ll this jumping around and screaming. All this jumping around. Banging on things, and also thinking in a linear manner. For what? A suspension, of some kind, to the interpersonal dynamic that everyone experiences everyday. They are usually amassed below you, at your feet. Why not above? I want to experience them and their many hands. I tried a few times; in Norway they almost dropped me, and then I would’ve been cooked. And then somewhere (the town will remain nameless) Jenny Frontrow reached up and stroked the package, it was a soft and gentle stroke, as if petting a rabbit’s foot.
There are architectural concerns, or the form. The festival setting, or the very large audiences in Madison Square Garden, for example, covered in this book. Here, there are so many individual particles to this mass that any labels applied cease to be sociologically descriptive. Who are they, who am I? What is this???? Answer: a series of events that led to this point. To the extent that terminology about the components cannot be found, a concert of this size works on the phenomenological level, it is an event larger than the aesthetic of the art itself, a rarity. But it also amplifies and reflects the aesthetic. Terminology about components ceases to matter. This is where the job becomes its most instructive, exciting.
Which is not to say that
One can never, as performer, have a one-to-one relationship with an audience member. One can recognize, in certain members, fragments of the mythology you may have used to produce your work: as a cliché, a beautiful girl. Or a wiry, ragged, and sensitive Glaswegian that reminds you of Bobbie Gillespie or Edwyn Collins. On the other hand, you might notice some Fratty Futurebanker that, under the right circumstances (sleep, travel) really bums you out.
I am trying to point out here the erasure of a binary division between the stage performing artist and the audience, even less than might be presumed to exist between the band’s individual members.
And a concert will not
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
Thursday, 16 June 2011
that is, brief, noticed tropes to melt through the endless avalanche of time. Heavy snow, it used to be. A birth, a death. Death. Now my own. In anger, I am turning back. I gave up as a child, I ran from those that seemed to have power. Sarah Midwest, she wore red braids. I let her keep me as a snake. I slithered the playground for her, happily ashamed. Those notes I harbored for her were fears. Those moves I made on her behalf were imitations of scars older than my body. How they continued! Contortions over a bowl of soup, within a shared bath. Yet she did not notice. And no they weren’t looking. But in an explosion, the demarcations from early dreams were scattered everywhere, potholes of pre-experience. 'I am. I am I am I am.' They dug into me.
Then clemency. In fantastic purple spring I was electrocuted by tulips, I took drugs to lower conductivity, then for resuscitation. The Panther tattooed above the underwear, breasts enormous, Socialista. But I couldn’t reach her through the snow. Cloudy-hot Brazil. What insulation would’ve meant.
A couple of turns through deep space and I am shooting three or more cameras at once. Impossible. From my liver, all of them. Attached and splayed out as in a circus. Animal, open, divine. A red ball in the tent. Taurus running, then around again, and face smash into the ring. Money back, folks, go home, nothing more to see. In the back rooms the elephant has been given LSD, and will soon be dead. What are they on to? Nothing- the vapors of the deceased. Although I wouldn’t bet against them. They always win in the end.
Remember Uncle, a Stooper. Impossible for him to be free, though the cage is shinier than it used to be. In his wildest dreams drank Bosco all day and sat with the little mayor of something. He was positive, a time machine filled with rattlers. Now he’s a shared needle. But tell me something I don’t know! I could have spent the entire month here, in a thought, a turn beneath a tree. Yes the optic mind, traveling, resting underneath the smoking gold canopy. Underneath, in leafblack cities of quiet, I’m there. A baboon breathing, or a howler. We made love on a car 600,000 miles away from the surface of the earth but landed safely.
And there where it always has been, in optic-mind schoolhouses in Iowa… old, fearful, burning empty in summer, the distance reducing optics to a shadow, enlarging it to an emotion, there somehow I must find sleep.
Your Donkey of a son.
Thursday, 24 March 2011
I am flying back now over Australia. For about the last 5 weeks, I have been coming and going from this country to other islands, as far away as Gamla Stan, the island-center of Stockholm, and Manhattan, but never for more than a couple days. Strangely, somehow always back to Sydney. And now I am flying toward London, for an extended stay in Northern Europe, and leaving Australia for an unknown period.
In flying over it, I am kind of comforted by the idea that so much of this country is undeveloped; it makes me feel that maybe it’s not too late to correct the imbalances civilization faces, this system. You can fly for hours across the central and northern parts of Oz and never see a single road. I have experienced the same in traveling across Northwestern China and Northern Canada, but in both of those cases that wildness is conjoined to some sort of inherent obstacle to habitability- usually extremely low average temperatures and rainfall.
Here I have passed over huge green valleys whose massive lakes are scratched together by thin drainages, then pockmarked with shotgun sprays of smaller lakes. Fertile, usable, unused. I have no expertise in whether there has been human interaction with this land but it’s not apparent. I breathe a sigh of relief.
Intermittent to the touring festivals I have been a part of (a phenomenon very common in this country), I have taken a few trips out into islands, as I said before.
Traveling alone here, my goal was to write lyrics for Miike Snow’s second album, and to finish some songs I have composed on my own which don’t strike me as suitable for MS. I feel that for anyone seeking the impetus to finish long-aimed-at projects, no technique is better than to go alone to a completely unfamiliar country, rent some sort of tidy but primitive dwelling with proximity to water and spend from dawn till dusk focused on the one thing. There is something about the desperation of the expatriate, the isolation of the right kind of tourist outpost, and the metabolism of ocean, sunrise, and sunset that plow through trepidation or laziness almost on their own. I finished quite a lot here.
On my last day, I got out for some snorkeling. I had my own guide and asked him if we could head somewhere we wouldn’t see any tourists. I was on the island of Malolo, about twelve miles off the coast of the main island of Fiji, and from here we took a small Boston Whaler to a distance of another mile or so from the coastal “bure” or hut I had rented. On the trip I snapped a couple photos of my guide and the boat’s captain. In each case they posed awkwardly for the camera; initially on the cheesy, smiling side, and later when I said not to bother smiling, they made deliberately angry faces! Perhaps it’s me; maybe these guys were not going for the cheese when they smiled, maybe it represents their natural state. Fortunatos.
When we arrived at the anchoring spot, we were, as requested, alone. Here the guide told me that I might see some sharks down there. Sharks. Then he kicked back on the seat to eat lunch. And he told me not to swim too far from the boat. I freaked out a bit, told him that I didn’t want to see sharks. He said he couldn’t do anything, he could not control whether there were sharks down there or not. Sharks go where they want to go, he said. Although I couldn’t argue with that, I also felt it was unfair to tell the joke that I should close my eyes if I didn’t want to see sharks. I guess they had more skill with English than they let on initially. But I didn’t want to go to some lame beach with a bunch of tourists either. So I convinced him to go in the water with me, I felt that if he came with me seeing a shark would be OK.
The first time I went snorkeling, I was a child; it was, I think, 1984. It was in the British Virgin Islands, and my whole family (seven of us) dove off of a rented sailboat into The Baths, a famous formation of granite monoliths collapsing into the waters around Tortola. I remember being nervous, stunned, and euphoric. There were shitloads of fish in those waters: 400lb groupers, barracudas, eels, sting rays and even manta rays; I remember seeing these in other locations also as a regular thing. Now, even in the remotest islands on the planet, in Polynesia, I was hard pressed to find a fish bigger than a football. There were no sharks.
Dude handed me a sea cucumber. And we saw many small fish on a wall of coral rising 30 feet from the shallow ocean floor. But the snorkeling felt muted. From what I hear there are still untouched populations of fish in the reefs of some of the more remote or protected of the 17,000 islands of Indonesia (more on that later), but on pretty much any island or travel destination commonly referred to, the fish populations are fucked. Hotel construction, sewage treatment, modern agricultural fertilizers, poison and dynamite fishing have taken a big toll. On the big island of FIJI, I had a conscientious cab driver that told me he quit his former job because he could no longer destroy his island working for a man who supplied L.A. aquariums with coral, sea fans, and sponges. No wonder there are 85, yep, 85 percent fewer fish in the oceans than there were 100 years ago. You can go to TEDtalks.org and hear what scientists have to say on the subject of oceans. OK enough of my “alarmist” vibes… J
Mark R and myself, accompanied by Mark’s tour manager Brett, decided to travel together up to Bali, since Mark had a DJ offer up there. It seemed like a shame to come all this way twice, once with Mark and once with M.S, and not do some proper sightseeing.
The snorkeling was terrible. Just kidding. We didn’t even go snorkeling, but we heard it was amazing. Particularly from a couple of Russians who lived on the island with their boyfriends, who ended up at Mark’s show. We had decided I would sing a couple songs during his set, copying my stage moves from Omar Souleyman, and the promoters agreed to pay my way. One of the above-mentioned boyfriends was a guy named Chris, who was our liaison to the promoter. Chris drove us to the club for soundcheck that first day, when the police searched under the car for bombs. In a reflection of a struggle happening everywhere else on earth, there are fears here of a militant Muslim attack ever since the bombing of a neighboring club in 2004. It is always interesting to note that for however welcome certain people are making you feel, somewhere there are those who wish you would take your whole circus and get the fuck out.
Along the lines of personal safety, Brett was a former SAS paratrooper, having served many tours in Nigeria where he trained Special Forces. Whatever my thoughts about the political effects of this, I felt that Brett could handle a number of unexpected situations. He had been pronounced dead once off of Ivory Coast during night ops- hit his head on a rock when jumping from an amphibious vessel; he had also hiked without a tent through a game park, sleeping in shifts with the others in his unit and shining flashlights into lions’ reflective eyes to keep them at bay. He had also been charged by a rhinoceros on a small island surrounded by crocodiles. Can anyone say “over-qualified?” Thank You!
So anyway, we did the show, it was fun, and at the end there was for some reason a totally overblown fireworks display of about 10 minutes in length. Chris kept repeating the peculiar mantra that the fireworks show was “as long as a Simpsons episode!” which is in fact 22 minutes, but even at 10 it was superfluous. This was gangster exuberance: an unwarranted display of wasteful consumption, meant to dispel insecurities of the host that he is not on equal footing with his guest. Which is not to say that our host, the club owner, didn’t have a certain irrepressible charm, as most up-and-coming gangsters do. In my encounters with Chinatown gangsters in NYC and elsewhere, They care overly about what people think of them, want to be the center of all things exciting, and have an enormous amount of both energy and material advantage.
That exuberance flowed into our accomodations also, as the night before in a gentle downpour we had been shown to a dramatic three bedroom villa with a Roman layout, built in Balinese style and materials: teak, slate, and carved wood, with a beautiful swimming pool in the atrium. We had some fun nights entertaining there.
But mostly Mark and I spent our time cruising the narrow roads, seeking-out temples. The first place we went I cannot remember the name of, and as we had done no reading about Bali before arriving, we had no idea what to expect from. The driver dropped us off and Mark and I, after buying a couple of mandatory sarongs from the park ranger, descended a long, long path. We saw no one else. We arrived at a sign requesting that we put holy water on our heads, which we obliged. Then we dropped down a few more steps and turned a corner and were totally blown away….it was a huge shrine, maybe 1000 years old by my guess, carved out of the side of a small cliff. We wandered around for a long time taking photos. In one of these I used my timer to get both of us…the picture ended up looking pretty haunted, as though we were only ghost-spirits. “When in Rome,” I guess. That entire walk we saw only two other people- an older Australian couple from the Snowy Mountains. Later, we went swimming in the holy springs of Titruh Empur, whose baths have been in use since 975 AD. That was a mind blower, too.
In Jakarta, we met up with the Enigmatic Tom Sisk, who was the owner of a club in NYC named CentroFly, which I went to in the 1990’s. This was when the night club explosion occurred in Chelsea concurrent with the Hip Hop explosion in NY. Tom opened in 1995 and closed in 2003, but during that time made a lot friends, and had a lot of memorable experiences. Most famously he denied the Bush twins, George W.’s kids, entry. My kind of guy.
Anyway our show was fun once again, there were those types of doting personalities running things again, and as I wrote Andrew V.W, the rich Indonesians “got pretty un-Sharia on our asses.” I think the Islamic law is perhaps just meant for the poor people, like most religious doctrine.
Afterwards, Tom showed us one of the weirdest places I’ve ever seen. It was called Stadium, and it was like a Medieval bazaar-meets-Palladium (on Union Square for those of you who remember such things). For starters it is a 7-story building with multiple entertainment rooms with different themes, like some profane cruise ship. but its main dance floor is, like Palladium of old, basically a 4 or 5-story open space, with an enormous sound system and an insane array of theme sculptures and projection light. But Stadium has a dark primitive character that the Michael Todd room did not. When we first walked in, there were a bunch of middle aged women wearing jackets similar to those found on agents at a betting parlour, or the floor of the NY stock exchange (ironically). I couldn’t figure them out, I thought they were some type of waitresses, until about 15 minutes into our stay, one of them pushed forward girls who appeared to be 14 years old- “you want? you want?” she asked. We said no, it was OK, and went upstairs to look at the giant sculpture of a naked woman riding a dragon.
The next day Tom took us to a great flea market where they let you try out the LP’s on old turntables before buying. We picked up some excellent old Indonesian funk-psyche records, the best of which was definitely The Gembells First Album.
On the way home, though we were on different flights, Mark’s AND my flights were both struck by lightning. I suppose that gives some kind of good omen to all future projects. Best trip ever dude!
Monday, 28 February 2011
I’m not for or against anything, Gregor said, and he leaned his head back against the white wall, where winter light was falling in through high windows like a powder and obscuring his face, pale to begin with and with blond highlights; smearing it but leaving moving indentations, half-human half-chalk, eyeholes sick and dim and hollow and the craggy mouthcrack opening and closing and telling stories of how he’d had to let everything go. Now I only care about me, taking care of me.
He came to London because of suffering, the reason for all refugees everywhere and most travelers, and with the intent to make himself available for one of those miracles, which in one oceanic span of few years catapults the sufferer, now bounded by lawful territories, into a place of utility, to enjoy something like contentment. To enjoy the slow passage of time, to sleep with the same woman in the same bed, to sit in the same den in front of steadily improving televisions. These were vague impressions he had had, images cast across the now almost-white sheet of memory by the projector of his youth. Of course it was what he had seen since that had blanched it; where those memories had sat in the interceding years, the formaldehyde of life’s destroying caustic experience.
There had been the literate washing, the deep and painful well of the experience near Novgorod, and the chemical disaster, the wine-red faces of the smallest walking residents of the town seeking aid unavailable. The inhalants which carried him through his time in Chechnya but carried off his sense of smell permanently, while the generals carried off and raped and strangled young girls in another town and laughed drunkenly and astoundingly afterward, feeling rage and lust but no humor whatsoever when sober.
How can a man’s constitution hold against such forces but to leach memories? Under conditions of starvation, the body first consumes its musculature; the sacrifice of mobility and inasmuch perhaps its only chance for survival. Next the organs are one-by-one sacrificed, all in order to keep the brain alive. Consciousness and memory, an animated identity, is the last to depart. But in spiritual matters it is the mind which departs first, following which the body can endure a gruesome farrago for years and years, bullets of harsh experience and deprivation somehow absorbed and dissolved, death avoided out on the ranges of homelessness.
I sat there watching him, listening to him tell his avalanche of a life story. He was good at telling his own story. Some people aren’t. And the fact that he was good at it, and had absolute clarity about the strategy others had employed against him in his need and the hazards in his own makeup and in nature unfortunately for him did not make the outcome any better. You couldn't say he had survived, really. He was about 45 now, and the tragedies were too significant, for him to ever look back on his life with satisfaction. Some existential comfort notwithstanding, he had already lost.
And he wasn't done loosing apparently. Gregor was the type of guy you felt bad for not wanting to be around, but you still didn't want to be around. He was gushing, and it was the kind of pain you couldn't do anything about, but somehow he didn't think so. He wanted to tell you about his pain, it didn't matter that you had just met, it didn't matter that he was working for you, and the fact that you couldn't do anything made you creeped-out and feel an unnatural, frightening revulsion of the type that made ancient people reject the children of others, even if it spelled their death. But he was an adult obviously, and he was supposed to be our tour manager, he was supposed to be guiding us with some assurance through the strange vicissitudes of an equally unnatural life, and I just didn't buy that he could. He was making everybody feel strange and the quarters are just too close these days. On top of that he had already made several large missteps with several promoters and venues.
And now he sat there, telling me about his renunciation of women and decision to get a permanent residence instead of living on tour, and I felt a horrible sense of guilt about what I had to do, and how it was going to make life harder for him, but that there are many variables in life, and that nature has a way of taking care of things, and that you can never tell where a piece of newspaper, now blowing in the air above the boardwalk in Venice Beach, is going to land.
So we fired Gregor.
Friday, 26 February 2010
The place is the also actual setting for August Strindberg's Red Rooms. In this influential bit of early naturalist writing, the poor and marginalised bohemian class remained upstairs in the small Red Rooms off of the balcony (and off their heads much of the time), freestyling poems and songs which they would take down onto the floor of wealthy sophists, offering them up in exchange for dinner or another round. Much later, my girlfriend's parents met here, so I am grateful for its existence in that respect also, it encourages decadence.
Our lighting technician commits some marvellous acts of overindulgence as well, see below.
Tobias is pretty much THE MAN as far as lights go, I met him during a tour we did with Lykke Li and we hit it off. "Technician" is a bit of an understatement actually. Artist is far more appropriate: I knew from the unique spacing and density of his tatoos that he had amazing taste, and fortunately for us he found time in between FEVER RAY tours to work with us. I will put more video up as soon as I have.
Saturday, 5 December 2009
Last night we played at Brixton Academy, a big theater from Victorian times. Its exterior is an innumerable mass of red bricks assembled in the kind of labor-intensive manner inconceivable to our era; the interior is a strange war between time and the decorative arts. A small city of balconies and verandas floats above the proscenium- but this invitation to one’s childlike impulse for things both secretive and impossibly idealistic is immediately scorched by the sight of punctured trellises and fractured banisters. My band members and I tried to find a way up into this dilapidated fantasy to no avail. Still, I could picture the spaces, lit by haphazard shards of stage lighting, large flakes of paint and electrical wires of anachronistic composition on the floor. And dust and the dander of mice. And the shit of mice. And the machinations of a mouse world.
The values of its designers washed away, its ghosts disrespected, Brixton Academy was perhaps saved from demolition by the dimensions of its dark span. Holding 4800 people, it would have been expensive to replace, and so when the needs of the entertainment world began to change, its hybridization began. Unthinkable to the pureset Victorian minds which begat it. In the mid 1970’s it would appear, a modern, glass-panel, movie theatre-style entryway was a cheap solution to the squeeze and suffocation of its otherwise dark and windowless anteroom once the heat, chaos, and standing room traditions of the rock age had been established. Standing in the auditorium, waves of loneliness! No sun has entered here in a century. A cloud of stale air looms in the tightening space between the axis of the chipping white ceiling and the radius of the balcony. Rows of blue seats, stained and wobbling, ascending to a decapitating terminus.
The floors would have been replaced many times, but now the venue’s owners have settled upon the final, fiscally convenient solution of riveting huge steel panels down and painting them. Black paint cleft in places by high heels, black splashed with beer nightly. In fact the entire experience of the place is shot through with the sour smell of old beer. Through this atmosphere comes periodically the loud, sharp clang of drums being tested, drenched in natural reverberation.
During the show I was continually pelted with glow-in-the dark toys from the teenaged audience.
Also, I am sad to report the following…in an uncanny realization of my feelings for the place, today’s newspaper brought a horrible disclosure. In the early morning hours following our performance, in one of those impossible-to-reach balconies, was found the murdered corpse of one Enzo Dora, an Argentine children’s musician and clown, apparently killed in a knife fight while still in full costume. His body was found by a stagehand who had gone to change the ballast weights for a new lighting device.
This poor stagehand, Terry Millhouse, was on a lonely-enough mission when he discovered the impossible sight of the middle-aged man, stiffening in rigor mortis; his longish, salt-and-pepper beard splayed apart by the skirmish, his face upturned and eyes still awake with horror, a bladder-shaped pool of blood escaping his body at the stomach and mixing with the dust and paint flakes on the floor in a viscous floodplain, then emptying into a defunct and rusting Victorian drainage.
Since the murder the detectives at Scotland Yard have put together a profile of this troubadour, and what could have possibly brought him along to such a terrifying end.
Dora was born the son of a successful milliner and rancher, and as a child not only did he take great pleasure in hearing the songs of the gauchos who worked his father’s land, but often he would shock his grandmother when, upon finishing a day gathering apples in neighboring orchards, repeat, note for note, some traditional song or ballad that, she had no doubt, he could never have heard before she absentmindedly droned it during the course of their workaday. Surely he had a gift for music, she believed, and she championed this idea relentlessly in the family, clearing a path through the father’s dissent that would one day give him access to worlds of pleasure and misery of which he could have only experienced one-tenth had he plodded along to the given family inheritance of millinery, of the counting out of this and the selling of that, and using all of the inherited advantages of being a European in a land of Incas or Mestizos at best, and always of and the and of the idea, so that finally what is being done is a derivation, and never the actual thing. Nevertheless, with his pleasures in music misery came in equal and eventually greater measure. After long evenings spent practicing the ukelele with the campesinos, his father, returning from a financing mission in Salta, was full of conflict to see Enzo’s impoverished troupe of friends, shielding their eyes from the DeSoto’s headlamps, with Enzo often at the center of this gathering at roadside weeping.
But life, especially for the most melancholic of us, has a way of placing gifts in the road that are so huge and sudden it is impossible, even in a fit of undeservedness and rejecting care, to avoid contact with them, and it happened that Enzo when once on a courier mission for his father, who had not let him entirely out of the millenary game, played some of his songs for an impresario named Codeca. About Codeca little is known except the small, enticing fact that he was the bastard son of Chilean actress Alicia Barrie. But he also had some connection to what was then the most influential independent record label in Argentina, Irregular, and upon hearing Dora’s fragile, incandescent voice and his songs, weary to an extent far beyond what his young and handsome face would lead one to believe, signed him immediately to a contract whose term would far outlive the company to which it bound him. He moved to Buenos Aires, and spent what was by all accounts a happy, productive summer, discovering alcohol, which allowed him to discover women, and playing a handful of rapturous and even legendary small shows in cafés in the San Telmo district.
At the summer’s end he went to Codeca’s studio to record. Early on he was seized by a bout of anxiety, and he used alcohol to calm himself and see the emotional worlds which when, unbothered and dreaming, were easy for him to see in rich dimensions, halted and observable as a diorama, but when tied to his standing in his family, his newfound friends, and society at large became a cloud of burning ink in the eye. His sessions were characterized by drunkenness and moments of brilliance but they were altogether inconsistent, consistent only with one’s prognosis for a person who at all times, his lyrics report, felt as though he were “fighting for dear life.”
What followed were two years of confusion and complication, and by the end of that period both Dora and his recordings had been lost in a mess of industry machinations and his own mounting troubles. At the age of twenty Dora suffered an unknown disturbance and was forced into hospitalization for over a year. While institutionalized he slowly began to lose interest in the world beyond his windows, and came to develop a fear of music and a complete inability to play. It would be years before he would once again pick up a guitar. Instead, in a fit of searching and desperation, he joined the crew of a Nigerian cargo ship bound for Lagos, the only white person on a ship of 25 hands. The crew of the St. Ann were all members of the same charismatic Christian sect, and Dora took to the hymns and sermons with the same fervor he had once taken to folk music. It was there he learned to truly sing. However, nautical life wore on him, and further personal complications forced him to leave the trade all together. Furthermore, the church was not for him.
For the next twenty years, he drifted about the world, booking a night as an entertainer in a club in Barcelona here, a year as a magician at the birthday parties of rich Isrealis here…and so forth. He had come to London to see about part of an inheritance he might have been entitled to when his Uncle through marriage died, who had been a relative of Salvador Allende.