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.