Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Most people who visit this fine city of Edinburgh will no doubt 'do' the Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, and - maybe even Rosslyn Chapel (which is in fact worthwhile, and not just for the DVC obsessives). However, I'd also like to suggest the little-known and extremely creepy and mysterious 'Children's Village' at Humbie, about 20 minutes' drive to the east. It was the most excellent suggestion of my good friend Michael who now lives in the vicinity. If you can't make it in person, please have a look at this series of perturbing images, and thus without further commentary, I'll let you while away a pleasurable hour or two conducting your own research into what devilish happenings took place and its deeper and darker secrets therein.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


I don't know him but Steve Bell seems like a guy that would be fun to meet, his images really say a lot. People get all hot and bothered about urban gun crime (and rap music lyrics and violent video games) - it should be the army they focus their attention on. I can't understand this 'our brave boys are the best soldiers in the world' attitude - unless they're referring to getting shot at in lonely pointless wars against abstract nouns.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Here is the next segment of the interview, there are two more chunks to follow in the coming days.

Judith Howard: Would another example of this be the Dogme films by Lars Von Trier and others?

WB: Yes, an excellent example. In fact, although it isn't considered a Dogme film as such, Trier's masterpiece The Five Obstructions is almost a moral tale on how well this - what I refer to as 'asceticist' - principle has the potential to work. And it's only when you first get it that you realise how much you can really transform.

JH: Moving on to this new album, can you tell us a bit about the title 'Racket'?

WB: Well, I think there is the obvious reference to the music itself - a couple of years ago I heard some old-school noisers using the word to refer to music they didn't like and found it deliciously ironic, and perhaps a measure of how utterly staid 'noise' has become over the last decade or so - a genre so bound by convention at times it beggars belief. Getting back to the album title, it also has a second and third, more personal and psychological meaning that will become apparent after hearing the music.

JH: OK, I won't press you on that - some of these song titles are intriguing, can you say anything about the songs themselves?

WB: Yes, there are seven songs altogether of which four feature vocals. Of these I sing on Dyad, Philip on Bahnhof and Mouthy Battery Beast; and Dumping More Fucking Rubbish is a new much-expanded version of the song from A2006; that is, much longer, completely re-recorded, and with some other lyrics that didn't make it onto the original. The remaining three are instrumentals.

JH: What about this much talked-about third part to Cut Hands Has The Solution and Killing Hurts Give You The Secrets?

WB: That would be Pains Part Of The Dilemma which for various reasons is not going to be included on this particular album, I hope there'll be a chance to release it soon however.

(to be continued)


Having mentioned I enjoyed the Let It Be DVD, Andy Capper recommended Gimme Some Truth which documents the recording of John Lennon's Imagine. Almost any music documentary I find watchable, and the highlight of this one for me is the added extra of an uncut 40 minute interview with a relaxed John and Yoko on the topic of pop music, sex, and love. Both are remarkably articulate, and it is a poignant reminder of what Lennon obviously loved so much about her.

P.S. next instalment of the Judith Howard interview coming soon (much frantic transcribing...).

Friday, February 23, 2007


These Christian charities in countries like Thailand are way more suspect than any bar-girl operation. Can you imagine the BBC running a feature about a girl that became a prostitute because she enjoys making lots of money and having sex? I don't think so.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I've done a new interview with Judith Howard about the new release Racket and other music-related topics - to keep it manageable, I'm going to post it every few days in small segments.

Judith Howard: Firstly, before getting on to the new material, last time around we didn't get a chance to talk about Asceticists 2006. A year later, how do you now feel about its impact?

WB: Very positively. I mean, when these things come out it's very difficult to tell, especially when you start messing about with new sounds - you need time to reflect upon whether they really work, and when you've just recorded the songs you seldom have that luxury of being able to sit on it to find out. In many ways, although many of the ingredients on A2006 were already present on other albums, now we feel ready to charge through some of the new doors it's opened in terms of sounds and words.

JH: So, in what way the sounds for example?

WB: Well, there are much more clearly now acoustic elements to the music - which kind of contradicts the description (even in our own FAQ!) of being an electronic band but, as I've often stated, we've never been dogmatic about means to ends; or too concerned about alarming the old-schoolers. The one rule that was applied to A2006 which was in keeping with the conceptual approach, and it's something that has in fact always been adhered to, is that there is no gesture towards convention, towards pre-established ways of doing things. I felt that if, for instance, percussion - or even melody of a sort - was going to be used, it would have to be done in a way that presupposed that percussion (or melody) hadn't yet somehow even been invented.

JH: Is this what you've mentioned before in connection with your notion of 'asceticism'?

Yes, very much so. Also when I've referred to minimalist art. For me, the emotional charge comes from the denial, from not doing something that could quite easily be done. It's a very powerful concept that has the potential to overwhelm the senses through sublimation. A simple mainstream example might be in the film In The Mood For Love where there isn't even a kiss between the leading protagonists yet the electricity and intensity is palpable throughout. And of course there are many potential applications for this which are predicated on there being something to deny in the first place, and naturally that's the really difficult part.

JH: How do you stop it from being merely frustrating or tantalising?

WB: Because at the same time you're also delivering and heavily gratifying in other ways, and that's all happening on an unconscious level. Now, we're just talking about sound here, because when you add the words, and the filter of the artwork, and also the context of the work itself (in terms of people's already established associations with what you do), it can be really fucking mind-blowing when you get it right. It has the potential to break right through and take you out the other side.

(to be continued)

Monday, February 19, 2007


A postscript. To me - and this 9/11 thing is a good example - learning is about asking questions and listening to people's answers; it's not about poking fun at someone because you disagree with them, or a stupid shoving match to find out whose entrenched beliefs are ultimately going to win.

It reminds me of what happened with the OJ case, and no doubt several others will come to mind because it happens all the time. A snap judgment is based on a person's own views of the world and prejudices and then there's a programmed need to stick to it rigidly, almost at pain of death, for the rest of their miserable lives. Nobody wants to know the truth, they just want to win the argument.

There's a chapter in the essential book Influence : Science And Practice (R.B. Cialdini) which tackles this insane human trait of maintaining a relentless level of behavioural 'consistency', and it discusses how easy it is to manipulate and influence through this. The truth is, we really are way too precious about our personal opinions and beliefs.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Fuck, I so hate the BBC and I hate everything it stands for.

Condescending, patronising, maternalistic, narrow-minded, London-centric, moralistic, pro-establishment - yet all the while pretending to be none of those things. And with the added chutzpah to demand inflation-busting increases in the mandatory annual licence fee, so that we, the peasants, have to pay for it all. Little old ladies and single mums that can't afford to, or anyone else who doesn't want it, will have their assets seized by bailiffs and get sent to gaol (how about a documentary on that, you bastards??). Sadder still are those so infantilised by Auntie Beeb that they feel gratefully compelled to defend its values and traditions - almost a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

Last night's BBC2 9/11 programme as part of its series on 'conspiracy theories' is a classic example of its underlying supercilious attitudes. Instead of using the enormous licence revenues it rewards itself in order to have an open-minded and balanced investigation into what happened, it was (after five years of wilfully ignoring this story) an all-too-predictably shallow exercise in picking holes in the arguments of those people who doubt the official explanations (who have a challenging enough job as it is to get official responses to their questions), at the same time asking us to accept the BBC producers' own implausible answers and conspiracy theories as some kind of gospel - all essentially in order to match some evidence to their own narrow Johnny-come-lately beliefs. And the commentary is in that classic preachy schoolmarm tone that is their trademark when we're supposed to be listening like attentive well-behaved children.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


This week's all too short visit to Paris is now over and was most fun while it lasted - a particular highlight being the new and (overwhelmingly) inspiring Quai Branly museum.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Another amazing bit of undersea footage that caught my eye, shot by Japanese marine biologists, this time of a big deep-sea squid attacking its prey. Notice the flashing light emitted by the creature.


Today is the eve of Lupercalia, banned by Pope Gelasius I in the 5th century, and the day of several other pagan fertility celebrations which the Christians later co-opted as St. Valentine's Day, just like they did with Easter and Christmas. Funny, isn't it, how despite forcing name changes on us (no doubt under the threat of a despicably painful death), the original traditions carried on regardless?

I don't know the origin of giving your lover a red rose or twelve, however in today's battery hen existence that we suffer, I find it almost heartbreaking to see these horrible frozen odourless roses on sale in supermarkets and garage forecourts - everywhere. You see, a real rose emits such an intoxicating fragrance and then opens up its charms only to die a few beautifully tragic days later. And therein lies its profound emotional charge: it's not only its seductive aroma and luscious looks (don't you adore that heady combination of deep red petals and aggressive, dangerous thorns?); it's the butterfly fragility of its lifespan that makes it such a romantic object of desire. I mean, otherwise you might as well buy your partner a bunch of plastic flowers or a fucking cactus.

And it's not just these cheap lifeless roses that's a problem either. Because if I were king, I'd take a leaf out of Henry VIII's 'policy' towards monasteries, and have razed to the ground every single supermarket in the land. Oh, and let's do that Bernard Matthews death factory while we're at it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


You really realise what a remarkable instrument the djembe drum is after you begin to understand how to play it. Its pure atavistic physicality is fed back to you through the sound as your hands slap against the taut skin giving you an immediate rush leading to the point where, as the pace gradually increases, and as the volume subtly rises along with the excitement, you're taken to ecstatic overwhelming heights. Your body completely takes control over your actions.

The djembe, also known as the Devil Drum, originates from West Central Africa (mine is one from North East Ghana that I was encouraged to purchase when beginning classes) and it has a design which produces a hearty sound that is actually an example of Helmholtz resonance (the sound created as a result of air in a cavity, for instance, blowing across the top of an open beer bottle, or the airbox of an acoustic stringed instrument).

There are essentially three different sounds you learn to produce: the bass, the slap, and the tone; and it's the powerful mixing of these different sounds that create the magical power. Each sound belies its simplicity - they can each take months to perfect in combination. I remember one teacher making the kinesthetic analogy of the tone sound to a well-aimed skelp, which immediately reminded me of a former girlfriend who would insist on deserving a bright red backside and fifteen minutes in the corner before going to bed on a Sunday night. But enough of that, because when you get it, it really feels so good to bang this drum with your bare hands and, to me, it's moments like this that remind you how short and fragile life is (this theme to return in a future post).

Prepare yourself: these African women djembefola will blow your fucking mind and remind you what utter fucking trash most music is.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I am certainly fond of a glass or two of fine wine every now and again, but was always blessed with a stroppy nagging dwarf-like voice in my head that prevents me from ever really losing control, and therefore knowing pretty well where and when to stop before doing anything that in hindsight would be (too) regrettable and (too) embarrassing. Although for a while I did use to drink quite a bit before concerts, later, in order to prove to myself that it wasn't a prop, was surprised what a significant challenge it still was to do a number of shows stone cold sober - and happily, playing became just as, if not in many ways much more, exhilarating. And I can sympathise with performers who turn to the bottle - it's everywhere around you, and it really can take a lot of courage to get up on a stage in front of any number of people.

This collection of pictures is an object lesson in pathetic excess. Some observations: they look like murder scenes without the lonely Patricia Cornwell glamour, they're all hairy blokes and victims thereof (though I suspect that's more to do with the Scandinavian origin of the pics - in the UK piss-artists like this come in all flavours and genders), and far more than funny it's a deeply depressing comment on the human race.

Monday, February 05, 2007


Speaking of art books, this amusing collection of photos of the UK's 'entrances to hell' would make for a lovely coffee table volume to show off to your dinner party guests as you sip your Chardonnay, prepare the linguine, and chop the coriander - it's such a funny idea, it deserves a rather better presentation. After some reflection, I'd say the above-mentioned Slartisfgh would be my personal favourite. Thanks to whoever posted this great link at the Susan Lawly forum.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Many commentators, and perhaps even band members themselves, used to say that Yoko Ono was the cause of the break-up of The Beatles - nevertheless, to me, it was the other way round: The Beatles were the worst thing that could have happened to her (or at least her art). She remains one of my favourite and seminally most influential artists.

I'm currently wandering around the atmospheric streets of the old city of Cologne where, amongst other metropolitan activities, I've been perusing the numerous and excellent art book stores after yesterday enjoying the magical Angkor Wat exhibition in Bonn. And so, amidst the usual Helmut Newton and Richard Kern photographic books, and the glossy Taschen paperbacks, a veritable gem proudly stood out: YES YOKO ONO by Alexandra Munroe & Jon Hendricks (Japan Society). This beautifully bound 352 page hardback volume (with CD even) is full of so much that has been relatively undocumented for such a long time, so often overshadowed by the Fab Four connection - in fact the other best biographical source has been the extended section in Albert Goldman's John Lennon. The scandalously overlooked films, music, and art she made, particularly in the years leading up to meeting Lennon, are all notable and most worthy of time and investigation, and unlike other 60s work which seem so dated, it still does it.