Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Great Expectations

My dear friend Lemond and I had a short writing session together a couple of days ago. Just 3 hours with a basic hook, stolen from Willie Wonka, Lemond laid it down on piano, one mic in a room, and lyrics made up on the fly.

I never work this way alone, as I don't have the discipline. I've always got several songs on the go which are slowly added to and completed as and when I feel they're ready, so it was quite a thrill to work this fast.

I've no idea if this song is any good, perhaps it's all over the place, disjointed, laboured? I would appreciate an honest opinion though, ruthless is always respected. Up on take a listen, it's called Great Expectations.

Great Expectations

There we were, under threat of rain,
Arm in arm, on the banks of the Seine.
A pocket sized bicycle I bought from and old street vendor.
That out of season Popsicle, we shivered and shared together.

I said "My dear, let's move to Papua!"
I knew it would make, such good sense to her.
Was it just a figment of my imagination?
Did I fall short of great expectations?

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it.
Open up your eyes, there's nothing to it.

Does everyone want the happy ever after?
A smooth ride and house filled with laughter.
The only one that matters, won't answer when I ask her.
Even I forget sometimes, just what it was I was after.

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it.
Open up your eyes, there's nothing to it.

So I cannot shake, this picture in frame,
Just open your eyes, draw back the grey.

If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it.
Open up your eyes, there's nothing to it.
If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it.
Open up your eyes, there's nothing to it.

Friday, 13 November 2009

In My Solitude

I knew this always, and yet, I have either forgotten, become stupid, or been blinded by tricks. Perhaps all three. The following passage from Aldous Huxley’s “After Many a Summer” says it all:

“…From solitude in the Womb, we emerge into solitude within the Grave. We pass our lives in the attempt to mitigate
that solitude. But Propinquity is never fusion. The most populous City is but an agglomeration of wildernesses. We exchange Words, but exchange them from prison to prison, and without hope that they will signify to others what they mean to ourselves. We marry, and there are two solitudes in the house instead of one; we beget children, and there are many solitudes. We reiterate the act of love; but again propinquity is never fusion. The most intimate contact is only of Surfaces…Pleasure cannot be shared; like Pain, it can only be experienced or inflicted, and when we give Pleasure to our Lovers or bestow Charity upon the Needy, we do so, not to gratify the object of our Benevolence, but only ourselves. For the Truth is that we are kind for the same reason as we are cruel, in order that we may enhance the sense of our own Power and this we are for ever trying to do, despite the act that by doing it we cause ourselves to feel more solitary than ever. The reality of Solitude is the same in all men, there being no mitigation of it, except in Forgetfulness, Stupidity, or Illusion; but a man’s sense of Solitude is proportionate to the sense and fact of his Power. In any set of circumstances, the more Power we have, the more intensely do we feel our solitude…”

And still we continue to operate, without the slightest allusion to the above.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Amen and step on the gas

I have copied out below a fascinating chapter from Aldous Huxley's 1928 novel Point Counter Point. It's really a monologue of one man, Mark Rampion, based on DH Lawrence, punctuated by the intrigued intellectual Philip Quarles, based on Aldous Huxley himself.

I look out at the vulgar constraints of the modern world as if it were a new problem. However, as this text and plenty more from Huxley and Lawrence suggest that I am what is new, not the problem.

To have one's disorganised thoughts summarised so succinctly by someone else is always a thrill. I share them with you now, and urge you to read the book should this passage excite you as much as it does me:

'But it's so silly, all this political squabbling,' said Rampion, his voice shrill with exasperation, 'so utterly silly. Bolsheviks and Fascists, Radicals and Conservatives, Communists and British Freemen - what the devil are they all fighting about? I'll tell you. They're fighting to decide whether we shall go to hell by communist express train or capitalist racing motor car, by individualist 'bus or collectivist tram running on the rail of state control. The destination's the same in every case. They're all of them bound for hell, all headed for the same psychological impasse and the social collapse that results from psychological collapse. The only point of difference between them is: How shall we get there? It's simply impossible for a man of sense to be interested in such disputes. For the man of sense the important thing is hell, not the means of transport to be employed in getting there. The question for the man of sense is: Do we or do we not want to go to hell? And his answer is: No, we don't. And if that's his answer, then he won't have anything to do with any of the politicians. Because they all want to land us in hell. All, without exception. Lenin
and Mussolini, MacDonald and Baldwin. All equally anxious to take us to hell and only squabbling about the means of taking us.'

'Some of them may take us a little more slowly than others,' suggested Philip.

Rampion shrugged his shoulders. 'But so very little more slowly that it wouldn't make any appreciable difference. They all believe in industrialism in one form or another, they all believe in Americanization. Think of the Bolshevist ideal. America but much more so. America with government departments taking the place of trusts and state officials instead of rich men. And then the ideal of the rest of Europe. The same thing, only with the rich men preserved. Machinery and Alfred Mond or Henry Ford here. The machine to take us to hell; the rich or the officials to drive it. You think one set may drive more cautiously than the other? Perhaps you're right. But I can't see that there's anything to choose between them. They're all equally in a hurry. In the name of science, progress, and human happiness! Amen and step on the gas.'

Philip nodded. 'They do step on it all right,' he said. 'They get a move on. Progress. But as you say, it's probably in the direction of the bottomless pit.'

'And the only thing the reformers can find to talk about is the shape, colour and steering arrangements of the vehicle. Can't the imbeciles see that it's the direction that matters, that we're entirely on the wrong road and ought to go back - preferably on foot, without the stinking machine?'

'You may be right,' said Philip. 'But the trouble is that given our existing world, you can't go back, you can't scrap the machine. That is, you can't do it unless you're prepared to kill off about half the human race. Industrialism made possible the doubling of the world's population in a hundred years. If you want to get rid of industrialism, you've got to slaughter half the existing number of men and women, Which might,
sub specie aeternitatis or merely historiae, be an excellent thing. But hardly a matter of practical politics.'

'Not at the moment,' Rampion agreed. 'But the next war and the next revolution will make it only too practical.'

'Possibly. But one shouldn't count on wars and revolutions. Because if you count on them happening, they certainly will happen.'

'They'll happen,' said Rampion, 'whether you count on them or not. Industrial progress means over-production, means the need for getting new markets, means international rivalry, means war. And mechanical progress means more specialization and standardization of work, means more ready-made and unindividual amusements, means diminution of initiative and creativeness, means more intellectualism and the progress atrophy of all the vital and fundamental things in human nature, means increased boredom and restlessness means finally a kind of individual madness that can only result in social revolution. Count on them or not, wars and revolutions are inevitable, if things are allowed to go on as they are at present.'

'So the problem will solve itself,' said Philip.

'Only by destroying itself. When humanity's destroyed, obviously there'll be no more problem. But it seems a poor sort of solution. I believe there may be another, even within the framework of the present system. A temporary one while the system's being modified in the direction of a permanent solution. The root of the evil's in the individual psychology; so it's there, in the individual psychology, that you'd have to begin. The first step would be to make people live dualistically, in two compartments. In one compartment as industrialized workers, in the other as human beings. As idiots and machines for eight hours out of every twenty-four and real human beings for the rest. '

'Don't they do that already?'

'Of course they don't. They live as idiots and machines all the time, at work and in their leisure. Like idiots and machines, but imagining they're living like civilized humans, even like gods. The first thing to do is to make them admit that they are idiots and machines during working hours. "Our civilization being what it is," this is what you'll have to say to them, "you've got to spend eight hours out of every twenty-four as a mixture between an imbecile and a sewing machine. It's very disagreeable, I know. It's humiliating and disgusting. But there you are. You've got to do it; otherwise the whole fabric of our world will fall to bits and we'll all starve. do the job, then, idiotically and mechanically; and spend your leisure hours in being a real complete man or woman, as the case may be. Don't mix the two lives together; keep the bulkheads watertight between them. The genuine human life in your leisure hours is the real thing. The other's just a dirty job that's got to be done. And never forget that it
is dirty and except in so far as it keeps you fed and society intact, utterly unimportant, utterly irrelevant to the real human life. Don't be deceived by the canting rogues who talk of the sanctity of labour and the Christian Service, that business men do their fellows. It's all lies. Your work's just a nasty, dirty job, made unfortunately necessary by the folly of your ancestors. They piled up a mountain of garbage and you've got to go digging it away, for fear it might stink you to death, dig for dear life, while cursing the memory of the maniacs who made all the dirty work for you to do. But don't try to cheer yourself up by pretending the nasty mechanical job is a noble one. It isn't; and the only result of saying and believing that it is, will be to lower your humanity to the level of the dirty work. If you believe in business as Service and the sanctity of labour you'll merely turn yourself into a mechanical idiot for twenty-four hours out of the twenty-four. Admit it's dirty, hold your nose and do it for eight hours and then concentrate on being a real human being in your leisure. A real complete human being. Not a newspaper reader, not a jazzer, not a radio fan,. The industrialists who purvey standardized ready-made amusement to the masses are doing their best to make you as much of a mechanical imbecile in your leisure as in your hours much of work. But don't let them. Make the effort of being human." That's what you've got to say to people; that's the lesson you've got to teach the young. You've got to persuade everybody that all this grand industrial civilization is just a bad smell and that the real, significant life can only be lived apart from it. It'll be a very long time before decent living and industrial smell can be reconciled. Perhaps, indeed, they're irreconcilable. It remains to be seen. In the meantime, at any rate, we must shovel the garbage and bear the smell stoically and in the intervals try to lead the real human life.'

Thursday, 16 July 2009

I'll Drink To That - Video

I have finally managed to work out how to extract video from a camcorder, and have uploaded to youtube this live rendition of I'll Drink To That. It's from the Sensual Earthly Women gig at St Mary's Church in Stoke Newington that we played some time in March. Hear all those reflections! Enjoy


Friday, 10 July 2009

The Future of Pop

I have had the great fortune to be in close enough proximity to observe the progression of an extraordinary talent. His name is Lemond, also known as, Alex Reece. We both hail from the same nowhere borough just outside of the naval island city of Portsmouth.

I was in a dreadful college band when I was sixteen and we used to murder some of the indie bilge around at that time. Quite how we made it sound worse than the original is beyond me. The bass player in this band was also in Alex's band, Tarantella, and introduced us once at one of their gigs at the multiple fire ravaged Contented Pig.
Alex was wearing a Seafood T-Shirt, a band I'd not heard of, and wore glasses and was proud of the fact. Strange and vaguely exotic concepts for me at the time, how provincial! I would write about all of this in short gig reviews that I would post on the Wedgewood Rooms email group. I'm sure this made the older majority of the group either groan with boredom or guffaw uncontrollably at the computer screen.

Somehow, though I can't remember the exact details, Alex and I struck up a friendship. I remember a particular night where we'd both played on the same bill. Tarantella had a song called Shark Vs Bone, with the band shouting that for the chorus, then Alex lifting a trumpet up and blowing off a flurry of notes. I was in silent awe. The room was throbbing with people, there were drunken youths passed out in speaker cones lying in puddles of piss and beer. Ah, those heady nights upstairs in the Horseshoe (RIP. Now flats).

We'd play the open mic nights at The Priory on Victoria Road (RIP. Now flats) on Monday nights, with plenty of out of tune odd balls and 50s throw backs. I'd sing these atrocious self indulgent songs of mine laden with strained falsetto, as I'd just discovered Jeff Buckley and was about to embark on a 5 year obsession with the man. Alex would mumble quirky self-conscious tunes that just about only I enjoyed.

I saw brilliance in that man then, though justifying it is impossible. We were both terrible musicians, singers, and songwriters. More importantly, my tastes then were despicable. How could one possibly have faith in the opinion of a seventeen year old amateur of everything? And yet, thankfully, my tastes have flourished and broadened as has Alex's song writing, the two possibly in correlation.

We both moved to London for university and to make bands. Alex hid behind guitars and keys for indie pop outfit, Mike TV, rarely singing, clearly embarrassed about his voice. Though out of tune and constantly cracking in those days, there was a timbre and depth to it that demanded attention. It received it eventually, when the bloated Mike TV devolved into separate projects.

From that point on, Alex concentrated on his own songs as a solo artist. He played me demos recorded on zip tapes from those old Boss 8 tracks in his New Cross rooms. I was constantly ecstatic to hear them, and secretly insanely jealous. There were so many ideas in one song, so many weird chords I'd never heard, obscure one liners that begged intrigue. I'm sure they were all too long in those days, but the seeds were there, clarity was descending.

We both left university and London as we started, in musical terms, nowhere. I headed off to Australia to study Audio Engineering for a year, Alex to Glasgow. He holed himself up in the roof of an old Queen's Park tenement with a PC and cracked copies of Logic. I think there was some effort to produce himself, nothing more, spending months and months on the same songs.

However, by the time I came back to the motherland, things were gaining pace. His songs were now shorter and snappier. All those esoteric signatures that were once the focus, were now cleverly woven into fabric of this new sound. It was a mixture of Zoot Woman and Phoenix but with Paddy McAloon singing. Deep woah Elvis thrusts perfectly punctuated with orgasmic Patti Smith shrieks. Lemond was born.

Did I envisage any of this when I was sweet sixteen in the corner by the fruit machine? No, it was beyond my comprehension then and probably Alex's too. What I was hearing and drooling over, was the product of years of hard graft, the forging of a voice and a unique production.

A few more years in Glasgow producing more tracks and redoing old ones, found him at the end of his tether but at the top of his game. What would be the fate of him, all that hard work and no one to recognise it. I'd take the train up to see him and in the midst of the Hall and Oates YouTube clip marathon he proceeded to put me through, there was an awful sadness. A recognition that he was just another man thrashing away in his bedroom that no one would ever hear.

Thank the heavens above someone was listening. After some MP3s that had been slung around and played at Run Hide Survive parties, the songs finally made their way to a management company, and proceeded to blow their balls off. Since this happy occurrence, Lemond has been making new demos at Sarm studios for legendary producer Trevor Horn, and developing what is looking to be a long and fruitful pop career.

Lemond is a shining example to any musician, and I would point to him if any toothless young musician asked me for advice. There is nothing more pleasurable and rewarding than listening to music, and listening to as much of it from wildly different genres is just as important as practicing your instrument, if not more in the case of songwriters.

Because Lemond has followed this path, he now embodies all that is great about pop music. Dripping with sex, a production that winds you with incredible efficiency, and a lyric so sharp it'll ruthlessly disembowel you on the dance floor, there is nothing quite left for the listener to desire.

Listen to this man's work of brilliance and revel as I do in his grand ascent to stardom.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Homage to Holloway

The end of an era is upon me. I am leaving my beloved Holloway this week for the envisaged greener pastures of Stoke Newington. I go in search of stimulation, inspiration, the promise of new faces, a community, and the nearness of friends both on paper and in action.

Misty eyed as I write this from my attic room on Tufnell Park Road, the heavy summer rain outside echoes my sentiments. What a time to be leaving! I was so stoic in my belief that it was better to be the last one standing, to be the outsider. Now I join the ranks of the cultured masses, the Guardianistas, the liberalati, the nutrition conscious. How awful, and yet, how agreeable.

Holloway has served me well. It was my entry point to London when I arrived as a mere child nine years ago, at the bottom of Parkhurst Road, where the A1 begins it's ascent to the Northern reaches of the country, I took rooms. Four lanes of traffic serenaded me to sleep every night, and the soft concrete landscape soothed my provincial eyes.

What a fool I was to follow in the footsteps, almost literally, of Dick Whittington. To believe the streets of London were paved with gold. I arrived fresh off the family Corsa expecting to rise to indie stardom within months. How wrong I could be. How much time I wasted on that fruitless exercise.

There was always a consolation however. The Prince Edward opposite Holloway prison on Parkhurst Road has seen me grow from the floppy haired pretty boy into the upstanding gent I strive to be today. Inebriating me with pints of Fosters and Chicken Walkers at the lowest and highest points in my life. Though the selection of beer is nothing short of drab, I challenge anyone to find a better served pint of anything The Prince Edward offers. With an award winning beer garden, sadly ruined by the need to turn it into a smoker's shelter, and a barman so consistently incomprehensible you can only laugh and nod, it has all you really need in a pub, in a living room, in a life.

I've decried The Prince Edward as the best pub in the world many a time, and let me state once and for all the reason why. The reason for this is the reason why anything is any good in all walks of life: they get the important things right, and don't try too hard. A motto to be observed, but ironically, one that can never be followed.

In those early days though, I hated it, I truly despised it. It was ugly, crude, dangerous, and a bloody shock to the system, coming from the disgustingly sheltered suburbs. In reaction I planned a temporary escape from it's clutches to a more charmed existence in a less cultured continent. From there I had the opportunity to reflect on just what I left behind. A utopia it wasn't, and all the better for it.

On returning to the bosom for a second suckle, I started to pay homage to Holloway. Every song you've had the displeasure of hearing in the last few years has been written with this in mind. A backdrop to the ballads, hopefully subtle references to my escapades in and around the streets.

Perhaps 'The Last Embrace' epitomises this aim of mine. A particularly maudlin song about the non-existence of spirituality set on the bench in St George's park below my window. I sang it to the pigeons, and the drunks that should be left alone as they desire and certainly not admonished for choosing the bottle over an enduring human relationship. If there was of course, any choice to be made.

The polar opposite of that would be the celebration of the antic hay I have danced here, in the form of 'Life Can't Get Any Better'. Introduced at my shows as "A love song set on Holloway Road", it tries to encapsulate that feeling one has after the third pint. You're in the greatest city in the world, a pit bull off the leash, and there is a woman you admire and she returns your advances. The moment is fleeting of course, but still it existed, and why not celebrate it? For you know as well as I that I revel in my own misery all too often.

So here it is then. The last goodbye? I shouldn't think so, but a marked departure if nothing else. I shall certainly be back for a confused exchange of words with Sean at The Prince. It was once the centre of the known world for me, and may it continue to be.

Goodbye old friend.


Thursday, 7 May 2009

United I stand

Silence is golden after all. The mobile phone has been firmly shut away in my drawer for one month now, and with no calamities to speak of. No piercing shrieks in the morning from the built-in alarm clock. Daylight wakes me now.

The occasions where I've needed to call someone, or have someone call me, I set aside some time when I was ready, and made or took the call in the comfort of my chambers.

People have often tried to get hold of me urgently for various reasons, but have had to either work it out themselves or call someone I'm with. Both ways are prime examples of devolved responsibility. I feel entirely comfortable with this new, albeit, minor freedom, and intend on continuing in this fashion.

My father on the other hand, a man of reasonably advanced years, who has written hand letters well into the 90s, and typed letters on Word Processors well into the 00s (all in capitals I might add) is now telling me he wants to "get on the net".

As I slowly turn away from the vulgarities of the 21st century he'd spoken of my whole life, he sees the false light of global communication as a portal to a more fulfilling world.

I was so ready to embrace him. To pen a letter on parchment with quill and squid ink, and ecstatically confirm "Dad, you were right! You were right all along!".

Who now will clasp me to their bosom in solidarity? United I stand. Alone.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

For the love of music

I have just returned from a free lunchtime concert in the new hall in Lincoln's Inn, just by Chancery Lane. As usual, it was breathtakingly brilliant, with some of the best young musicians in the world, if not the country. Today's concert comprised of violinist Zhanna Tonaganyan and pianist Yulia Vorontsova, both from Russia, playing Mozart's "Sonata B-dur", Liszt's "Tarantella", and Glazunov's "Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 82".

Also quite staggering is the fact that there were just 10 people in the audience. Last night I went to Ronnie Scott's for the first time to see John Surman. As much as I like Surman, and enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere of the legendary venue, I couldn't quite get over the exclusiveness of it all. Ronnie's was as far as I could see, sold out, despite the cheapest ticket costing £30. On a Tuesday night.

This brings me to the usual conclusion that the public, tragically, only trust certain media for their sources of entertainment. Established venues pull in crowds simply because they've been doing it for a long time and people believe in the prestigious nature of the venue. The thought is something like this: "If they're playing there, then they must be good". This is quite simply, not the case.

For the love of music, I implore you to go and see one of these free concerts at Lincoln's Inn. Not only have they sparked a burgeoning interest in classical music in me and provided a grounding in that genre, but they have been some of the best concerts I've had the great fortune to witness in the past year.
For details of the upcoming concerts, see this programme.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Speak low, when you speak love...

It is with much enthusiasm that I bring you news of some summer shows. The boys at the Fitzrovia Radio Hour, have kindly booked us for the opening party of a new venue under the legendary Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Friday May 29th. The new venue will be called The Underglobe, would you believe, and promises to be a very busy night with all the usual and not so usual accoutrements to the typical 21st century soiree.

From this, we hope to be starting a residency of sorts in the Swan bar, also attached to the Globe theatre, confirmed so far as Saturday June 6th, and 27th. We will play 2 sets (expect some covers) to the punters that would be spilling out from the Globe theatre after the play ends, about 10.30pm. This will be free entry, and should be quite an experience, with views over the Thames and St Pauls at night.

Perhaps come and see a play at the theatre then take some drinks after and allow us to serenade you. If it's a hot night, we may even be performing on the terrace. On June 6th the play is Romeo & Juliet, and on the 27th it will be As You Like It. For more information regarding the plays, please follow this link:
We still have some shows in some wonderful venues before the thespian onslaught begins however, the next one being this Tuesday in the West End:

28 Apr 2009 Bourne & Hollingsworth, Fitzrovia, London - Free
12 May 2009 Hope & Anchor, Islington, London - £5
14 May 2009 St Mary’s Church, Stoke Newington - £5
21 May 2009 The Camden Head w/ Joe Worricker (new Rough Trade signing), Camden, London - £5
29 May 2009 The Underglobe, Southbank, London - £TBC
6 Jun 2009 The Swan, Southbank, London - Free
27 Jun 2009 The Swan, Southbank, London - Free

It would be wonderful to see you on one of these balmy nights.


Monday, 6 April 2009

Mobile Bone

The time has come to stop fooling around with technical gadgets and get on with life. I have pretended for too long that they actually benefit me, make things easier. I have held on to the belief that I need them all to promote my music, but that clearly has no effect whatsoever. So from tonight I will start by consigning my mobile phone to a shut drawer, for one month.

I may of course be wrong about this technology malarkey. It may enhance my life after all, and I am more than willing to admit this fact, should it come to light. I will not however mask my gleeful anticipation at not being interrupted at any moment of the day, let alone the middle of the night.

I look forward with immense enthusiasm to my new lack of responsibility. No longer will I be called upon at 11th hour for anything. I envisage many hours spent in pubs waiting for flaky friends, but with a book and a pint of ale, what more could one need? My eyes will finally be free from the paranoid flickers to the phone display. "Have I received a text but I didn't hear it? Perhaps they rung while I was in transit and I never felt it vibrate in my pocket?"

Is it possible that silence can be as sweet as I imagine it to be? I shall report back in one month on my findings. Happy twiddling.


Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Without a shadow of a doubt

Sincerely yours,
Despite the rolling eyes,
That have seen it all before,
And don't wish to see it again,
Well to hell with that and them,
Because I, have finally figured it out...

Without a shadow of a doubt,
Nothing can phase me now,
I even find it hard to imagine how,
I've lived so long, without you on,
My mind. Intervention is divine.
There's nothing I'm more sure about,
Without a shadow of a doubt.

Heathcliffian surly,
Could it be that for her,
I have come too early,
And the paranoid thoughts I foster,
Will expose me as an imposter,
Any minute now, I will be found out

Without a shadow of a doubt,
Nothing can phase me now,
I even find it hard to imagine how,
I've lived so long, without you on,
My mind. Intervention is divine.
There's nothing I'm more sure about,

Without a shadow of a doubt,
Nothing can phase me now,
Save the thought of you running out,
On me, but that can only be,
Confined to morbid fantasy,
There's nothing I'm sure about,
Without a shadow of a doubt.

Written by Marmaduke Dando Hutchings

Friday, 20 February 2009

Everything is free

I had been obsessed with Gillian Welch about a year ago, specifically Time: The Revelator, needing to hear it a couple of times a day. Time wore on, and other stimuli infiltrated my attention. Listening indifferently to it just this week, whilst toiling away at some administrative nonsense, the meaning of one of the songs, Everything Is Free, suddenly became clear. I'd fallen in love with her morose southern drawl and the simplicity of the recordings, not particularly the content of the lyrics.

Everything Is Free seemed to resonate strongly with my own feelings about how music is these days, how the way the world works now. We give everything away for free because we can't beat the pirates. They're too many, we are too few, and our righteous cause of payment for goods and services delivered, is dismissed, let alone even considered. So instead of beating them, we acquiesce, and take money from sponsors instead, directly or indirectly rather than from the listeners themselves.

What I love the most about the song though, is the last verse, which intimates that, if this is the way it must be, then one has no right to demand anything from the musician. Their expression of creativity may well be free for all to hear, but pure. Free from meddling record companies with agendas. The control is placed firmly within the musician's hands.

Whether this is a good thing or not, is somewhat subjective. Some sort of direction, whether it comes from the musician or whether it comes from some svengali type, is always positive. Personally I see both sources of direction as being equally valid, regardless of whether they make money or not. Financial success shouldn't really be linked to purity of expression, or the corruption of it, though it often is. Her two fingers up at all that ironically undermine and yet demand of her, and the stoical nature of her music is something to admired.

Lyrics printed below:

Everything is free now,
That's what they say.
Everything I ever loved,
I'm going to give it away.
Someone hit the big score.
They figured it out,
That we're gonna do it anyway,
Even if doesn't pay.

I can get a tip jar,
Gas up the car,
And try to make a little change
Down at the bar.

Or I can get a straight job,
I've done it before.
I never minded working hard,
It's who I'm working for.


Every day I wake up,
Come in a song.
But I don't need to run around,
I just stay home.

And sing a little love song,
My love, to myself.
If there's something that you want to hear,
You can sing it yourself.

'Cause everything is free now,
That what I say.
No one's got to listen to
The words in my head.
Someone hit the big score,
And I figured it out,
That we're gonna do it anyway,
Even if doesn't pay.

Listen to the song here:

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Power Down VII, February 28th, 2009

Power Down VII is upon us, and will be Saturday February 28th at the Islington Arts Factory, 2 Parkhurst Road, N7 0SF. Apologies for the late news of this date, but we had a slight issue with the cancellation of some acts. However, all the troubles are over, and this will be a very special one, i can guarantee that.

If you're new to this and are unsure what Power Down is, it is this:
"Power Down is an irregular night of eclectic musical entertainment that aims to promote sustainability through subtle means. The performers are completely unamplified and the audience is silent out of necessity. The lighting is provided by donated candles and a type of candle that we make ourselves using recycled vegetable oil from the local fish and chip shop. Food and beverages are served which are either organic or locally produced. The nights are held together by the host Marmaduke Dando, and are generally held at the Islington Arts Factory in Holloway, north London.

"The following acts have performed at Power Down in the last 2 years: The Hoosiers, Liam Bailey, Cellorhythmics, Seb Genovese, Ahuman, Portico Quartet, Chris Lyons, Rebecca Jade, Rachel Rose Reid, Rob McCabe, Tall Stories, Sara Mitra, Josephine Oniyama, Citizen Helene & The Racists, Lemond, Chancery Blame and The Gadjo Club, Zoot Lynam and his band, Top Shelf Jazz, The Langley Sisters, Ed Harcourt, and Marmaduke Dando. "
The line-up for this Power Down will be just 3 acts this time, to give you all enough time to drink and talk in between sets, and make the last tubes.

The line-up for Power Down VII will be just 3 acts this time, to give you all enough time to drink and talk in between sets, and make the last tubes.

Cellorhythmics as the Working Classical Orchestra - The progressive cello group who played the first ever Power Down with The Hoosiers two years ago are back with their 10 piece orchestra, the Working Classical Orchestra. Have a listen and look at one of their performances here:

Kat Vipers - Hailing originally from Greece, Kat Vipers is a young pianist with a flamboyant vibrato that croons over everything from gypsy folk, to punk and sinister fifties-era melodrama. Have a listen and look here:

The Boycott Coca Cola Experience - One man on a bicycle playing his guitar while he rides to power a small amp (a momentary power up). Hilariously dry tales of the horrors of the modern world. Take a peak here:

Entrance will be 5 pounds on the door, and doors will open at 8pm. The first performer will be on about 8.30pm. The usual cheap organic drinks will be on sale at the bar.

There are about one hundred buses that stop outside the venue, and there are two close tube stations, Holloway Road and Caledonian Road station. Do not fear if you reside in some far flung recess of London, the entertainment will be finished in time for you to catch your tubes. As this aims to be a low carbon event, we urge the audience to use public transport, bicycles or their own feet to get to the venue, as the performers will also be doing. There are secure places to lock your bikes. If you have to drive, then please don't come!


Monday, 2 February 2009

Enjoy the silence

London is under a blanket of snow. I stayed up late last night looking over it all in wonder. The sky was sodium orange, almost like daylight, the city lights reflected in the flakes. How I imagine daylight on Mars to be, two thirds the strength of Earth light, and with an eerie tangerine glow to it.

This morning, no public services are working of course, and it's too heavy to cycle or walk. There are children laughing, adults grinning, snowmen leaning wonkily, and a silence I've not heard, since, hmmm, my travels through Siberia, and Mongolia.

Not only is it the acoustic quality of snow, that sucks up all sound, and kills reflections, but it's the fact that there are hardly any machines running today. Just a smattering of cars, going very slowly. It's utter heaven. Imagine what London would be like with this few machines? It would be a utopia. Marinetti wouldn't know where to look. The only thing to complete the scene would be to have the church bells playing Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue.

What a wonderful world.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Darkness at noon

I'm just chomping through Darkness At Noon by Arthur Koestler and came upon this little gem:

"A mathematician once said that algebra was the science for lazy people - one does not work out x, but operates with it as if one knew it. In our case, x stands for the anonymous masses, the people. Politics mean operating with this x without worrying about its actual nature. Making history is to recognise x for what it stands for in the equation."

Friday, 9 January 2009

How the candles are made at Power Down

Since Power Down began, the lighting we employ has gone through a number of incarnations. I scoured the internet looking for the best source of lighting for our needs, and found many possible solutions. Clearly the motive behind Power Down is the looming energy crisis and man's contribution to global warming, so it was imperative to bare this in mind when choosing the solution.

The first thing to address is the inefficiency of candles over electric light. For the same amount of calories that a typical candle would burn to produce light, an incandescent light bulb will glow 39 times brighter. Imagine then using a Compact Fluorescent Light, or even LEDs, and you'll have an greater degree of efficiency.

However, the beauty of the atmosphere at Power Down is the low luminosity of candle light. There would be no vibe whatsoever if the audience and performers were bathed in a blazing grey light from a ceiling array of LEDs. Not to mention, the name of the night alludes to zero power usage, regardless of the source.

So candles it was. Though actually, at first it was oil lamps. I asked my local fish and chip shop in Holloway, the Odeon Fish and Chip Shop, whether they had any spare vegetable oil I could have. All they did with the oil was to leave it outside for collection by the company that delivered fresh supplies. This would most probably be thrown on landfill or worked into pet food. Something to consider the next time you bite into one of your dog's biscuits.

I then began making these fiddly little contraptions, oil lamps made from glass jars, water, the oil, paper clips, and wicks made from platted string. They burn very well, and if just a few, they're quite manageable. With 70 of the blighters, it turned out that there were just too many to attend to all night.

If you can imagine, there was water in the jar about 7/8ths to the top. Oil filled the final 8th, and a wick would be held in the centre of the jar by a paper clip hanging from the side of the jar lip. The wick would hang from it's position, through the oil, and down into the water. When lit, the oil would be sucked up through the wick by capillary action to the tip, where it would be burned by the flame, and heat, light, soot, and carbon dioxide would be produced. After a while, the decrease in oil would be noticeable, by exposing more of the wick, creating a bigger and dirtier flame. This was combated by one of 3 ways: 1 - Trimming the wick in mid burn, 2 - Topping the jar up with more oil, and 3 - Topping the jar up with more water. The third choice was the most practical, and hence implemented. This had me rushing around with a small watering can delicately filling up the jars to keep the flames at the optimum size. Whilst trying to arrange the performers and host the evening, you can imagine this was quite a task.

Not only were they hard to maintain in great numbers, but when kicked over by an appendage under the influence of delicious organic beer, sending oil and water flying in all directions, they made a bloody mess! So the design of the lighting had to improve to be more independent and be made of a less capricious substance.

I was inspired by margarine. It is made from vegetable oil and yet is semi solid. How do they do that? I researched the hydrogenation process and found that it's done by heating the oil to hundreds of degrees centigrade and at a huge pressure. Not something I could feasibly do on my stove at home.

Buying candles was not an option, as it would be creating demand for raw and often finite materials, such as crude oil which refines to paraffin, found in candles. Candles made from vegetables, soya etc would be made from crops likely to be taking the place of food crops, or precious rainforest, not to mention the transportation of the stuff, likely to be from the other side of the world.

The conclusion I came to was to use the second hand vegetable oil I already had, and mix it with redundant wax from candles that have had their wicks burn down, and then make them into new candles. The solidity from the paraffin in the candles would be compromised by oil diluting the wax, but it would make more candles, and so increase efficiency.

I had to extract this redundant wax from the well crafted under-sink cupboards of Islington somehow, and I did so through Freecycle. Many donations came through, after the specific plea that they should not create a demand for new candles to be purchased in the shops.

Once the harvest was sufficient, I took a large saucepan, filled it with the second hand vegetable oil, and began to heat it slowly. I then added some of the broken and redundant wax from the donations I'd received, until it had melted. I never measured anything accurately, but I would hazard a guess that the ratio is one part of wax, to five parts of oil. I then ladled this out into myriad containers, with short lengths of string for wicks. These were anchored to the bottom of the container by a thin metal square from a beer can with a split cut halfway in that held the bottom of the wick. The containers were a collection of sardine tins and mince pie cups. The liquid would take roughly an hour to cool properly, and would then of course harden. The candles were now ready for transportation or use, with no mess. The little maintenance that is involved is a simple wick trim with a pair of scissors, but this is far less frequent than with the oil lamps.

If you've been to a Power Down before, you may notice that there are some very smart looking white church candles adorning walls and podiums. These are not the candles described above. They were donated from a company in the City that, despite their generous nature in this instance, do not warrant any form of advertising. They had bought all these candles for the tables of some award ceremony, which were burnt during, and after became useless to them. It seemed an awful shame to melt down such good candles into the mucky brown pallets, so I left them intact. They've been lighting the churches for over a year now.

So hopefully, this riveting read has mildly absolved Power Down from the guilt spawned from the culture of waste, if not because of a reduction in emissions. It is hoped that for every Power Down that is staged, the nightly carbon footprints of 200 people are considerably reduced, by choosing our night of entertainment over something more traditionally profligate.