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