Friday, 6 November 2009

High Tech Soul

Here's another reason why the internet is so great, I'm interested in Detroit techno and if you know anything about this kind of music, then you know there's a whole load of mystique built around it. But, a quick search on Google and I am watching a documentary about it. Here it is.

Detroit techno is not only the story of a particular blend of dance music, but it's also about the fabric of the city itself. The 'motorcity' at one point was home to four million, but the population has since dropped to a quarter of that - partly because of the collapse of the American motor industry and the GI Bill, which encouraged soldiers returning from the war to settle with their families in the suburbs. The city become home to a mostly black blue collar workforce for Ford and General Motors. These people would tell their kids about working with robots on the assembly line. Robots, comic books, a city that looked like the background of a science fiction film, it was all grist to the mill for some growing up in Detroit.

In their teens, Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson independently find local music shops flooded with analogue synths, TR909 and 808 drum machines – instruments rejected by most regular musicians for sounding 'too artificial'. And after listening to Kraftwerk (also from an equally industrial city: Düsseldorf), some soul, gospel, George Clinton and the local radio DJ, The Electrifying Mojo, they make the leap to create their own spiritual uplifting 'high tech soul'.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Calexico LIVE Poster

One of the things I hate about MP3s and the Internet is they robs the mystique of music a little. All that information on your favourite bands is now so readily to hand and because we often listen to most of our tunes on iPods, there's no album art to scour over for any precious details. A picture on a display is not the same.

One of my favourite sites is with its massive library of free live recordings that most of the acts have allowed to be posted. There's alot of shite, but among the turgid files are some real gems, such as Calexico's show at the China Theatre in Stockholm. I'd never heard their music before, but some friends are fans and this was a great way of finding out about not just Calexico, but a whole load of other acts from Tuscon, such as Giant Sand. It seemed the city has a pretty vibrant music scene (although I've learnt it's not what it once was).

The first time I heard this set was late one Saturday night in mid-summer. I'd just been djing a friend's party and was riding from Mile End back to Brixton at around three in the morning. I don't know if it was the hot night, or the full moon, but the cycling was pretty spooky. The kind of night you could see a UFO flying behind a cloud. And so to tie the two ideas loosely together, I thought, 'this set needs a poster', so I ended up drawing Calvin Parker with weird silver eyes. No, don't know why, I just liked the way it looked.

It's not as slick as the Sasquatch one, but I was never happy with the photoshopped text. Too perfect. This is a bit more textural, it had inconsistencies and it was fun to do. What more do you want from a hobby?

A4 size

Lonnie Zamora

When I was a kid, I used to borrow The UFO Casebook almost every time I went to the library. I have never seen a copy, except maybe on Amazon. There are quite a few books out there that could share the same name, but I want the one I used to pore over. It had a great Close Encounters style cover (light beyond the horizon, desert road leading to it), and was illustrated with lots of really evocative and frankly, spooky coloured pencil drawings.

Anyway, in honour of that tome, here's a sketch of Lonnie Zamora.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Reading books about music to write a book about music

Writing about music is hard. Whether you’re describing or reviewing, you inevitably fall into the trap of coupling disparate adjectives together to get the sounds from inside your head into others. And why bother when we live in a world of Spotify and lastFM. What can the world learn from your descriptions? Nothing really, especially if you talk to the musicians – who broadly fall into two camps: those who’d rather ‘let the music do the talking’ (boring), and those who can’t shut up about it.

In the book I’m writing The Hunt For The Tigerfen, the two main characters form a band that enjoys great critical and commercial success in a relatively short time. This happens because I’m really interested in writing not about music, but egos and how they bend people into wankers. And why, despite their behaviour, wankers still have friends.

But ‘music’ was always lurking around in the background when I was planning the book. Unless my characters formed a completely vacuous pop band, I would definitely have to talk about the music and the scene it exists in. I might have to even describe some of it. Jesus, who’d want to read that?

These two books were a great help. They both talk about a specific time and type of music without actually mentioning the music very much. With Please Kill Me, it’s all about the wankers of punk - of which there are many. And reading Our Band Can Be Your Life, it helps to know and like eighties American alternative music, but really both books are about how certain forward-thinking bands in the States helped create the structure of the ‘underground scene’ that would eventually propel Nirvana, Green Day to great success and the heady heights of being crudely rendered in Guitar Hero.

But then I felt, as I was writing about a band, I should read a few books just about bands. That was interesting, sort of. Aside from The Dirt (which, I’ve not read, but I’m assured is one of the best music books ever written), books about bands are a pretty dry read. Sure, Hammer of the Gods is spiced with gruesome tales from the road, but it’s also full of endless descriptions of set lists the band played. I definitely don’t want to write about my band like that or even describe the music. But I think I know how I’m going to write the last part of Tigerfen, but we’ll see when I get to that bit in a couple of months.

In the meantime, if you want to know who’s unfortunate mouth Lou Reed wanted to defecate into, along with a whole load of stuff about MC5, the Stooges, Television and how the Lower East Side became the birthplace for a particular brand of angular (here we go with the descriptions) punk, then Please Kill Me is your book.

And if you’ve read Get In The Van, but want to know what the rest of Black Flag thought of Henry Rollins and why nobody heard of Mission of Burma before Graham Coxon started banging on about them, then Our Band Could Be Your Life is the book for you.

I will post more Tigerfen soon.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Friday, 25 September 2009

Friday, 18 September 2009

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Sean on the phone

With what appears to be a 'pi' tattoo - well I never

Friday, 28 August 2009

Lush Life by Richard Price

This is not the cover of my book. Mine has the 'Wire' style typography, which is not surprising as Richard Price, like every other talented crime writer in the US, has at some point written for the show.

I was already a big fan. There were so many copies of Clockers in the Brixton Bookmongers it was inevitable I'd end up reading one. Lush Life picks up on Clocker's themes of poverty and crime in the suburbs and squashes them into Manhattan's Lower East Side.

New York is the only place I've ever been to in the US and I've visited the city twice. Once in 2000 and then again in 2007, and this novel perfectly captures what I saw first hand between those years- the rapid gentrification of a previously seedy era. And it's not just the buildings being tidied up and Starbucks on the corner. It's the people who move in.

This is a novel about sudden change. Main character, Eric Cash, after one tragic night, realises he's not a writer who happens to make ends meet by keeping bar. He's a bartender. Det Matty Clark witnesses first-hand the change crime makes on his life as it does on the people caught up in the cases he works. Young black men are seduced by the power they can wield.

Bits of this book reminded of a similar novel (this time set across the river in Brooklyn), The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem. There's a memorable section in which the central character's friends realise the powerful fear they invoke by being young, black men from the ghetto.

In Lush Life, this idea is augmented by the sheer inability of the city to tackle its social issues. The Quality of Life roll around the narrow streets in their fake yellow taxi in a never ending patrol to try and stem the flow of crime. Detectives work murder scenes, question witnesses to tie street names to race. But there's always another mugging, another shooting and another chance to be hung out to dry by the NYPD brass when the media start demanding answers. Who'd be a cop in New York?

But between all this grimness, lies the glue that makes this such a great book. And it's not just the dialogue - which has rightly been praised - it's the way the characters behave around one another. The way they've been drawn.

This is a bleak ride, but it's full of amazing writing


This is a nicely crafted bit of surreality and manages to prick the often pompous world of scratching and hip hop quite well. I mean, some of those guys can be so serious about it. The design reminds me of Alien oddly.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

BARNZ poster

What do you get for the birthday of a bored emo who has broadband and plenty of torrent? Why you burn him a mix CD of 'influential' acts you hope he might like and then spend an afternoon making an elaborate track listings poster. Man, hand drawn text is such a chore. Still, at least I got to play with my screen tone.

Monday, 10 August 2009

UC Records

I had a go at running a record label a few years back, just as record labels were starting to lose loads of money and before Boomkat started stocking MP3 releases. UC Records never got further than an enthusiastic CR-R electronica label ran out of my horrible little flat in Bath, but there you go. It was fun and I got to make like a sleeve designer, which is probably the main reason most people start labels in the first place.

From left to right:
We Sailed A Raft Across The Forty Foot
This was a UC Records sampler we dished out for one of our Prism nights. We liked giving things away, probably because we were so needy - stickers, CDs and even one night, Martin's entire record collection. People really liked the cover of this mix, but not the mix itself, even though it featured a Yo La Tengo and Optimo track. Not because we had some incredible licensing deal, but because I liked the music and just stuck it on. Luckily they never found out.

Monstatruk: Lincolnshire is for Lovers

My final, but unreleased EP (unless you download it down there). I like to pretend I never put it out because I wanted it be one of those great lost records. Not true, my PC, with the CD burner (yes, all the CDs were hand burned), crashed at my last ever gig. Again, I like to think this all happened for a reason and it was just my time to stop, man. Nope, the PC got really hot and had beer spilled all over it. Oh, and this gig wasn't in some dingy club, but a big old chapel in Bath in front of a load of bemused indie fans.

Prism poster
Once a month, we'd DJ at Doolallys, a tiny little place in Bath now long gone. It was great, there was beer and cake, and an owner who'd let us drink for free before handing over fifty quid each time, regardless of how many people turned up. It usually wasn't many and most of them were friends. But we gave away free things, played the records we wanted to play and occasionally these records were really bad. It was fun and that's what it's all about. Interestingly, the owner suddenly announced he'd sold the business and was moving to New Zealand to run their Olympic selection squad. As you do. Anyway, we called the night Prism for some reason, probably because we all liked the Boards of Canada. We used green because no one ever used green on DJ fliers. They don't for good reason, because punters think you're pushing fertilizers or something and not a club night they can dance at, which because Doolallys was a cafe, they couldn't.

Our best cover was done by this guy who also wrote all the music. It was for our best release: Evil Twin, Twinage Kicks.

Monday, 3 August 2009

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

Imagine if Charlie Kaufman wrote Jaws

I picked up this book, flicked through and decided to give it a go. But I didn't have high hopes. The blurb on the back is poor and the text illustrations are a bit gimmicky.

But, it is a great book. Usually, when you're presented with a man with no memory, there's lots of tedious shuffling around while he tries to sort himself out. Not here, because although the book tackles some pretty weighty concepts, the pacing is tuned just right. Cliff hangers, reveals, it's all there and used to tell a story well.

If you do a bit research on the internet, you'll find all sorts of bollocks about 'unchapters' and dual meaning. These and the illustrations and installed texts around the country are a bit 'so what' IMHO. Don't let it detract you from the quality of this novel.

Steven Hall is a good writer who has an uncanny ability to choose the one action that best describes whatever his characters are up to. Doesn't sound much does it? But it's laser guided writing and something I'm always trying to get into my own stuff.

It's going to be made into a film too.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Dove

Once upon a time I did an illustration for the Junior Boys first release on KIN records. Here it is:

One of those, 'oh cool, I forgot all about this,' moments.

Monday, 20 July 2009

La Maschera Del Demonio

Latest painting, botched photos because I had to take them just before I got on a train to give it to my brother. Nicer pictures to follow.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Lost Tribes of New York

So it's been done before, but the people telling the story and the stop-frame photography make it for me

Friday, 10 July 2009


Jim meets Alex, together they play dangerously, stalk a mythical beast and form an awesome band. What could possibly go wrong?

This is what I've mainly been working on for six months. It's a book and I'll be posting bits and pieces up now and then.

In this bit Jim's granddad, Charlie catches his grandson and Alex playing around in the farmyard and warns them to watch out for the Tigerfen.

Charlie asked Alex if Jim had told him about the Tigerfen. Jim hadn't. He knew what was coming and even though he'd heard it all before, he wanted to hear it again, so he kept quiet and listened to his granddad tell of the beast that had terrorised the villages of South Holland, Lincolnshire for generations. Nobody knew when it first appeared, Charlie thought it might have been when the Dutch drained the fen, but it was well-known dogs, cats, chickens and other animals were not safe on their own at night. Children were warned not to creep from their beds. But it didn't matter, because the Tigerfen would always be blamed for something and then the men would gather to catch it. Nothing ever came back, only apocryphal encounters in the boggy copses or snatched visions across flat fields. Nobody knew what it looked like, only that it was there, somewhere, out there. Waiting for you to go down and check the padlock on the woodshed at sunset.

'This all happened just before the spring, maybe February? And I'd have been your age Jim. I'd been helping my Dad – your great-granddad – pull up this big dead stump of a tree down by the drain junction. It taken us all day to get it out, bring it back and chop it up. Past the stable we used to have a lean-to made from wriggly tin where we kept all the wood for the winter. People didn't really nick things back then, but you had to be careful and it was a good idea to padlock the sheds. Not that it would have done any good with that old shed. It was so full of holes you could have bashed your way in. We eventually lost it in a big storm. It got blown clean through the yard, past our house and up the street before finally going over the wall into the cemetery. Anyway, my Dad couldn't remember if he locked up so he sent me down before dinner to check. It was just after the sun set. The sky was bright orange and the land, sheds and trees were all mixed together and black with shadow. I didn't like going down there with the light fading, it was always pretty spooky and cold, so I didn't hang around. I came around the side of the stables, looking through the bunch for the right key and there it was standing in front of me, no further than you are away from me now, stock still. Now, sometimes when I try and remember what it looked like, it has long shaggy hair that hung under its belly, sometimes its bigger than a Great Dane and sometimes I reckon no bigger than a Black Lab. But I'll never forget the steam rising from it's muzzle and those big, bright, flaming eyes burning straight into mine. I couldn't move could I, what would you do?'

'I don't know', said Alex, 'Was it the Tigerfen?'

'Who knows what it was, maybe it was the Tigerfen, but that's just a name. I believe there are things that walk the earth we know nothing about', said Charlie.

'What did you do?' said Jim.

'I stood as still as I could and watched its chest flex in and out, as if it just run all the way there to meet me. Eventually it turned round and buggered off into the field at the back there. Of course, I got my Dad and he came out with his twelve bore.'

'Did you shoot it?' Asked Jim excitedly. This bit of the story was new.

Charlie shook his head. 'The sun had long set by then and I don't think either of us wanted to go stumbling around in the twilight looking for it.'

'It was probably just a big dog', said Alex.

'Oh right – one with flaming eyes', said Jim.

'Maybe it was', said Charlie, 'maybe it wasn't.'

'Why is it called a Tiger then?'

'Who can say? But it does go to show that farms are not playgrounds. You two had no right up on those bales. If your Mum caught you Jim she'd have kittens. And I reckon your Mum, Alex wouldn't be best pleased if you went back home with a broken neck. Now go on the pair of you round the front, they've go something you should see.'

I know formatting isn't tight yet. More soon.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Peter Baynham

If you're a fan of British comedy then Peter Baynham is a name you might have seen cropping up on credits almost as often as Armando Iannucci. As a writer, he's worked with Chris Morris on Brass Eye (where he appeared as a man paid to have lips grown all over his body), and The Day Today. He was also on the writing team for I'm Alan Partridge and he wrote, produced and directed I am Not An Animal, which is bonkers and underrated.

Here he is (long hair, Welsh), with Anthony Hines (no hair, English). They talk about writing Borat, Bruno, working with Sasha Baron Cohen and making a jacket out of Dakota Fanning. Lovely.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Open Your Sesame!

I found this link via the Popbitch mailout - page after glorious page of Russian record covers. There's no way of knowing what the music might be like, but who cares, play the game, 'Judge It By The Cover.'

A couple of years ago, Tom, the owner of label Pause 2, told me about the trip he took to Russia to meet EU. He decided it would be a great opportunity to crate dig for lots of old Russian vinyl, which since the collapse of Communism was obviously going to be super rare. Sure enough, he finds a record market and gets all excited by the rows of LPs for sale. What a find! Until EU calmly explain all the records were released by the one state-owned record label in pressing runs of at least 50,000 copies each.

Tom said it was a really difficult getting any music from EU. Not because they were lazy, but because they lived in the middle-of-nowhere Russia (where there is quite a lot of nowhere to live). Every time they wanted to send over some new music they'd have to first burn it onto audio CD. Then they'd make the lengthy trip to the nearest post office to play the CD to a customs official to prove its contents. Perhaps it was censorship, I don't know. Maybe it was really important Russia didn't release any derivative electronic music. 'No, no, no, this sounds too much like the Aphex Twin. And with this one you've clearly been listening to the decadent sounds of Prefuse 73! This is not Miami! More originality!'

On average it took six weeks for the CD to reach Bristol. Anyway here are my favouries, just look at all these pop stars!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Two Jags

If you look closely, you can see sparkles in the blue ink from the brush [end paint geek moment]

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Stone Junction

As books go this is one joy dropping ride straight from page one. Following the mysterious death of his mother, Daniel Pearse is thrown straight into the ranks of the super secret AMO. There he learns to pick locks, smuggle, the art of disguise and finally to manipulate his body at a sub-atomic level. Golly, it has all the hallmarks of being some awful cheesy fantasy romp. But fret not, Jim Dodge is a great writer. Every paragraph is tuned to a steady rhythm and there's real substance to the book's ideas.

If I have one complaint, it was too easy to read quickly. And it's not like Jim's written a whole load of books to get lost in.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Monday, 25 May 2009

Friday, 22 May 2009

Shellac ATP

When I was sixteen my girlfriend gave me Shellac's first single, Uranus. The picture doesn't do it justice. It's a proper thing of beauty; lovely cream card cover that could be hand printed, with a seven inch as thick as a dinner plate inside. Playing it for the first time, I didn't know what to make of the music. It spoke of a whole new universe; tin foil guitars, caveman drums, songs about miners and wing walkers. And for me anyway, the whole thing sounded like a spinning record. It was cyclic, abrasive and raw. These people were clearly not to be messed with. There would be drugs, irresponsible driving, crossbows.

But the reality is completely different. Shellac is just three people who have jobs and tour and record when they can find the time. True, much is made about the fact this stripped down rock n roll band is fronted by Steve Albini the outspoken recording engineer behind countless classic records. And in all likelihood, most people only know about Shellac because he's in it. But this shouldn't detract from the fact that three talented guys have not stopped playing music simply because they've grown old and have to get up in the morning to go to work.

If you do anything creative, there's a great urge to 'make it from your work', because then you'll have the creative freedom to 'do what you want'. This is, at best, incredibly hard and for most people, impossible. As soon as you do anything creative for money, you can expect to compromise. But this is no bad thing, just as long as you walk into the arrangement with your eyes open. Shellac is a great example of three people doing something for the sheer love of it. I'm sure they could be signed to be a bigger label for more money - perhaps Domino or Warp, who seem to sign anyone with any alternative cred. But then they'll have to tour regularly, play rubbish festivals and do radio promos. Sounds too much like hard work.

According to Albini, all their songs are about baseball and Canada. And if it sounds like they're playing sheet metal guitars, it's because they are, in a way.

They're pretty amazing live.

Here's how they finished their set last Sunday at the Breeders' ATP.

End of Shellac from James Scott on Vimeo.

Some day all festivals will be as good as ATP; no more than six thousand people, self catering chalets with proper beds, showers and flushing toilets (I'm showing my age here).

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Idaho Transfer

Odd little sci-fi movie via Directed by Peter Fonda, man. Click to see the whole picture and even download it to your ipod/touch/phone/PSP if you really like it.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Bankers Fight!

There they are flying out of a plate glass window in a Kirby rip-off composition. 'It's your fault!'

Sunday, 10 May 2009


My mother-in-law's scanner makes everything look like it's from been beamed in from the Twilight Zone.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Future Guilt

The news the European Court of Human Rights has ruled the UK Government's practice of storing DNA is illegal has split opinion between a number of my friends. Some say if you've been charged for violent or sexual offence, then storing DNA is good and helps convict those who commit such acts. Conviction rates for rape are still astonishingly low and there are plenty of examples of people being brought to justice years after a crime because of wayward DNA left at the scene.

'It's no different that having your fingerprints taken', say supporters. I don't believe so for a number of reasons:
  • Last time I looked, we are innocent until proven guilty in this country. The storing of DNA assumes if we're arrested for any reason, regardless of innocence, we're bound to be guilty of something someday soon. In short, the Government doesn't trust us.

  • The chances of data being compromised increase with the size and complexity of the database. To give you an example, on the 9am BBC Radio 4 news on Thursday 7 May, item one was about the storing of DNA. Item two was the recent finding that a great deal of computers sold second hand often contain sensitive data, such as medical records, which can easily be accessed or forensically recovered using software.

  • For the same reasons I'm opposed to ID cards, I believe we all have the right to anonymity. There is nothing sinister about minding your own business and respecting other's privacy. It is perhaps the greatest freedom a civilisation can bestow upon its populace; the assumption people are inherently good and not plotting to smash up the state either today or tomorrow. True many of us already choose to give away our information in exchange for a cheaper weekly shop, but that's our business.

What do people get arrested for? Those suspected of rape or violent crimes are sometimes arrested and acquitted and because I know a little about how the system works, I think DNA records for these offences should be retained. But people are detained in custody for all sorts of things. Like protesting. I bet if the Police retained the DNA profiles of protesters, people might think twice about attending a march.

DNA is such a contentious issue. It's more than a fingerprint. It's our blueprints. It can tell us everything about ourselves. Well, we think it does, nobody's really sure. Our DNA could reveal when we're going to die and of what diseases. DNA could tell the police who in society is more likely to commit crime. Or it might not, and the current consensus might change the more we learn about DNA. Should such sensitive data be used as tool to support statistical theory? I don't think so.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Watching Into The Wild. Look at that concentration.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Monday, 6 April 2009

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Breitling Bottle

I'd bought this fake Breitling in China and it was hideous. So instead of just leaving it in my bag when I went to the island of Flores, I decided to strap it to a plastic bottle (and two more for ballast) and then chuck it into the ocean. Who knows, it might reach someone, it might sink, or more likely, it might just wash up on the shores of Flores. Yeah that'll probably happen.

View Larger Map

Saturday, 28 February 2009

The best thing I have ever done?

That would be seeing Orangutans in Indonesia

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Friday, 30 January 2009

Thursday, 15 January 2009