Monday, 21 November 2011

INTERVIEWED: Steve Reich & St Vincent for Tank

I talked to both St Vincent aka the incredible Texan Annie Clark, and the truly great modern composer, Steve Reich, for the latest issue of Tank Magazine. Follow the corresponding link below to take a look at each piece.

St. Vincent interview

Steve Reich interview

Friday, 18 November 2011

INTERVIEWED: John Waters for Kilimanjaro

The 'Pope of Trash' himself talked to me for the Roni Horn-dedicated edition of the beautiful art magazine/journal, Kilimanjaro: A Love Letter to Roni Horn. Waters is a good friend of the Harlem-born, Iceland-obsessed artist and an art lover in general. Read the resulting article below:

Band T-shirts for the Telegraph Magazine

The band t-shirt has evolved from the preserve of the insular music geek desperate for some sort of affiliation, to the preserve of the papped LA sleb (see above, one Mr Davide Beckhame of 'Galaxy'; apparently he's a former cockney). Here's a short interview with the lovely Jude Rogers and Ian Wade, the creators of the guaranteed ROFL inducer, MyBandT-shirt.

INTERVIEWED: Erasure for The Stool Pigeon

Erasure were incredible at Mute's Short Circuit festival in April, so I jumped at the chance to interview them for The Stool Pigeon. S'pose the subtext of the piece is the fact that, despite in excess of 25 million records sold, it feels like there has been a media blackout on the band for years. Interview here.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Bombs Should Fall Tonight but Probably Won't

"...To understand London now one has to grasp the fact that in this city, as nowhere else in the world, World War II is still going on. The spivs are running delis and restaurants, and an occupying army of international bankers and platinum-card tourists has taken the place of the American servicemen. The people are stoical and underpaid, with a lower standard of living and tackier services than in any comparable western capital. The weary camaraderie of the Blitz holds everything together. Bombs should fall tonight but probably won't, but one senses that people would welcome them."

J.G. Ballard, Time Out, 1993

Thursday, 14 July 2011

INTERVIEWED: Photographer Léonie Hampton

Léonie Hampton is an incredible photographer who finds the uncanny in the everyday: a kind of (preter)naturalist, who lets her subjects get on with things while she weaves around, waiting for the moment when their unconscious self - or something purporting to be such a thing - comes out to play.

I interviewed her about her latest project, In The Shadow Of Things, which charts the clearing of the house of her mother Bron, who had "boxed out the world" due to her crippling OCD. You can read it on the arts charity website IdeasTap.

Also, if you fancy, take a look at the piece I wrote for Dazed on These New Puritans, with pictures shot on the windy marshes of Leigh on Sea by Leonie in November 2009.

Visit Léonie’s website

Thursday, 23 June 2011

INTERVIEWED: Destroyer for The Stool Pigeon

Not only did Destroyer slip such an effortless, sumptuous, bleeeding gorgeous album into the mix as Kaputt, but he went and made the title track the most gawddamn beautiful of all the songs on there, and ensured that the video was a dream-logic escape into the deep space of one's own mind's eye... see above to note that this statement is only a little hyperbolic.

I spoke to Mr Destroyer aka Dan Bejar and you can read it here.

N.B. Another pleasing saxophone-filled album, which isn't in the least bit cheesey. Proves my long-held theory that the sax is the most overlooked of all godlike instruments. If I had my way, 60% of guitarists would replace their axes with saxes.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

REVIEWED: Short Circuit for The Stool Pigeon

Most enjoyable gig in ages; while it wasn't all perfect it had all the daring and daft sorts that you'd expect to encounter at a Mute event. You can read the review here.

Monday, 16 May 2011

REVIEWED: Hallucinating Superstars In The Coachella Valley: Ariel Pink Live (for The Quietus)

In Indio in the Californian desert, I am jetlagged to the point of hallucination, freaked out by the shiny, happy hedge-fund hippies that surround me at the 2011 Coachella Festival. Musclemen and Daisy Dukes, who appear to me right now like body-fascistic proponents of the kind of psychotic power games dreamed up by Burroughs or Hunter S, so at home do they seem here in the green, palm-lined grounds of this exclusive polo club in the otherwise dusty Coachella Valley where the festival takes place each year.

As often is the case in America, though, I find it hard to fully see what is in front of me: jetlag depletes the senses and I wander around allowing sights and sounds to awaken memories formed from days and days of watching trashy TV, children’s comedies and low-grade Hollywood movies during the holidays in the 90s, which all seemed to emanate, stylistically at least, from America’s entertainment heart, the Golden State. Ciro, the kid receptionist at the shabby hotel that we stayed at near LAX airport the night before, had a bowl-and-sideburns haircut that I swear I had seen in an episode of Quantum Leap some years earlier; his not-quite-broken, squeaky speech took me back to a Simpsons episode I’d last seen 13 years ago. As a 1970s MOR station blared in the air conditioned hire car on the way to Indio next morning, all the Californian clichés had grabbed hold of me: the freeways that swooped through the sky like rare, focussed dreams on the way out of LA; the unending blue sky and heat, and the palm after palm after palm that flew by.

Last year I wrote a slightly ranty article for The Quietus (file it under “Sure It’s Skewed But Didn’t It Get You Talking!”) that bemoaned the export of recycled lo-fi sensibilities emanating out of California that had resulted in hypnagogic pop, glo-fi and the like seizing the global indie zeitgeist without breathing much life into it. I singled out the scene’s apparent figurehead: “Ariel Pink enjoys a comparable position to the Velvet Underground in that he is, above all others, seen as the linchpin behind this disparate bedroom scene, but between the two there is a chasm in sentiment and quality. The Velvets used irony sparingly, as counterpoints to offset thrilling dirge, wild, cataclysmic noise and beauty. With Pink, it is laden so thick that these ears have trouble distinguishing it from parody.”

Sometimes, though, you have to go to the source to fully understand something and, wiping chips off my shoulders as if they were blocks of dandruff, I wandered dazed yet purposefully into the tent for Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Star and band stood against the bolt-upright palms and mandatory blue sky behind the stage like dark-yet-hilarious suppressed thoughts that had suddenly manifested themselves into shapes and sounds. Songs that seemed at first to struggle to assert themselves wriggled into your head; a bit like Beefheart-style jamming with 1970s and 80s rock and pop as its starting point and not the blues. Without noticing I’d found my way to the front. It was mesmerising – music that I’d neglected to give a chance through not opening up to it had bitten me. Elements of belligerence, of refusal, in a festival so commercial it felt like it was taking place in an iPad. I swear I was tearful.

Coming out of my trance, I realised that the vibe around the tent was not quite as chill as I suddenly was. California had made Pink and now you felt, while not rejecting him, it was doing even worse: it was meh-ing him. Irritable indifference was the feeling that hung around us, enmeshed with the fragrant hint of weed (which I thought might be the sole vice of these latte-sipping festival-goers until later at Magnetic Man, when I saw a topless and gurning giant of a man stare into the end of his own wiggling fingers: he was lost in his makeshift glow-gloves, the more he wiggled his pinkies, the more beautiful secrets he would receive from some distant, unspeakable source).

“I know you hate me,” Pink, sensitive to crowd’s antipathy, spat at them with a chew-wasp face. “We’re not gonna play anymore. I’m sorry.” He fled behind the stage, ran around, jumping up and down with his fists clenched; he smoked his cigarette so hard he nearly ate it. He came back, though, fizzing and wild with an aggression that shook his diminutive frame, a rare danger in this respectful indie-rock setting (but perhaps only to himself and his band).

He barely sang for the rest of the set, just held strained positions, scowled at band members and occasionally joined in, stuck between affecting that he did not care in the face of the questioning eyes and ears in the audience, and the reality that he does care: he obviously cares about these songs and his woozy, reverb heavy approach which stem from an almost pathological artistic desire to keep on creating. He couldn't hide it, the same way some members of the crowd couldn't hide the fact that they could take or leave him.

Retromania, published by Faber in June, sees inky legend and Pink-fan Simon Reynolds (a recent émigré to LA from New York) question his faith in his hero and hauntological music in general, in terms of advancing music: “what exactly is this music’s contribution,” he posits. “Isn’t it sterile?” But is there any other choice within the enforced conditions of the internet, which in giving us everything at once has resulted in making us feel as if nothing will ever happen again? That’s the topic of discussion in the writer's latest essay for the new issue of Wire, which acts as an accompaniment to Retromania. It problematises the current malaise, looking at its main cause, the rise of digital culture. “Fanatical identification with an artist, scene or youth tribe has given way to drifting eclecticism and ‘partial allegiance’,” says Reynolds.

As Haunted Graffiti stopped playing for the final time in a stunted yet thrilling performance, there were vague shouts of “Arsehole” and similar from those around me that had stayed until the end, while Pink scrambled around the stage floor to collect up his things. But as the crowd thinned, some rushed to the front, with one or two arms stretched out: perhaps grasping to touch this mirage of a superstar, a miniature hero alive and unwell in front of their eyes. This bedraggled person behind the name that has twinkled on thousands of computer screens around the world: is that what a star looks like?

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti play The Quietus Village Mentality Stage at Field Day on August 6th

Read the original article here

Monday, 9 May 2011

REVIEWED: N-Dubz for the Telegraph

An accurate, objective account of the O2 Arena show, in which I position Dappy within the silly-hat/naughty-boy continuum begun by my neighbour Brian Harvey.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

REVIEWED: Coachella 2011 for the Daily Telegraph

A couple of weeks ago I flew out to LA to review Coachella Festival for the Telegraph, as well as interview Scala & Kolacny Brothers (the Belgian girls choir which made its name through a viral ad for The Social Network which featured their version of Radiohead's 'Creep') for the paper (the piece will run next month sometime). Read my review for the Telegraph here

The festival - and the whole LA experience - completely changed my perspective on Ariel Pink. I suddenly got it, whereas before I couldn't see past an apparent veneer of parody that I'd let simplify my reaction to the music. Strangely for an artist that so depends on lo-fi recording techniques for his aesthetic, it was seeing his petulant performance in front of a pretty indifferent audience which swung it this time. I'm writing something for The Quietus about the trip which I'll post here when its up there in a week or so.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Reggae Revisited in the New Statesman

To coincide with the current Reggae Britannia documentary being screened in two parts of BBC Four, my piece about the venues that fostered the music, particularly Hackney's Four Aces. It was originally to be printed in the 14 February edition of New Statesman, until happenings in Egypt bumped it online.

INTERVIEWED: Wire for The Quietus

I talked to one of the all-time great guitar groups, Wire, for the Quietus. "I remember bumping into graham lewis once and he was gurning so hard, he looked like a camel," was the sole comment the resulting article provoked. Quality, not quantity.

Friday, 11 February 2011

REVIEWED: Shakira for the Daily Telegraph

I visited the former 'Dome again in December. The O2 is nothing if not made for someone with lungs like Shakira. She affected the post-Jackson Pop MessiaH pose to a tee, with "real talent" (larynx, stomach muscles) to back it up. In this tent that is fast becoming the centre of Britain's 21st century Tin Pan Alley - hosting, as it does, the industry's before (X Factor) and after (Brit Awards) - this was a showcase of a global pop ideal which, naturally, felt a bit flat. Reviewed for the Daily Telegraph.