. I really like Empirical, another modern UK jazz band. There’s a lot of heads lying about doing some sick stuff, taking all different angles towards the music.

 

So as far as I know, you’re in four bands? Hypernova Militia, Levitation Orchestra, Nihilism and KOKOROKO? Is that last one correct?

 

Yeah, I’m not a member of KOKOROKO, but I play with them. I’m in the KOKOROKO family, but I wouldn’t call myself a member. But the other three yeah, I play in all of them.

 

Are they all active at the moment?

 

Hypernova’s active, Levitation Orchestra’s got some music coming out, Nihilism we’re gonna be getting in the studio to record an album.

 

Nice! I’ve seen Hypernova and Levitation Orchestra live and they were both amazing, but how would you differentiate the styles of the bands that you’re in?

 

With Hypernova, I’m the band leader, and the whole mission of Hypernova is one big philosophical, comical, abstract, absurdist, mess.

 

It’s off the rails.

 

The way that I approach that is gonna be way more primitive, and like almost letting your unconscious mind take control of the whole situation, whereas with Levitation Orchestra I’ll take a backseat. With Levitation Orchestra we’re all trying to write music together, so I’ll just try to contribute to the collective composition, as opposed to trying to drive it all. And with Nihilism as well it’s very collaborative, and a whole other sound world from Hypernova – which is typically bebop. The funny thing is we’re now putting the drill music with the bebop. On our EP there’s gonna be a drill track where we’re playing on it. First drill track with live horns.

 

That sounds sick, tell me more about jazz drill? And your new single Entropy?

 

Jazz-drill really started with me and Matt from Harris Westminster [our Sixth Form]. At university in first year, when I had my saxophone, I’d be hanging out with people but I’d also wanna practice and they’d be playing drill music and so I’d just play over the changes. And then, I was like, let me just keep doing this it’s good fun, it’s different. Now it’s become a thing of its own and I’m just trying to make as much of it as I can.

One thing I appreciate about being an artist and putting out music, is you can just superimpose anything you’re experiencing or anything you find interesting into the general story behind the music, the artwork, or the name of it. With Entropy, it’s a nod at this thing called the free energy principle. It’s a neuroscience theory that says your brain is an inference machine, so your brain is always trying to make predictions about reality. Once you have a system making all these predictions, it means that entropy will play a role in it. What entropy is, the 2nd law of thermodynamics, is that we’re constantly moving towards more disorder. We’re constantly moving into more micro-states than previously were. Now as a statistical machine, what does it mean for you to be moving into more micro-states, moving into more disorder? It when there’s a prediction error, it’s when the statistical machine predicts something but then is surprised when the information it gets doesn’t marry up with what it was supposed to get.

[Neuroscientist] Karl Friston has been using mathematical equations behind thermodynamics and entropy to apply it the brain, but there’s just so many implications behind it. There are even implications for psychedelic drug use. There’s this thing called the entropic brain hypothesis made by this dude called Robin Carhartt-Harris doing research at Imperial [College] about this right now. Saying how psychedelics increase the entropy of the brain, and that’s why it can help people with depression.

 

That’s really interesting. How did those ideas inform the music, if at all?

 

I don’t know if I could say that I consciously felt it informing it, but once I’d made the music, I feel like it represented that. And the music that I make is always in some way gonna be related to whatever I’m reading or whatever I’m thinking about.

 

Was there any particular inspiration for how you incorporate philosophy into your music?

 

I mean, Mr. Stone [from Harris Westminster] used to teach philosophy of music (laughs). But I can’t really think of any artists off the top of my head who used to incorporate philosophy directly into their music. I just felt like doing it, I just felt like it had to happen.

 

What do you want people to feel coming way from your gigs? Especially Hypernova, which I guess is the most…

 

Visceral!

 

Yeah!

 

I want them to feel confused, I want them to feel entertained, want them to feel like they may be learnt something. I want them to feel like they need to start questioning the way they view reality.

 

What else do you like to listen to, other than jazz?

 

I love classical music. I love Beethoven, Bach, Shostakovich, Vivaldi, I love Vivaldi. I love Stravinsky as well. Other than jazz music, I mainly listen to classical music. Listen to some dub, listen to some drill music. But I also listen to some indie rock stuff, I listen to whatever I’m feeling.

 

Yeah, nice! You gotta have a mix. What’s on the horizon for you, in terms of new music you’re making or releasing?

 

Hypernova records the EP this weekend, that’s gonna be released sometime before I die. (Laughs)

 

Fingers crossed.

 

In terms of my solo project I’ve always got music coming out. I’ve got another single coming out in the next three weeks. You can always rely on me to have a single coming out.

 

I know you’re an avid reader of philosophy, but when did that start?

 

When we were at Sixth Form, I was into philosophy but I never really read it properly. Mr Stone actually inspired me quite a lot. And from then on, I was very much into metaphysics, Plato, Kant as well. Having that philosophical viewpoint helped me when I got to university, but I think my real engagement with philosophy started when I started watching Rick and Morty. There was a period in my life, I think Year 13, when I used to believe a load of these crazy theories, like some batshit crazy theories. Then I remember watching Rick and Morty, and seeing Rick and seeing how much he only allowed what he believed to be dependent on logic, rationality, reason and science. That kind of broke down a lot of the way that I was perceiving things. From then on, I was introduced to Existentialism and Nihilism and started getting into Nietzsche. When I got to university, I was like I’m just gonna read as much as I can. I just devoted myself to it. I read Thus Spake Zarathustra and that changed my life.

 

How did it change your life?

 

For me, after I read that book, I felt as though anything that was some trouble or something that caused me pain, it felt more like a war. Like a righteous war. Because after reading Thus Spake Zarathustra, I felt like I had to act like Zarathustra in a sense, and like just go to war with ideas. That helped me ground myself philosophically and intellectually.

 

Since you’re the band leader of Hypernova Militia, how do you incorporate philosophy into the music live?

 

There are several ways that I do it. There are some commands that I do, I give the band commands. Some of them would be stupid shit like, ‘quantum spin’ and then everyone spins around or like ‘roid rage’ and then everyone plays this mad music. But then also I’d just randomly get on the mic and say some philosophical passages. Whenever I feel like it, within songs. I also say some political stuff like ‘free the market’ (laughs). But like, there’s philosophy always being drawn throughout the whole thing.

 

In terms of improvisation on the sax, is there a particular way you approach it? Feel free to get technical, or spiritual.

 

For me, playing the saxophone is so therapeutic. It allows me to escape into myself and let my unconscious mind just be expressed aesthetically, artistically. At first, whilst I was learning how to play the saxophone, there was various ways I would approach it technically. You know you have to learn your scales, gotta learn the harmony. But even the way that I approach harmony, I see the whole thing as one big game. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, or like a maths problem. Harmony, composing, improvisation as well.

 

When I play music with other people, I often feel a kind of metaphysical, mind-melding connection. How do you feel about that?

 

I get what you mean, there definitely is a metaphysical component to it. There’s the band right, but there’s the non-physical, non-temporal elements of the band, you know? Even if you killed every single member of Hypernova, as an idea it would still exist. Like, the meaning behind you guys playing together, and obviously the idiosyncrasies of the musicians themselves. Personally, when I play in a group setting it’s all about listening. Trying to produce something that’s conversational.

 

As someone who performed live so much are you itching to get back out there?

 

It has been a while, but one good thing about the whole lockdown is I could just focus on being in my room and studying and going on all these other intellectual journeys. So, I was able to explore that part of myself even more, and almost forget about performing. But then also, I really wanna perform. Human desires are really all muddled up.

 

How do you feel about the government’s response to the whole music industry?

 

(Laughs) I think they tried…We can’t spend an unfathomable amount of money on any project, any domestic policy, because it will cause problems for the economy in the future. And then people end up dying as a result of it, whether we like it or not. So, we have to be reasoned in what we do. I think they’ve given it a shot; they’ve tried. There’s always gonna be problems. We’re in unprecedented circumstances. I mean, I’m fundamentally a libertarian – stop the government from having too much power.

 

During lockdown you started a project with the slogan ‘Buy, Back, Build’, what was the name of it?

 

The name is Owó, and it means money or business in Yoruba.

 

What are your aims with this project?

 

So, we’re creating a black business directory app, so you can use the app to find your local black business, and you can also use it find venues and galleries and that type of thing. And, eventually, I’d also like to incorporate information on finance, and that type of thing. With that project, it was in response to the George Floyd death. For me, the reason why I made it was because I was like, I’m seeing people respond to this in a way I don’t think is gonna effect change in the long term.

 

What do you mean by that?

 

Just posting on social media this, posting on social media that, putting up black squares. There’s no long-term impact of this, this is all performative. People are like, I’m in solidarity, but people actually end up dying because of real economic problems. My whole approach, I don’t wanna be on the whole political thing, I’m more on the economic development approach to it. That’s why I decided to make the app. I think that many of the problems black people face in this country are class problems as opposed to race problems. And that’s an economic issue as opposed to a policy issue.

 

Do you not think they’re interconnected in a lot of ways? Policy and economics, but also class and race?

 

Policy and economics are definitely connected, but the reason why I favour an economic perspective on it is because policy is top-down, but economic development is bottom up. If you build a company, or you and your people build companies, then you can actually put money back into the community. You don’t have to wait for my man to change the law, so that he’ll give more money, you can actually do it yourself. I’m not a fan of top-down control, I’m not a fan of government getting involved in everything. So, I think the economic route is the most prudent thing to do.

 

Isn’t top down change necessary to provide the conditions in which black businesses can thrive?

 

Yeah, there do have to be some policy concessions, for instance allowing for small business owners to not have to pay ridiculous rates on licenses, and random regulations for starting businesses. Freeing up the market basically, but especially for small business owners. Yeah, we need policy change to happen, but if you take the economic route first, the policy won’t even matter to you.

 

Finally, what would you say to the thousands of young musicians coming up now, trying to do stuff and be original?

 

First thing I’d say is, listen to as much music as you can, so you can see what you’re naturally disposed towards and hone in on that. Another thing I’d say is, know that there’s gonna be times when you feel like you’re not perfect at your craft, but that’s the whole point of it. It’s the whole point of it. It’s a dialectical process, you know what I mean? You need to come up against the problems and then get through the other side. So, keep fighting the good fight, keep making that music, keep listening to music and just do your thing.

 

I think that’s about it. Thanks a lot for chatting with me.

 

My pleasure bro.

 

You can follow Deji on Instagram at @xvngo and his bands:

@hypernova.militia

@levitationspacebase

@nihilismband_official

Ashwin Tharoor is a 22-year-old graduate living in London with a passion for music, writing and visual media.

Stanley Donwood: “I like staring into space and doing nothing”

Stan Donwwod

There there, there’s no getting away from it. There was no hope in hell that an interview with Stanley Donwood would be concluded without mentioning Radiohead, the band whose music he’s so brilliantly illustrated since 1994’s ‘The Bends’. Since then he’s created some of the most iconic, dystopian, beautiful yet apocalyptic visions the graphic art world has witnessed, and all to inch-perfectly fit that band’s own sound, a collaboration which continues to evolve to this day.

That being the case, my interview with the visual artist did manage to cover other topics such as drugs, ageing, planetary destruction, and his own books of design and visuals which he seeks to ‘be understood by every human being on the planet’. 

 

I understand you like a glass of white wine, hopefully you’re having one now.

Stanley, speaking as someone who is raging receder, when did you go bald and did you worry about it at all?

 

I went completely bald overnight when I was 23. I have not a single hair upon my person. I didn’t worry about it at the time and I don’t worry about it now. I think hair is stupid. And yes, I’ll have a glass of Picpoul, thank you.

 

In our first email exchange you mentioned you would be away in terms of being offline – do you need to be away from such things as the internet in order to work, focus, etc?

 

I suppose that putting a ‘vacation response’ on your email account is a modern equivalent of pinning a not to the door – ‘back after lunch’ or whatever. Being attached to the internet in its various forms has recently become very normal and seems mostly to be a positive thing; although it must be said that the effect of the internet on our public and private lives has yet to manifest itself entirely. It may be that it turns out to be inimicable to liberal democracy. Wouldn’t that be funny?

 

Pass. And for you?

 

I don’t need to be away from anything to work, or to focus (not that I’m sure I ever really do) or for anything really. Sometimes I go to places that don’t necessarily have easy access to electricity, so of course, things like the internet are much more difficult to use. Like most people I usually have a phone, but the battery runs down, and so that’s it. When I’m in places with no electricity I don’t really work very much, unless it’s just drawing or something like that, partly because when there’s no electricity there are lots of things that need doing manually and partly because I like staring into space and doing nothing.

 

Can the ‘planet be saved’ or what about civilisation? I’ve always had a notion that this thinking is our need to correct ourselves…

 

I’m sure that the planet will be absolutely fine; it’s just that we have made some small alterations that will mean the future of our civilisation is untenable. It really isn’t a battle at all; not something we can win or lose. It’s just a tragedy. But regarding the survival of our civilisation – yes, I am quite pessimistic; although for many species, if they can survive the relatively short and undoubtedly messy period of our demise, this may turn out to be a net positive. If we manage to destroy much more than we already have (and we have done it in such a very short time) then it isn’t only humanity that will disappear, but much else besides. It seems such a waste; planets that sustain life are so rare, and we are fucking this one up just for short-term gain. Just for social status or money or transitory pleasure, or for convenience.

 

How do you feel about ageing?

 

I don’t mind about my own ageing… or perishing. Well, actually I quite like it. I have no desire to be young again. I detest the idea of eternal life as promoted by various religions, and more scientific methods of prolonging or preserving life such as cryogenics send a shiver along my spine. I very much hope that death is nothingness.

 

What does age do to you, apart from the obvious?

 

I’ve become less grumpy and cross the older I’ve become. I’m certainly happier now than I was in my 20s or 30s. I’ve become more fatalistic but also more accepting of the futility of existence.

 

Age often comes changes in approach, which brings me to drugs. I understand you had a liking for magic mushrooms – when did you stop and why? 

 

I used to be very interested in drugs and how they change your perceptions and emotions, how they can affect your mood and your senses. I haven’t tried everything by any means – new things seem to be conjured into existence all the time – and although I’ve had some unpleasant experiences I don’t think I’ve been damaged by any of them. And – I haven’t stopped taking magic mushroom; for me they’re very much a seasonal thing, and I’m a picker-and-eater, so I have to wait until late autumn and for when the weather is right, so lots of rain, but not too recently, a good drying wind, and I have to go somewhere where they grow. I moved to the south coast of England recently and I can’t find them anywhere. It’s not for want of looking. I think the soil is too alkaline or something.  As for my other favourite, which is/was hash, I gave up smoking a couple of years ago which has completely screwed that up. I’m very familiar with the traditional tobacco/hash joint or spliff or whatever you want to call it, but without tobacco it’s very hard to judge what’s going to happen. I think maybe I’ve just got bored with it. I went through a while when I was very enthusiastic about MDMA but that seems to have faded too. I think I’m just getting old. I’m definitely buying more expensive wine these days.

 

Are they beneficial to your kind of work?

 

I’m not at all sure if drugs are an aid or a hindrance to creativity. On the whole I think probably they are a kind of benefit, but you also tend to come out with some dreadful bilge.

 

I’ve heard it said that being an artist isn’t so much an occupation, it’s more of an existence… 

 

Well yeah, I guess so. It certainly is for me. I get kind of jealous of people with actual jobs sometimes – not proper envious, but just a bit. I would quite like to be able to go home and switch off. Or go on holiday and switch off. Or be able to meditate, or anything really. Just a break would be nice. But hey ho. I guess I should count my blessings.

 

You’ve wrote that ‘Everything you’ve done has been a disaster’ – don’t you think that’s a bit extreme…

 

A bit extreme! Yes, it is. I just exaggerate for dramatic effect, darling.

 

Can I ask about your recent illustration book ‘Bad Island’ – firstly I’m inclined to think it was partly inspired by Britain… 

 

No, it’s not anything to do with the UK. The title came along a while after I’d started cutting the pictures from linoleum. An island is in many ways a microcosm, and I guess I was thinking of our planet and how it’s a very lonely, very tiny island in an unimaginably huge ocean of nothing. And islands are intrinsically intriguing, fascinating places; an island can be a kind of Petri dish where uniqueness can flourish. Or it can be a terrible prison. There’ve been loads of islands in literary history; Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, The Lord of the Flies, Web, The Island of Doctor Moreau and so on. It was partly inspired by Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, but mainly I wanted to make a book which could have been made at any time in the past or any time in the future and be understood by every human being on the planet.

 

And you’ve recently collaborated with writer and lecturer Robert McFarlane on ‘Ness’, what does he bring to your own work?

 

I’m hoping his standing in the literary establishment and the fact he teaches at Cambridge will confer a small amount of respectability on my sorry person.

 

Now onto … Radiohead… how did you first become involved with them?

 

I was trying to earn a living by hitch-hiking around the country and doing fire-breathing on street corners, and on one occasion my act was meant to be the support for a band called On A Friday who were performing in the upstairs room of a pub in Oxford called the Jericho Tavern. The band secured management that very night and a record deal shortly afterwards. I had been prevented from doing my act by the landlord who cited fire regulations, an act of callous sabotage my fire-breathing career never recovered from. Fortunately, the band renamed themselves ‘Radiohead’ and phoned me up, asking if I was any good at doing record covers. I didn’t know, but I thought I could give it a go.

 

I consider your work on ‘Hail to the Thief’ as a true masterpiece, enough so that I have hung on my walls. What’s your personal favourite work you’ve created for them?

 

That’s a hard one. I think maybe ‘In Rainbows’. Or ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’, perhaps. Neither of those ended up even remotely as I’d intended, which for me’s a good thing. I did like ‘Hail To The Thief’ too though.

 

What is the process like between the band working on an album, coming to you with the concept and you producing your final work – do they give you a brief?

 

No, there’s no brief or concept. Usually I started pretty much when they did, so quite early, when they’re rehearsing and making songs and trying out ideas. I’ve worked in the studio, or quite close to it. For ‘Moon Shaped Pool’ I was working in a kind of barn that was across a courtyard from the recording studio, and we had a wire running across and some big speakers installed in the barn. That was a great painting studio. It was in Provence and it was fucking brilliant. Beautiful countryside and lots of white wine.  Sometimes Thom has some visual ideas that he’s tried to convince me of but then again, sometimes I have ideas too. Usually, we try to utilise our initial ideas, but they haven’t ever really worked. I suppose they’re a useful place to start. I frequently begin with a hollow sense of yawning emptiness and fear that I’ve run out of steam and my paltry abilities will be exposed to the harsh light of reality. It’s quite horrible.

 

Strange because your art seems to always fit perfectly with the feel or sound of what the band release… 

 

Well, that’s always good to hear. I do try. It’s probably because I’m immersed in the music throughout.

 

Have they ever rejected or been unhappy something you’ve produced?

 

There was an instance when I wanted to make giant topiary cocks out of chicken wire and astroturf for the record that became Hail to The Thief, but usually things have been pretty chill. You can read about this, as well as various other indignities in a book I made called There will Be No Quiet. Thames & Hudson, twenty-five quid. A bargain, that’s only 50p for each year of my life.

 

Obviously you listen to Radiohead, night and day. Are there any other artists you think ‘yeah, I’d do a good job of creating their artwork’?

 

I hardly ever listen to Radiohead normally. I think I overdo it while making the artwork. Well, I definitely overdo it. I kind of wish I’d done a cover for David Bowie. A lot of his later record covers were a little questionable. But then, maybe mine are, you know. It’s all extremely subjective.

 

What is your own favourite creation?

 

My favourite thing out of everything might be Hell Lane or February Holloway. And in 2007 I made a series of photographic etchings I was very happy with. Oh yeah, and I made a load of drawings for an as-yet unrealised project called Modernland. I used some of them on Thom’s record that was called Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes. They were very serious, quite threatening pictures which were meant to be documents from a destroyed world. Messages from the future.

 

Are you dark by nature?

 

I’m a pussycat. Ask anyone.

 

Who do you steal from the most?

 

I’ve really done that less the older I’ve got. I used to nick off anyone, but I think particularly Robert Rauschenberg. ‘OK Computer’ was directly inspired by his work. And I tried to steal from Gerhard Richter although that was a disaster; not only was I incapable of painting like him I was also useless with oil paint. It was a humiliation, and well-deserved. But lately, not really anyone. I’m very, very into 19th century Russian landscape painters, but my own skills are negligible so it’s just a romantic dream to be able to steal from them. It’s not actually possible.

 

Are you still involved in the nuclear abolishment movement?

 

I’m involved still, I guess; if you consider making films about nuclear weapons to be ‘involved’. But I’m not a member of CND or anything like that. Along with many people my awareness of matters atomic had been kind of off the boil in recent years, but when I got asked to art direct the film ‘the bomb’ by Eric Schlosser and Smriti Keshari my deep fear came flooding back. There is no question that nuclear weapons are a truly terrible idea for a species as aggressive and idiotic as our own. It’s not if with these fucking things, it’s when. We should absolutely do everything we can to get rid of them.

 

What’s been your own experience of Lockdown?

 

Well, I’ve got quite fit because I’ve taken up long distance running. It’s quite slow running and the idea is that if you can’t talk and laugh while doing it you’re going too fast. Also I’ve been swimming a lot because I moved to the coast. Most of my paid work was cancelled or delayed or postponed so there are vast holes in my financial universe. I started a new project called The Lost Domain to try to refill the holes and also to give some work to people I know, and to raise some cash for charities, as they’ve been really hit by the consequences of the virus. So I’m working much more locally, and also quite a lot less. Essentially there are good things as well as bad that have come out of it, as far as I’m concerned. But of course, peoples’ experiences differ wildly.

 

Tell me about your next projects?

 

I don’t have anything to promote really. I’m a bit tired of working and tomorrow I’m going to go away to a place with no electricity. But eventually I will have to return to the modern world and immerse myself once more in the tepid bathwater of earning a living. To which end I’ve been working on some new screen prints. It’s taken ages because, basically, of the pandemic. During the lockdown me and my partners in the screen printing business started turning the studio into a self-contained printing workshop, which took much longer than we’d anticipated. So now, about six months later we are pretty much ready to go, and we’ve been working on some of the pictures from Bad Island; photographing the actual inked linocuts themselves, rather than the prints taken from them. So we’ll be able to show all the cut marks and so on. They should be ready in September. I’ve also been painting, although quite why, or what for I don’t really know. I guess I want to show them in a gallery, but I can’t think how at the moment.

 

Whats the latest with the Thomas Hardy stuff?

 

Yes, I’m working on a load of pictures to illustrate the poetry of Thomas Hardy, lately of Dorchester, England. He’s been dead for a long while, so he can’t object to my interpretation of his oeuvre. The edition will be published by the Folio Society, so it’ll be well fancy.

 

Theres something you cant talk about, it’s ‘utterly secret’. Obviously this is a new project with the greatest talent in the world – with Dear Thom Yorke – please tell me something…

 

I cannot tell you anything. I myself have deliberately forgotten about it until after I’ve had a bit of a holiday.

 

Stanley, Dan, thank you. 

 

 

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