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  1. Blixa Bargeld: “If everything is possible, then you don’t get very far…”

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    “Yeah, I like Billie Eilish. I can see why she is successful and why people are into it.” – Blixa Bargeld.

    I did not approach my interview with Einstürzende Neubauten frontman Blixa Bargeld expecting to find common ground when it came to the subject of Billie Eilish, nor that she would even come up. The former Bad Seed guitarist, industrial music (and Patreon) pioneer, and straight-faced straight-talking German didn’t seem like the type who’d go for that kind of thing, but there you go.

    Last year, in the midst of a pandemic, Neubauten released their 12th studio album, the brilliant and eerily listenable Alles in Allem (All in All), the band’s first since 2014’s ‘Lament’. Around that time, Blixa and his family left their home in Berlin and upped ‘temporary’ sticks to Portugal, as ‘Corona-refugees’, as he puts it.

    In another lengthy exclusive interview for Felten Ink (what else do you expect?), Blixa discussed his current life in the Algarve, cooking with a live online audience, his innovative methods of creating new material with Neubauten, his long-time relationship with crowdfunding, and his fears about more traditional forms of writing and working in general. The small matter of Blixa’s time with, and indeed departure from Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds was another topic I couldn’t resist but broach.

     

     

    The current worldly situation with regards to tiresome viruses has obviously been hard on performing artists (no touring etc) but has it had any positives for you, in terms of being able to create new music?

     

    Create music? With what? With the swimming pool?

     

    (This is from a guy who started his career making music with drills and concrete – but my courage to point  out, so early in this interview, deserted me)

    Yes, but surely you have some means of musical instruments to work with?

     

    I rented a piano. So I have a grand piano standing in the main room and I have my microphone with me for if there’s anything that just requires some vocal work. I do work remotely with my engineer in Berlin. There are technical means, which is complicated, but possible. And I think since I came in August [to Portugal], I think I’ve done three or four recordings for other artists who wanted my vocal services. Some of them require that I actually write, and some of them just want me to read some texts or sing some texts that they supply for various different projects around the world. 

    One person actually asked me to arrange the pieces of music to record things. But I have to tell them, “Look, I am in the Algarve, I have no instruments here, I have nothing… I can’t do anything like that.”

     

     

    What about new writing projects… is there an autobiography in the works?

     

    It’s not necessarily new. I had a contract with a German publisher about 10 years ago to write an autobiography and I skipped out of that a couple of years later because I simply didn’t do it. Since I have no real possibility to play music or to have any interaction with other musicians or other artists I decided, okay, what is a solitary activity that I can do? And I write but don’t necessarily write with a focus on one book or one output. I write in parallel, and I’ve been compiling all the lyrics that I have written since the last book of lyrics that I released. I’m compiling all the notes of my times between 1993 and now. 

    But it’s a pastime. I find the process of writing, as in literal literature, in writing and sitting down, kind of frightening. It’s not really a place that I want to go to. It’s because I know the last time I had writing a book, it took me a long time to get into it, and then once I was in there, I was so involved in it that it wasn’t necessarily much fun to be around me. So, I don’t think it’s necessarily a place I want to go to.

    It’s like, ‘I don’t know where this is leading me, I don’t even know what to do with this’. I don’t know if I have much more interest in actually releasing something on an international level than rather just having a German publisher. If you release something in German, it rarely gets translated into other languages, simply, that’s how the literature world is built, it’s very Anglo-Americancentric. So, I’d rather have an international publisher, and see that there is a German edition of it too, rather than having a German publisher that has absolutely no experience in exporting their products. So, I might end up doing the whole thing myself.

     

    I was very surprised to find you on social media and you broadcasting online. I don’t know why – as it does make sense given you’ve been a pioneer in terms of things like crowdfunding, Patreon, etc.

     

    Oh, yeah, I know, but my wife is running all that for me. I have never seen my Facebook page.  She’s the one filming me, she’s also the one taking care that it gets out there. She was, you know, an internet pioneer of the first hour. She invented crowdfunding. It wasn’t called crowdfunding back then. We just called it a supporter model, but she did all that. Obviously, she’s good with these things.

    Like, when was that, the late 90’s or 2000s – with Napster, when the whole digital world suddenly shook people up from their sleep. At that point, I think in 2001, we did our last record for which we had a recording contract; a classical, old-style recording contract. And after that, no record company, even for an established band, would offer you the same conditions any longer. It was all uncertain and we thought, “Well, how do we do this kind of, like, a supporter model.” You know? You start working and we film, we offer something that the porn industry offered already on the internet, fake intimacy. As for a ‘paid model’, we were all very skeptical about that, but once we had the first 500 people signing up, we realised, “Hey, this is actually working”.

    Back then, I think, if you’d say the word ‘streaming’, nobody would know what you were talking about. So, we did web shows and everything and we didn’t do streaming back then. We had USB cables running, so soon you’d end up with a wrong cable running over the courtyard because there was no internet in the backyard where our studio was. And that’s the first thing we did with all this money that came in from the people, we actually bought equipment to build a studio.

    We bought a mixing desk from German television and we brought microphones, stands, we bought all these essential things that we didn’t have before because Neubauten was very much a band that never spent any of their money on anything. We built a studio, we made a ton of records and we did Patreon. Patreon was enormously happy that we were working with them because we were the biggest selling musical act on the whole platform. So, obviously what we did back then had and does have a resonance to people nowadays, and people (laughs) in, in this, like, confinement situation, even more so.

     

    Do you think that in, say, 10 years or so time, there’ll almost be a lack of need for a record company or a studio? Everybody now is doing it themselves… 

     

    I can very much live without a record company and I could actually very much live without making a record but, I can’t really live without playing. I can’t really live without playing live. I miss that more than being able to go to a studio. But certainly of these three elements: concerts, studio, record company, I can without the last one. Studios, I mean, the way technology has influenced the output of music is obvious. The general format nowadays is a duo that sits in front of two computers, because that’s accessible to everybody. I don’t try to value that, but it’s just accessible and possible to everybody.

    You have your music program in that, you work with a computer, you produce electronic music and when you’re finished you send it out and it’s gonna be a record or it’s gonna be on Bandcamp or you actually press CDs or vinyl with it. But that’s not a way that I like to work. For me, it is necessary to work with a band in one room, playing instruments that are mainly acoustic or electroacoustic, even singing automatically makes it necessary to have a room.

     

    Indeed. So no matter what evolves in the future, the need for a group, a band setting, together, will always be a necessity… 

     

    I remember when I first worked with Alva Noto who is of course a big, big number in electronics and electronic music. It was almost a shock for him to realise that once you have a singer, that you actually need a room, that you actually need to have a microphone, that you have to have a recording studio, and that you can just sit on a headphone with a microphone and sing into a computer. That’s not working for me and for the whole process of composing for me, it is necessary to work with a band. The band is my tool to compose. I don’t come with a fixed thing, I come with ideas and I am unable to sing them to their final stage without the input of other people.

    That’s usually in the way we play together, I’d rather feel like I’m directing a play than being responsible for the whole music… I direct something.

     

    Am I right in thinking you don’t put in too much preparation before entering a studio?

     

    Since I bought my first laptop in late ’93, I made it a habit and a duty to write something everyday. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I write lyrics for songs. I write or I collect ideas, I make notes. So, I do come [to the studio] with something and I always have particular things that interested me in that I would like to try out.

     

    And this will have been the case with the latest album, ‘Alles in Allem’?

     

    With ‘Alles in Allem’ – the whole album is very, very dear to my heart. I have, with that album, deeper satisfaction with anything else I’ve done before. And I think that goes for everybody in the band. It just feels really like we’ve done the most uncompromising, beautiful thing that we haven’t done for a very long time.

     

    Tell me about your card system, a way of working with Neubauten? 

     

    Yeah, we have this one way that we like to work with which is called Dave. It’s a card system that I devised that is specific to Neubauten, specific to the people in Neubauten and it’s specific to our instruments and strategies. And usually, there are no rules, but we usually play it like everybody’s taking a couple of cards and he keeps them for himself and trying to make sense out of them, you know? Then everybody is building their station, mise en scene so to speak, and then we play and we’re all completely surprised by what everybody else is doing.

    There was one particular afternoon that we webcast where we drew the cards and started playing. And it took a very unfortunate direction, the direction was very much into, you know, ‘Music for Airports’ kind of ambiance.  And I said, “This is ridiculous, we can’t make a three and a half minute seven-inch single ambient piece!”

    That’s just contrary to the whole idea of ambient, you know, a double album, a whole CD. But what do you want? These three and a half minutes of wobbling, nice sounds? It justifies itself in, in a different format, but not in a three and a half for a single. So, I couldn’t sleep. I went home and I was really embarrassed and angry about that. So, the next morning, when I went to the studio, there was only Alex and I said, “Look, uh, I thought about this. We can’t – I, with your permission, I will try something else of that.” And then I sat down and played ‘Alles in Allem’.

     

    Video for Alles in Allem

     

    ‘Alles in Allem’ was the one song I heard which really stood out for me, quite profound. And I’ve read you saying it took some madness to compete?

     

    Yeah, that took madness to write that (laughs). 

     

    So how did you set about getting it to a place where you wanted it to be?

     

    I kept the key. I didn’t wanna go completely rogue, sort of overboard. I thought maybe this can work as an intro. As I said, I wasn’t sleeping, I was kind of, like, hypersensitive and I really came with an idea, and when I recorded, it suddenly, it was necessary for the sound engineer to readjust my headphones. So, I went out into the courtyard, outside of the studio because of my mental state. Pictures were breaking in on me, basically.

    I looked at the wall and I looked at the floor and the pictures just threw in and I stood there, writing, and I think I had it within 15 minutes. In that time I had written about 10 verses, just from the floor and the wall and what I’d seen. And then I went back in and just sorted them out and I left in the six best ones and that’s it… that’s why you have in the video also they show the floor, because that’s the lyrics. Yeah, it took a certain amount of madness to actually write that. 

     

    One thing I was really interested in about your approach in the studio is the restrictions that you place upon yourself (we’ve touched on the card system approach) – not rules as you say, but parameters to help the process? 

     

    If everything is possible, then you don’t get very far… or at least you don’t get very far quickly. I remember a very good example was, ‘Die Befindlichkeit des Landes’, a wonderful song, a great song that we rehearsed before we actually recorded. But in the rehearsal, Alex said, “No sixteenths..”.

     I don’t know why he said it, but no sixteenths. You know, whenever you sing, you, now you go, ‘da, da, da, da, no, no sixteenths’. Okay, so we kept the no sixteenths rule, and it’s a rule. But that rule actually got us through and to a point much quicker than if we would have allowed everything to happen that is possible. I don’t think I’m telling any news here, other people have found out that before me.

    But I think I have a general rule for anything connected with creativity. It’s that you first make up rules, then you follow these rules, and at some point, you break rules. You make some rules and you’re gonna be quicker. Even if you break them at some point, it doesn’t matter, you’re gonna be quicker.

    There’s a funny story that I can tell you from working with Teho [Teardo]. Teho, as a film music composer, he had lunch with Ennio Morricone. And he [Morricone] told him, “You know, you know what the trick is? The chord following. The cadence basically, doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. It’s the arranger. So, you just give a chord following and they arrange it.” And that’s great, I like that. You just make up whatever stupid chord following. If you go, “that, that’s an odd one”, and then you give it to an arranger who has to make sense out of it.

    Because a chord following itself is… everybody thinks that’s where the idea is, the idea is not in that. The idea is in what you make out of it. So, if I say, “Look, we write something in C-sharp, it’s gonna go C-sharp, D-sharp, F, F, G, C-sharp,”… anything goes, and then you give that to an arranger, you give it to other people and say, “This is it,” and, uh, then they put their teeth into it and suddenly you find out, “oh, yeah, something can be done with that stupid cadenza I just wrote”.

     

    I’ve heard you say in the past that art has to come from when you have to do something. 

     

    No, that’s not me, that’s Arnold Schoenberg who said that. Arnold Schoenberg said it in German. It’s translatable: art doesn’t come from ability, art comes from necessity. You don’t do it because you can, you do it because you have to.

     

    And has there been any period in your life when you went without ‘having to do something’? Perhaps when you felt you couldn’t or maybe it wasn’t right?

     

    Oh, yeah, I did not do a record since, well, since we did ‘Lament’ in 2014. Of course, the rest of the band kept asking me if we should continue working and do something else, and I didn’t feel like it. At the time I didn’t know if I had another record in me, I didn’t know if I wanted to do another record. In all the time we were playing, we were playing greatest hits, we were playing ‘Lament’, we were playing shows, but I didn’t feel like it. So that, it came to me one morning, in jet lag, coming back from Hong Kong and being in Berlin in bed and I just realised, I have to make another record, and I started making another record. Every now and then, I feel very much that I don’t have to do anything.

     

    Did you feel the need for a break as such?

     

    I don’t call it taking a break. I can’t really work if I don’t have the feeling that I have to. And not because of money, no. If I have to, it’s because there’s something that I need to do.

     

    Back to the latest record. I love ‘Ten Grand Goldie’, the video’s very funny. Your daughter makes a great cameo…

     

    Oh, in the video? Yeah, that’s my daughter.

     

    Does she have any opinion on your music or give you feedback?

     

    Yes, there are some things that she likes better than other things. She loves ‘Nargony Karabach’ and there are some other things that she likes, but she is like everybody that age, more into Billie Eilish than she is Neubauten.

     

    I like Billie Eilish…

     

    Yeah, I like Billie Eilish too. I can see why she is successful and why people are into it. And it’s extremely well made and extremely well produced.

     

    My wife has been playing the last Taylor Swift album nonstop to the point where I think I know most of the lyrics and it’s driving me absolutely crazy.

     

    Oh, my daughter can sing them all too. That’s fine. I would prefer her if she would do that, but unfortunately, she sings also a lot of really stupid songs that are really annoying. I remember that I asked my daughter, five or six years ago, that on one particular song that I was writing for Teho, I asked her, “So, what should I do?” And she said, “A tiger is approaching.” 

     

    Well put. You’ve said, and it seems, that on the latest album you dropped your defences a little bit, ‘becoming non-hermetic’? 

     

    Well, yeah, it’s a bit of a strategy in writing, and in terms of the, ‘to rather be cryptic and hermetic’,  I just kind of realised that I’m untouchable anyway, so… I am in a position where it really doesn’t matter anymore.

     

    Does that come with age or just experience?

     

    It comes with age, with age and resonance. People in my profession, a lot of 62-year-old working musicians would rather behave like they’re 30.

     

    I’m also keen to know more about ‘Google Monster’.

     

    Oh, in the first lockdown, I did a lot of private shows for the supporters and to one of them, I explained my technique called ‘Google monster’ which is basically Google-supported writing. So, I would write, in that case, what I explained is, I describe a creature, head to toe, with very generic, open sentences. And then I Google using these, um, roots. And, out come like, four, five solutions and then I end up with… five different monsters that from head to two are very well described. But that would be just making Google monsters.

     

     

    Werner Herzog once said that he was convinced that cooking is the only alternative to filmmaking. Do you agree? I love the fact that you’re a long-time active chef and actually do ‘shows’ for your website subscribers? 

     

    Erm, no. I think I came up with the idea of a synchronised cook, because that’s the difference to a normal cooking show. In 2002, we had one event for the supporters where we cooked together, the band and all the supporters. We made a recipe from The River Café in London which is a vegetarian pasta with tomato ginger sauce, which contains enormous amounts of ginger. But really delicious, really good. Neubauten have all worked in the kitchen and some of the supporters did the same thing and then we ate like Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper style on a long thing with the cameras in front of us so that they can eat with us.

    I cook something in real-time including the cutting and the whole preparation, and whoever wants to do it with me can do it with me. And, yeah, some people do. So, then I make a caldo verde, the basic national dish of Portugal, basically kale and potato soup. I do it in real-time and in the end, we can eat the soup together. And then of course the other element is whatever else I talk about, because I have the iPad in front of me, I see the comments, I see the questions and I play music at the same time.

     

    I’ll try and join next time.

     

    Yeah, well, you have to join my website. It’s cheap, it’s only 10 euros, so (laughs).

     

    I am a fully paid-up member now! 

    Do you have any beliefs in vegetarianism, a diet that you seem to still follow but gave up when living in China?

     

    I’m mostly vegetarian, yep. But I eat fish. But, no, people would ask, “Why are you vegetarian?” and I’d reply “Because I hate animals.” But I had no ethical background in that. I basically became vegetarian because I didn’t want to eat with my parents anymore. But it’s not that easy to go back. When I was living in China I started eating meat again because I didn’t want to deprive my wife of all the wonders of Chinese cooking. Chinese don’t eat in a way that you say, ‘okay, I order this and you order that’. You order for the whole table and then you all eat together. So, surprisingly, especially living in Beijing, it was surprisingly difficult sometimes getting things that are really vegetarian, things that are made without soup stock or made without ham, or things like that. So, well, I ate Chinese while I was in China but my body didn’t like it. So, I scrapped it again. I had developed some kind of nephritis that was gone once I stopped eating meat again.

     

    Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld circa 1985

     

    The last time I saw you on film was a documentary, you were sitting in a car with Nick Cave. Did you like the result of 20,000 Days On Earth? 

     

    I never saw that film. There are about, like, three films that I appear in every year and I never watch them.

     

    I’m a huge admirer of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and came to know you through your time in that band. How do you look back on the experience in the group? 

     

    Oh, it’s a very long ago part of my life, but the strange thing is that since I came here, I systematically went through all my daily notes – 68 volumes of notes. And I played with Nick Cave for 20 or so years and knew him before but I played with him for 20 years and so The Bad Seeds appears surprisingly little in all these notes. It almost seems to me like I was still leading a parallel life, one when I was playing with The Bad Seeds and the other one. But it was a big part of my life, that’s for sure. I’m sure it has left its scars and its traces. 

     

    And you leaving the band was unfortunate, but I suppose you had your reasons? 

     

    When I joined The Bad Seeds, I was 23 and I left the year after I got married. I had no personal difficulties with anyone in the band and artistically, I would say it was becoming more and more important to me. But I had the very clear feeling that I would be unable to balance The Bad Seeds and Einstürzende Neubauten and my marriage. There are a lot of rock star wives, they’re always the unnecessary fifth wheel in the band bus. I was in London recording ‘Nocturama’ and my wife was in an apartment that we rented in London, but she had nothing to do and I knew that  I wouldn’t be able to balance two tours, and records a year, together with my marriage.

    I was very, very unhappy with the management. After the death of that so-called manager, everybody realised that he was ripping us off, for years. Now, I can say so. But, you know, back then, I didn’t give any, explanation, I just said, “I can’t balance these things…” which is true, the management thing was very, very unsatisfactory. In the end, they found money everywhere hidden in his office, in plastic bags, so I was not paranoid, he was ripping us off.

     

    Do you still keep in touch with Nick or anyone else in the band (living, obviously)?

     

    Nick contacts me. Well, I’m meant to get a parcel today of records from Australia which I’m meant to sign and then they’re gonna get picked up by DHL again, they’re gonna be auctioned for supporting The Bad Seeds crew. But, I am still… we didn’t leave on bad terms. I didn’t leave on bad terms, it’s all fine. I still think it was the right decision for me because.. it would have been really bad for my marriage mainly. And giving up Neubauten was not an option for me.

     

    Blixa Bargeld, thank you. 

     

    Interview by Henry Jackson.

     

    If you want to join Blixa’s official ‘cook’, you can sign up via his website 

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

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    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

  3. Re: Discovering California Son

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    It’s been a year and many days since Morrissey released ‘California Son’, his tremendous ‘covers’ album where he set about repurposing some of his own personal favourite tracks. By doing so he gave older admirers as well as younger fans the chance to discover or rediscover artists and older songs we may have missed or forgotten about.

    At the time the record seemed a kind of stop-gap, a filler perhaps, which tickled a thirst I thought would only later be satisfied by a new and original record; the subsequent ‘I Am Not A Dog On A Chain’ release. Coming from an artist so virile in originality, Morrisey’s ‘California Son’ wasn’t enough for me, I thought at the time. I wanted new Moz, new lyrics, new controversy to defend, new meaning to obsess and to ponder over, new – and at the same time, older – philosophy to lust after.

    These days, the more I listen to Morrissey’s ‘Son’ (perhaps a take on Ramones’ own ‘Son’ record), and the more I listen to the originals from which the songs came, I struggle to believe what Moz has done with them. Tracks like Bob Dylan’s ‘Only A Pawn In Their Game’ stand-alone as a beautifully written tune that Morrissey manages to amplify and take to new and profound places, with the benefit of his own thundering backing band. Then there’s ‘It’s Over’, the Roy Orbison song that Morrissey again amplifies and gives fresh meaning to.  ‘Wedding Bell Blues’, even with Green Days’ Billy Joe Armstrong on backing vocals, is truly momentous, joyous, and arguably the most uplifting song our dear allegedly ‘morose’ Morrissey has ever produced.

    ‘Lady Willpower’, ‘Lenny’s Tune’ and ‘Suffer the Little Children’ again sound unrecognizable from their origins – and again, again, again –  it’s those origins and the unrecognizable brilliance on show in ‘California Son’ that younger listeners like myself have been able to discover and compare. But then with ‘California Son’ at times, there seems little to compare to, given the depth, reinvention and general majesty of the versions here. 

    The album’s final track – the cover of Melanie’s ‘Some Say I Got Devil’ – tops the lot. Needless to say, I was unaware of the original but have since listened. All I shall say is that Morrissey’s version is damning, apocalyptic, and utterly profound.

    Upon release ‘California Son’ was given the usual treatment by reviewers directed to focus, by editorial agreement, on miscontrued issues found in Morrissey’s own personal opinions, rather than musical or artistic endeavour. But the truth is, from sheer artistry, the record is up there with the man’s greatest work. A belated ‘bravo’ is in order. 

     

  4. Maziar Ghaderi: “If you criticize one side people assume you’re on the polar opposite.”

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    Maziar Ghaderi is an Iranian Canadian artist, filmmaker, producer and partner in Holding Space Films, a ‘boutique’ production company based in Toronto. Holding Space Films was founded back in 2017 by director, editor, cinematographer, and Maziar’s wife, Patricia Marcoccia.

    The company’s first feature to hit screens was entitled Shut Him Down: The Rise of Jordan Peterson, an up close look at the professor, clinical phycologist and author of the title. The film would later be developed into a longer feature length documentary, again with Patricia directing and Maziar co-producing. Released in 2019, the film is a balanced and fascinating exploration into one of modern times most polarising academics.

    I catch Maziar whilst on his honeymoon of all places, and thankfully, he’s still willing to give me his time. We chatted about his own inspirations and sacrifices as an artist, how his background as a young Iranian making the move West influences his work, and ofcourse, the process, dangers and joys of making his documentary about Jordan B. Peterson.

     

    Maziar, can you tell me about where the idea or interest to make a film about Jordan Peterson came from initially?

     

    Patricia has been a reader of his work since ‘Maps of Meaning’ (Jordan’s first book). She was also a psychology student undergraduate back then, so this is when she first came across him and his work. In 2015 she simply approached him after class to see if he’d be open to having a film he made about him. Jordan Peterson has always been a professor that students would always line up to talk to after class. He was seen as a life-changing professor throughout his time at the University of Toronto. Patricia has always been moved by his research in the psychology of meaning and this is what prompted the initial interest to do a project about him. We arranged and went over to his house to meet his wife Tammy, showed him our portfolio and the rest is history.

     

    Presumably, the controversy around the use of gender pronouns and Jordan’s rejection of Bill C16 (A Canadian bill which sought to make the use of gender pronouns mandatory)  helped the film, given the attention brought upon Jordan and subsequent ‘controversy’?

     

    Yes, I would say that that’s what’s giving him that initial global attention but I think it was actually the book that gave him a more sustainable popularity. ’12 Rules For Life’ was very well received and sold millions of copies so I think this is what made him and gave him the rise that we know today. I actually didn’t know anything about him until Patricia introduced me to him at his house. I saw him as an eccentric, an interesting guy with an open mind. He always had a very fatherly demeanour to him, with an interest to help out young people. Looking into some of his ideas, I found some of them quite compelling, especially the ones that delved into mythology.

     

    You both spent a lot of time with Jordan and his family – were they ever suspicious of your intentions and how they would be portrayed in the finished film?

     

    To his credit Jordan was never prescriptive and gave us a lot of space to make this film. He truly does respect artistry and we did earn his respect throughout the production. We started filming in the spring of 2015 and ended in December 2018. Patricia’s documentary style is more ‘a fly on the wall’ to capture all of the subtle moments.

     

    The finished film is balanced, it does give time to his critics – How did Jordan feel about putting the criticism in the finished piece? He seems like someone who can handle it.

     

    Jordan respected the fact that the film doesn’t tell people what to think. It’s challenging for viewers. But I actually would disagree with you here re: Jordan’s temperament. My experience of seeing Jordan in interviews is that he can get quite defensive with criticisms, but this wasn’t the case with us, for the simple fact that’s he’s grown to understand that we’re not coming from a nefarious place but simply trying to tell a good story that is rooted in truth. Partisan advocacy films from either side of the aisle have a short artistic life on the shelf but films are able to transcend are more the types of films we prefer to make. We don’t feel that for this project it’s our job to make people feel certain way about Jordan. We wanted to do a documentary that was more about showing and not telling because with the subject like Jordan Peterson, everybody’s always trying to tell you something about what they think. We wanted to do something different. We wanted to make a human story that doesn’t use anybody as a punchline. We’re pretty happy with the final result.

     

    How has your opinion of Jordan shifted (maybe it hasn’t) and what did you learn from making it?

     

    I’ve realized the extent to which people identify with what they think and when you attack their ideas they take it personally. But when it comes to academia, where Jordan comes from, and film and arts industry where we come from, it is a more progressive social justice culture that is dominant. It can tend to be a bit authoritarian at times. I think this makes conservatives a bit desperate and they felt out of the conversation which is partly true, so some of them stick onto a sense of cruelty and ridicule towards a dominant culture coming from the left. It’s really funny to think that in a way conservatives/libertarians are like a subculture now.

     

    Apart from agreeing to be filmed and obviously be interviewed, did Jordan have any other influence in getting the film made?

     

    Jordan had no influence in the films production. We had total editorial control. In fact, the film was already finished when we showed it to Jordan. This is important for journalistic integrity.

     

    The first time I came across Jordan was the interview with Cathy Newman at Channel 4 in the UK – it was a huge thing at the time (it still is). What were your thoughts on that interview?

     

    I thought Cathy Newman acted quite silly and really hurt her reputation of course and I was very impressed to see the way Jordan handle that. He wasn’t emotional and he represented his views very well (unlike GQ and VICE interviews, oh and that French one). But I actually have a different take on that interview and the response online from most people. I know Jordan pretty well and I know he likes strong women that are very disagreeable (like his wife Tammy) and after watching the interview I actually thought they quite liked each other even though they fought. And I do like the more British style of journalism where the interviewer never tries to be your friend, but they actually focus on getting to the facts of the matter. I think the digital response to the interview changed the way Jordan thought about it, it was a classic example of how people in the peripheral can change what the participants of the actual exchange thought about the exchange itself. This is the digital sculpting the physical world without anyone noticing.

     

    Why do you think Jordan gets the criticism he does, being likened to the ‘alt-right’ etc ?

     

    I think the reason that happens is the fact that things are so polarised. If you are criticising one side then people assume that you’re on the polar opposite. It’s a black-and-white sort of framing that is pretty disappointing. But also to be fair in Canada, Jordan Pearson became well known because he criticised human rights law, and when you do that and people don’t know you it’s natural for people to be suspicious about you. The only people that came to Jordan’s defence were conservatives, some of them very shady, like Rebel Media for example. So as soon as that happens some people simply put them in a box.

     

    Have you or Patricia experienced any negative responses for making the film, i.e. giving ‘a platform’ to someone as divisive as Jordan?

     

    We receive some messages from friends showing their disappointment but most of these people don’t know about the situation as much as we do nor have they seen the film. Alas, people are going to think what they are going to think, but overall the response to the film has been overwhelmingly positive. We were threatened by Antifa for a screening in Portland but alas no one showed up. We think it has to do with the fact that one of their members was killed in a hit-and-run the night before screening.

     

    How do you feel about the current ‘culture wars’ for want of a better phrase which are ongoing?

     

    People are living in completely different worlds and I can’t remember time more polarised than it is right now. People talk about politics and their identity more now than ever and it hurts cross cultural contamination and dialogs in good faith, with social media making things so much worse. It’s pretty disappointing but it also leads an opportunity for courageous artists and filmmakers to carve out space that is able to transcend without coming across as trying to appease either side.

     

    I understand you came from a Iranian secular background. How do you feel about Jordan’s occasional focus on Christian iconography?

     

    When I started to film the Bible lectures my eyes kind of rolled because I simply don’t respect dogma, but as I saw the way Jordan was talking about focusing on psychology and mythology in the power of story. I began to become more interested because it’s coming from more of a artistic narrative point of view. It’s actually maybe more interesting to delve into my own heritage with respect to Zoroastrianism. It’s been a fascinating journey so far and that’s been a bit of Jordan’s influence ironically enough.

     

    Moving away from the documentary, in terms of you as an artist, how much of your own politics influence your work?

     

    Probably greatly. Probably more then I would like to admit. But it doesn’t dig too deep because my artworks tend to come from a cultural human perspective with very abstract elements incorporated into them.

     

    When did you set out to make films – what kind of things inspired that decision?

     

    My background is more in media arts and Patricia did a masters in journalism which led to video production. We both have a lot interest in expressing the complexity of the human condition.

     

    And the human condition is of course a great subject to work on.

     

    The human condition has a familiar feeling to it, like rain on your forehead. Everyone can relate to it because it offers a starting point that’s rooted in a common ground. But at the same time as ineffable as understanding the origins of the universe, it’s also something unimaginable to us because we can’t quite agree or understands the reason that we’re here. Creating art that delves into the human condition is a way for us to loosen the valve on this curiosity through our own personal creations.

     

    What things most inspire you when working as a creative?

     

    This is a bit hard to answer of course but generally speaking I think I like to offer artistic experiences for people that they don’t expect while still being linked into something that they’re very familiar with almost at a primal level. One way this is manifested is in the synthesis of cultural intangible practices and new media technology.

     

    Can you tell me more about your background – your coming from Iran to the West, what that change was like and how its had an influence on your work and output?

     

    I was five years old when we came to Canada so the divide happened more between my public life at school and my private life back home. Each of these has her own very different sort of dance so any immigrant kids in a similar situation learns to dance both ways. My work is very much from a western urban perspective however I do like to remediate and remix traditions from my family’s heritage and put them together in new ways.

     

    What kind of sacrifices have you had to make as an artist?

     

    A sacrifice you have to make is that you simply don’t make as much money that’s someone who chooses a more conventional vocation. I’m a bit luckier because I can always lean back on my graphic design, video editing or other technical skills to get designed gigs in between projects. The life of an artist means you go to restaurants and look at the numbers first then the letters if you know what I mean!

     

    Being a creative partner with ones spouse must be a great thing to have – does it always go smoothly, in terms of the production and usual relationship business which might get in the way?

     

    To be honest people have told us horror stories about working with a partner but for us it’s never been like that. We have different styles that’s work well together with enough common ground to be able to reach a focal point.

     

    Future projects – do you have any other people in mind who could be as interesting as Jordan?

     

    We are going back to do the original film we set out to do, with regards Jordan’s friendship with the indigenous carver Charles Joseph, who’s a pretty interesting guy too. Charles is a true artist, a raw individual that has no lying in him. Camera lenses are naturally drawn to people like this. The most striking project it is the documentary about Nizar Zakka, the innocent man who is held captive in Iraq for years. There are so many lost voices stuck at Evin Prison and I want to help amplify their story.

     

    How do you manage so many projects at once?

     

    It can get very difficult but it’s always good to have projects at different stages of production. But because we are a two person team we can divide and conquer, but it can get difficult at times.

    2020: Some new projects we’re working on this year (Coronavirus permitting)

    Mixala: The first Peterson film we were making before the “Rise” story unfolded.

    Finding My Father: An artist’s journey through creation, identity and memory.

    Third: Exploring third genders in indigenous cultures around the world.

    George: A Hungarian migrant’s survivor story from the gulags to Olympic stardom.

    The Hooded Ones: How two college roommates overcame their political divide.

    Left Behind: How families of political prisoners held illegally in Iran persevere.

     

    Follow Maziar on Twitter @maziart and find out more at maziart.ca and Holding Space Films

  5. Jacob Lovatt: “I don’t want people to think, ‘God, let’s go end it all.”

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    “Will the rats carry my box, and the dogs dig my grave, will the pigeons lower me, down, down, down…”

    Jacob Lovatt has been a pioneering figure within the Glasgow music scene for some of it’s most important and memorable years. He emerged in the early 2000’s with Uncle John and Whitelock, a raw, rabid hybrid of post-punk-horror, recalling bands like Gallon Drunk, The Birthday Party and The City and Crime Solution.

    After leaving Uncle John, he started Jacob Yates and the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, a vessel for him, and his band which has since cemented his status as the man responsible for the genre ‘doom-wop’, even if that term was initially coined as something of a piss-take. Since the band’s inception, they’ve managed to release three of the most gloriously gloomy albums this country’s ever witnessed. As we discuss, it’s a frustrating and slow process, but worth it for those of us seeking light from the darkness. 

    In this warm and funny interview with Jacob Lovatt, we discuss the difficulties of making the most from the underground, the restrictions that artists like he and his band faces, being creative whilst managing a family life, the comedy in the sadness of the tunes, and subsequent ‘trenches’ he goes through to make such angelic music.

    Let us bathe in the joy and not the misery.

     

    Jacob, you released ‘The Moon. The Hare. The Drone’ record back in 2018, and you dropped the ‘Pearly Gate Lock Pickers’ from the main credits, if not in the band makeup – Why was that?

     

    I suppose that personnel shifts had occurred within the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, somewhere and another. With that album I went to the band said I thought of dropping it. It was more for guys in the media, or guys like yourself, it was just a bloody mouthful. I thought I’ll just do you guys a favour. I thought ‘lets just cut that’. It was a bit of a laugh when I came up with idea of calling the band that. It was really about ‘how big a name can you get away with?’. I wasn’t even thinking it was gonna be a recording band initially, that wasn’t really even on the agenda – I was just trying to find a vessel that I could vent stuff I was writing after leaving Uncle John and Whitelock.

     

    In doing so, move more towards being a solo artist?

     

    There was a little move in that direction, I suppose lyrically and mood wise. I was thinking this is what I do, it’s who I am, and since Uncle John it has been a vessel for me venting my creative, angry or whatever outlook. 

     

    What’s the future for the Pearly Gate Lock Pickers?

     

    The way the band works, on the last album, is kind of the way it’s working now. Just after we finished ‘The Hare. The Moon. The Drone’, guys in the band were all just becoming fathers, so that had a big impact on what we were doing musically. You just don’t have time and if you do then you’re not doing your dad job properly. Bringing up kids and being in bands at the same time is difficult, unless you’re making loads of money, but we’re not. At some point we’ll get together. On the last album, I’d booked a studio for 11 days with some ideas. I know Chad (guitarist) had a few ideas and we went into the studio and it was whether we’d come out with an album, or one song, we just didn’t know. It was the first time I’d ever done that and it was a really nice process. That’s probably how things will work in the future. We don’t tour, we don’t do anything like proper bands do, cos no-one asks us to play gigs!

     

    And is that different from your approach when you were in Uncle John and Whitelock?

     

    It’s not the same world when I was in Uncle John and Whitelock. People watch what you do in terms of your social media presence, your Youtube output, your… ‘whatever else it might be’. Everyone’s got a job, and everyone’s doing that and music at the same time – and we’re not full-time artists where we can just put all out energies into that. But that was always the way it was gonna be after Uncle John and Whitelock, for me. I’d made that decision. I wasn’t gonna be ploughing into full-time musicianship and going down that route. I wasn’t willing to put my neck on the line, really, thats why its became more about the me writing, trying to come up with songs or at least enough of the songs to to take to the band.

     

    These days you’re now living in St Andrews? 

     

    I grew up in Dundee, so it’s strange back to be here, especially after spending 12 years in Glasgow. I feel like I’m kind of haunting myself. I keep kind of almost bumping into an 18-year-old version of me. Although things have not really changed that much. I try really hard to do some writing and get some new stuff on the go, that’s the main thing at the moment. The rest is all looking after kids, wiping arses, changing nappies, walking dogs, doing the washing.

     

    How does living away from Glasgow, the surroundings, affect your songwriting?

     

    I knew it would stay dark but when I first moved north of Aberfoyle, I thought it’s all gonna go towards folk music, that it would become all about the woods and the hills. I was almost expecting that to come instantly, but it didn’t happen. Really, it wasn’t until the last Jacob Yates album where it started to come through [the woods and the hills]. It slowly seeps back through into you. I grew up in England when I was a kid, in a small village and the woods and fields was always around but it’s only just come into my writing now, really.

     

    Did you ever consider chucking everything and just focusing on music?

     

    I was never in a position where I thought this could work full-time. We’ve never had a label say ‘Hey, we’re gonna give you an advance’. At the height of Uncle John and Whitelock, there was a few larger labels that sniffed about. But even then, eventually they were like ‘nah we’re not gonna go with that, that’s not gonna happen’. It has crossed my mind. When I was walking away from Uncle John and Whitlock I was like ‘well if I’m gonna stay it’s gonna have to be full-on, mad type thing’, and I just didn’t wanna go ‘full-mad’. I didn’t think it would be good for me and I didn’t think it would be good for anyone else.

     

    It’s a wee bit frustrating for ‘followers’ of your music having to wait such a long time in between albums…

     

    It’s a tough thing for the guy trying to write them! Time, money, availability… it’s down to that. Each time I finish I then need to find someone to put the thing out. It’s enough of a big thing to go and record an album, but who’s gonna put it out?!

     

    How do you go about getting these records out?

     

    With the ‘Hare. The Moon. The Drone’, I already had that album in the bag. We’d sent some emails out to a few folk, Chemical Underground, a few other Glasgow labels, and got nothing back from anyone. Then, I’d thought about Keith from Optimo, who I’d known for ages. I knew they’d loved Uncle John and Whitelock and I just was like ‘do you, would you, put a record out by me?’ and he was like, ‘dude I’d put anything out by you’. So we met, chatted a bit and he said ‘look, we’re a dance label, and this is something we wouldn’t do normally, we can’t promote you… we don’t have money to put into the project beyond pressing them up’.

    Equally, I sat opposite and said ‘well, I’m not going to tour it and or do any gigs really, so I won’t be doing much around marketing it’ etc. We both laughed and he said ‘Ok, cool, lets do it.’ Let’s face it, no ones making any money off of what I do. I’m not and nobody else is.

     

    Presumably the same when you were in Uncle John and Whitelock?

     

    We shifted quite a lot of units but we put a lot of work into that. We sorted out the distribution and we gigged a lot so people were interested and at every gig we’d be selling records. I’m not doing that as much now, or nowhere near what I was doing with Uncle John and Whitelock, it’s just not viable.

     

    I guess real life must get in the way…

     

    Real life has to get in the way, you can’t ‘not’ go to work, pick your kids up from school, and the rest of it, you know. Unless a tour pays more than I’m earning, then it’s not gonna work, and then with that I’m gonna be away from my family and that makes me feel shit too, so it’s a double edged sword. But I would desperately love someone to say ‘Hey, let’s go and tour’. I’d love to be playing live music evert night of the week, ofcourse I would. There’s nothing I like more than standing in front of my band and going ‘this is amazing’. Thats what i get the biggest hit out of.

     

    Let me be one of many to say the output is still brilliant… 

     

    It’s nice of you to stay that. I’m very critical of what I do and I always go back and think ‘I could have done that, maybe I should have done this’, and thats of course what you do. It’s good to be like that, I’m not really that satisfied. I’m proud of what I’ve done but I’m always constantly thinking ‘well, maybe I could try this or do that in a different way’. I dunno where the new stuff will go.

     

    Your music, lyrics etc are often quite dark, a huge attraction for myself. You seem a pessimistic sort… is that fair?

     

    *Laughs* Pessimistic maybe. Do I think the worlds doomed? Yeah I guess I do think that, but every time I say that I laugh, that’s the way I look at it. You have to laugh these things, or not take them with any ounce of seriousness. You have to be able to look at the funny side of things. The kind of music that I love is quite often like that too. I think thats just what comes out, I’m trying to sort of emote… I’m trying to write songs that I’d like, where I’d try to get some kind of emotional content across and some emotional cross back from the audience. I’m totally aware of that, that’s something that I thrive on. I want people to feel sad, happy, angry or confused, or bemused. But I don’t want people to walk away thinking ‘God lets go and end it all’.

     

    How about your own metal health – how does that make it’s way into the music? if you don’t mind me asking…

     

    I definitely suffer from darker trenches that I go through and I have issues that I have to deal with. I’m feeling on the up at the moment a bit – sometimes I feel very despondent and difficult. I don’t mind you asking that. It’s good to talk about these things. It’s nice cos you can kind of make these things autobiographical if you want or you can characterise it in a way thats a narrative about something else, so that’s a nice way of ‘sort of’ dealing with it. Without it I’m defiantly a poorer person. If I’m not addressing it it I defiantly suffer for it.

     

    “Had to tell the truth, my lover had upped and gone – hanged himself in the woods with a dog looking on.”

    – “Bits of Glass’ from the ‘Goths’ album. I’m slightly obsessed with that song and that line, it’s bleak to the point of poignant.

     

    It’s funny cos theres the myth around it and it being real even and whether that’s true or not, I’ll leave that to the listener. It comes from when you drive along roads you must see bunches of flowers rotting by the roadside, I know a place where I see this bunch of flowers, and it evokes the story and it takes me to place. It does what the song says, it’s just about a couple that break up. She crashes when she leaves and it’s the aftermath of that, and how you deal with guilt, or not *laughing*.

     

    What about the writing of songs like these, how does it work for you?

     

    Some things like that will trigger a narrative, or I’ll piece together a story from that, but it might just be as simple as seeing a bunch of flowers on the side of the road, or an abandoned car on the way to work. That’s where ‘Bits of Glass’ came from. Other things like ‘Care Home’ (From ‘Goths’) will just be things out of the papers, about… you know, the state of the world, and Jimmy Saville and all the rest of it. There’s lots of different triggers, there’s lots of areas, things from my childhood, stories or myths that I’ve read or heard about, it comes from all over the place. It’s great!

     

    The ‘Goths’ album was particularly dark. Can you tell me about that?

     

    On ‘Goths’, all those songs were little kind of gothic/ horror. Yeah, it was a pretty dark album *laughs*. The idea was to make it be so dark that it’s just pitch black. Then there’s a little tiny bit of light that you see creeping underneath the door, maybe that’s a good or bad thing, cos who knows what’s out there. Good friends of mine listened to that record were either like ‘that’s rubbish’, or, ‘it’s too bleak, it’s too down, man, I can’t take it!’

    With songs like ‘The Heart’. The line “Five hundred years ago we were cutting off peoples heads, look how far we’ve come, we’re still cutting off people’s heads… burning babies as witches..”. The song is massively bleak, but it has that punchline at the start so there’s instant laughs. But then there’s the line ‘We’re burning babies as witches’, which people are doing right now, burning their kids cos their possessed.  While you’re still laughing, you hear that, so then your like these people are just sick, what’s wrong wit these people!?

    I do like that. I love lyrics. 

     

    How has your approach to writing changed over the years, the influences?

     

    You definitely mature as you go. Sometimes it becomes not far off being ‘automatic’. For me, it can be very much like a ‘third hand’ writing it. I found a song the other day, I was just going through some lyric books and looking at some notes and I found something. I can’t remember writing it, and it cant have been that long ago. It’s of the ilk of what I’m doing at the moment, and I’d just stuffed it in my notebook and clearly hadn’t thought about it since. But when I found it I thought, ‘this is great’! There are times when you are just automatically writing, which is a nice thing to have.

    With Uncle John and Whitelock, it was very Marijuana based. A lot of creativity comes out of that but a lot of time you’re just rubbing your head and not really doing anything. So that’s why the lyrical content has matured over time, because I’m not doing that anymore. You just get better at writing just as you go.

    In terms of the influence and where things are coming from, It’s not really changed massively from Uncle John and Whitelock, from what I look at and where I take inspiration from. I think the rural side of me, the guy thats sitting on a beach and watching his dog run around, I’m noticing more organic things coming through and theres more of nature of things coming through, it’s getting a bit more Ted Hughes. I’ve been working with a filmmaker called Henry Coombes and he’s interested in the audience and what they’re doing while I’m singing these songs. So while I’m talking about really dark subjects, it’s looking at why are people hugging each other and laughing or why is a boyfriend or girlfriend kissing in the background. I’m never a member of the audience so I don’t really know, it’s an interesting thing to look at. I don’t get to see it from the stage,  cos I should be lost in the moment or I should be lost in the moment otherwise it’s a shit gig.

     

    Have you ever considered just publishing poetry?

     

    The project that I’m looking at, at the moment, the filmmaker (Henry Coombes), there was an idea to pull together a documentary around me and the songwriting, the creative process, live performance, and then looking at the reasons of what I write about, the humour, the darkness, the bleakness. We tried to get some funding together to try and expand on that but funding didn’t come through, which was a bummer. So I started to think about trying to do a digital book of poetry and lyrics, but also within that there would be live performance and music. Maybe that would be going back to my songwriting back to when I started until now, which is a pretty vast expanse.

     

    You mentioned the influence of drugs previously, albeit ‘lighter’ ones like Marijuana, and you have written about it a lot in your music – was that ever a possibility for you?

     

    You have to check yourself sometimes. I could have gone down that route and imploded and have done nothing. I was lucky to find a beautiful amazing person in my life who’s now my wife so that totally pulls you through these sort of things, and you go. Thank God for that.

     

    Has there every been a chance of Uncle John and Whitelock coming back together for a tour?

     

    I wouldn’t know, but I would never say no to it. It would be a good laugh, with those songs… 

     

    Do you still listen to that band?

     

    I might stick ‘Crowley’ on sometimes, listening to that big booming base. I enjoy that, I have very fond memories. Good times were had with that band but hopefully that’s enough. Maybe I’ll be to be sitting in a chair, in a care home one day, thinking about that time…

     

    Besides music or family life, what are your current passions?

     

    Wandering with my dog on the beach. Like Lemmy used to say, ‘I’m happiest wandering in the fields with my dog’. I am most happy doing that sort of thing, outside of the family, which is amazing and wonderful, but it’s nice to spend some time by yourself.

    Jacob, thank you.