Friday, 25 December 2009

A beautiful poem, a beatific smile.

I am no great fan of poetry. This is probably because of the years I spent at school having to analyse the damn things, never being allowed to sit and enjoy the beauty of the words or the carefully yet accidentally chosen rhythm. Or possibly because, for me, a poem is like a piece of theatre, it is meant to be performed rather than read. Either way, yesterday whilst watching Four Weddings and a Funeral (yes, I am behind here...) I saw a performance of W.H Auden's Stop all the clocks which made my heart skip a beat.




Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Guilty Pleasure

Box Codax are the band you know you shouldn't like. They are the so-called guilty pleasure.

And they definately don't deserve the title they often seem to be given; another one of Franz Ferdinand's side projects. From the moment you hear the opening line of Naked Smile, you know that Box Codax are probably about as close to insanity as you can be without actually being locked up. A far cry from the easily relatable lyrics of Alex Kapranos.

Still, your sandals are worth 1000 lilacs.

However, this only adds to their charm. They are almost Kraftwerk-esque with a deep, squelching synth acting as a bass, laid over the top of high pitched, almost tuneless lyrics and a heavy drumbeat. There is something about the way they pull together elements of different musical genres and just make them work that doesn't seem right.

Alexander Ragnew, Manuela Gernedel and Nick McCarthy know what they're doing. You might not have heard about them yet, but if Nick manages to get away from Franz Ferdinand for five minutes, i'm sure you will.







Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Lost

I have spent the last two years fighting a seemingly insurmountable language barrier. Desperately trying to show my peers and my teachers that I am actually, despite appearances, fairly intelligent. It's been nothing short of a nightmare, yet finally it seems that I am succeeding. In my recent Conseil de Classe (a meeting where all the teachers get together and have a good bitch about how much the students are failing. . .) the 'negative' comment I came away with made me laugh; she will write a page or two of faultless french, then she will write two or three lines which are completely incomprehensible. I am actually quite proud of this, as I think it sums me up as a person, I quite often talk sense - then come out with complete gibberish.

But having said all this (and I am not the kind of person who sits down and thinks 'fuck me, what am I going to do now?') I feel completely and utterly lost. I've been waiting for school to end for years, barely able to contain my excitement about getting out into the real world and doing something and thoroughly enjoying it. And everything else life has to offer. I hate the constraints of school - getting up early, following a timetable, sitting through a certain lesson no matter what mood you're in. Don't get me wrong, I adore learning but I can't wait to be free.

I just don't know what I'm going to do when I finally am.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Day

When I think of Remembrance Day, I think of sitting in my Primary School assembly hall trying my best to imagine what it must of been like fighting in the war. It takes a long time and a lot of reflection to really understand what humanity loses in a war, especially what we lost in World War One. When I think of the First World War, I'm filled with sadness because it was, quite simply, mass slaughter.

In France, Remembrance Day is even bigger than in England. There is no 2 minute silence at 11 o'clock, instead it's a national holiday. So, whilst I was sitting at home watching the usual processions on TV and listening to the commentator saying that all soldiers from WW1 are now dead I began to wonder. . .

Why are there no German soldiers involved in the Remembrance ceremonies ?

When this question is considered carefully (and without bias), the only logical conclusion one can come to is that they should be there. The lower ranks in the German Army were not bad guys. They were following orders, just in the same way our men were. And I really do believe, that when someone is holding a gun to your head saying 'Kill or be killed', you'd pull the trigger of your own gun. You'd kill.

However, this isn't the only thing that got me, I realised something else and it hit home very hard. The Second World War was supposed to be the war to end all wars. And evidently it was not. As technology and ideologies have changed and developed war has become more frequent and more dangerous - one man could kill millions from pressing a button in his office. We, as a nation and as a world have become used to this fact and so are fairly blasé about the wars that have happened since the war which was to end all wars. And so we continue to celebrate the triumphs of our men without really acknowledging the warning Remembrance Day is supposed to give us. I can completely understand that in some cases, war is unavoidable but I do feel that we are forgetting why Remembrance Day is there, it's a lesson from ourselves to future generations, it's a message saying: War is bad. Avoid it if you can.

As I have grown up, Remembrance Day has taken on a new meaning to me, from the child that stood in the hall trying to imagine the mud, hunger, fear and disease I have become a young adult who reflects on how, from the beginning of time, men and women who should not have been fighting ended up in wars that should never have been allowed to happen. Remembrance Day has turned into a day where I ask myself, why.










Wednesday, 14 October 2009

La Cage Aux Folles

The Cage of Fools: Life is life so have a fucking ball living it.
Last weekend, I hopped over to London to celebrate my friend's 18th birthday. Whilst I was there I quite fancied seeing a musical and, as I quite fancy John Barrowman, I managed to convince one of my nearest and dearest to come with me to see La Cage Aux Folles.

There is something about the atmosphere in a theatre that I can't get over, no matter what you go to see, be it in the West End or a local production, if the show is good you leave with a buzz. I think that audience feed off one another's energy just as much as the actors do.

Naturally James and I had bought the cheapest tickets we could and so ended up sitting on the uppermost level in the front row, in some of the most uncomfortable seats I have ever sat on. I didn't mind too much though because looking down on the people below me and listening to the hum that was hundreds of conversations going on at once, I suddenly felt excited about what we were about to see and just generally happy.

That was when I realised what La Cage Aux Folles meant to me. It was the moments like that, when, sitting with my friends, I was laughing about something inane like the toxic colour of the cider I had just bought or the bourgeoisie who were sitting in the very best seats of the house. (Obviously, this is a joke, we appreciated that most of them would have been spending hard earned cash on those tickets and we laughed all the harder for it.)

There were several moments during the musical where I absolutely cracked up. Nearly every time my favourite character, Jacob, did something. . .
"You hired a waiter and you got a maid."
He was gorgeously flamboyant and bitchy.
Then of course there is the classic scene where Albin is trying to act like a stereotypical straight man. This was the only part of the musical i'd seen before, but I had watched the film version, which is completely different to the stage performance. In any case both interpretations were equally funny and John Barrowman and Simon Burke pulled it off beautifully. Just try to imagine a pair of grown men throwing themselves clumsily and camply across a stage whilst a bar owner and a fisherman watch sceptically. It makes for some serious entertainment.
However, the reason I really laughed was James. Towards the end of the play there is a fairly serious scene where Mr. Dindon (a right-wing politician who wants to close down all clubs like La Cage) is being chased by a transvestite. Now, this may sound comical but in the context of the play, it is not. Mr. Dindon hides under a table and then, just as the table was being pulled off him, James mutters to me:

Death by transvestite, that’s how I want to go.


Monday, 18 May 2009

Interview: Model for Memory


Model For Memory is the brainchild of Robert Gardner a.k.a Ed Electrode, a young man who lives in the South of England.
He says that MFM was: BORN OUT OF A LOVE OF THE MINIMAL IN 2007 TO PROVIDE SOUNDS RANGING FROM ICE COATED MINIMAL ELECTRONICA TO SHUDDERING REVERBED WALLS OF NOISE.
He has been creating music for three years but has just kickstarted his live career playing at Worship in Shoreditch Church alongside the likes of Ox.Eagle.Lion.Man and Selfish Cunt. He is set to play at 1-2-3-4 festival this summer.

You are Model for Memory and recently you played a gig at Shoreditch's Worship festival which is legendary in it's own right, how was that for you?
For me it was an amazing experience. I performed in a sonically unique and inspiring environment, met fascinating people and was on a list of bands that are due to go down in history, along with the festival itself.

I hear since Worship you have been asked to play 1-2-3-4 festival, this festival could potentially make or break your career. How do you feel about the pressure you'll be under to deliver a good show and how did you handle it at Worship?
Hmm, that's a hard one, you just have to practice enough until it becomes second nature, then on top of that you can go crazy. I think the sound that I produce at 1-2-3-4 will be different in referral to the audience and the venue.
At Worship, being my first live outing, I was terrified, but you kind of hide behind the sound to begin with, gauge the reactions of the crowd and base the performance on that.


Your music is dark, compelling and sometimes terrifying, what inspired you to make this sound and how do you go about it? Do you have a particular process when writing songs?
Well, I experiment with sound a lot and if i'm not happy with even one factor in a piece of music, I won't finish in it and it goes onto the scrapheap. The way I craft sound is mainly through analogue synthesis, sampling and working closely on drum beats etc. I suppose it's a bit of a free for all, for example, if i'm messing around and I hear even one tiny sound which sounds right out of hundreds that i'm experimenting with then that is the focus for me and I work from there. I use a lot of effects as well.

You always seem to be dressed well, is this just coincidence or do you spend time making sure you look right for the role you are playing as MFM?
The image of the performer is the image that the crowd take away and associate with you. I put quite a lot of thought into it and dress to the music. But as a personal rule of thumb, I am always well dressed. A day badly dressed, is impressions wasted.

I take it you are a strong believer in first impressions then?
Absolutely. Those first seconds are important, and more often than not, you can't change them. This is why I get so annoyed when other musicians are so closed off to other musicians. If you want people to think you are pretentious and bigger than you really are, then make yourself inaccessable.

What about in day to day situations? When you encounter friends of friends and so on?
Even then it's just as important to make sure you are who you are and not to cover that up. You're more likely to be liked for who you really are, rather than your "first impressions persona", which can often be quite intimidating.

You have several sideprojects, who are they and do they bare any similarities with MFM? Tell us all.
I have several side projects. I've got Les Garcons Morts but I don't think it sounds at all like my work as MFM, however it retains some of the elements, it can be dark and fairly sinister and some of the motives behind songs come from similar inspiration. Next is Massacro Favoloso.We started out as a DJing outfit, but we now have plans to produce some beautiful coldwave/minimal synth stuff.

You believe in accessibility for fans when it comes to bands they love, if you became as famous as some bands and people are, and had to spend all your time doing intense touring, constantly stopping for photos and autographs and had the paparazzi following your every move, how will you cope? And how will you continue to be the nice guy?
Honestly, I don't really know the answer to that one. In a nutshell the best thing to do is to treat a fan like a friend, because they are gonna be pretty put out if someone they look up to is a total arse to them.
The Paparazzi is a different story, if i want to be photographed then so be it, but if i was in a situation where I was really not in the mood or i was stressed, then i would be pretty angry.

Now for a pretty generic question, influences? But not just bands, films, people, books, parties... ? Where band's are concerned, the range is very wide. My original motivation for starting electronic music was Throbbing Gristle, Kraftwerk, D.A.F and Suicide. Weirdly im influenced by places a great deal. Walking home late at night down a street lit by clinical orange lights, and the inspiration is right there. Where films are concerned i was majorly enthralled by Fritz Lang's Metropolis.. Eraserhead, Blue Velvet etc.
The austerity of Kraftwerk appeals to me the whole strong image, but i'd only ever use that on an album cover. Playing live, i feel like vaulting around the stage like a crazed technician.
Right, I think that's about it, any wise words for our readers, anything else you want to add?
Never be afraid of critics, adversaries or people who think they are superior to you.

Thankyou very much for your time Robert!

To hear some of Model For Memory's songs go to:
www.myspace.com/modelformemory
And don't forget to look out for him at this year's 1-2-3-4 festival!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Presenting... Gallon Drunk


Being the music lover that I am I thought it was time I told you about one of my favourite bands.

Gallon Drunk are one of those bands who don't care to follow each musical fad and trend. When they play, they're playing the way they know how to and the way they always have done. James Johnston (Gallon Drunk's frontman) may be the only member left from the original line-up but he knows how to make sure his band don't lose their individual sound or spectacular perfomance. But how does he do it? He makes sure that when his band plays they are playing for themselves and their fans, that they're playing because it's what they love to do and nothing else.

They formed in 1990 and since then every single they have released has made it to Single of the week in either NME or Melody Maker.
The band's frontman James Johnston has even collaborated with Nick Cave and become one of his Bad Seeds. They are a band who are undeniably cool yet lack the media attention they deserve.

Critics claim that GD do little more than 'rip-off' the style of Nick Cave but they are wrong, these bands are two completely seperate entities. Whilst Nick Cave's music is angry, agressive and heavily layered, GD's music is dark with an electric atmosphere.

Draggin' Along is one of the first songs they wrote and my absolute favourite, it shows just what this band were capable of right at the outset. It's a song which makes your heart beat at an unsteady rythmn as the sound courses through your veins. The melody is in the lyrics which are broken up by bursts of screechy, distorted guitar improvisation and while the drum beat is simple, it holds the song together and keeps the entire sound tight - it is the constant.

Their most recent single Grand Union Canal is a slightly more obvious song, as it is gentler and less obscure but that doesn't make it any less brilliant. Unlike many bands, Gallon Drunk have the capacity to write a song which appeals to a larger audience without becoming completely mainstream. They are unique and they want to keep it that way.

They're a band who have been around a long time, which makes me think that they must be doing something right but all I can recommend to you, is that you go and listen for yourself!
www.myspace.com/gallondrunk


Saturday, 10 January 2009

As on Dazed and Confused (by Me)

Living in London for fifteen years, I grew up in an area where music has a very strong cultural impact. It gives people a sense of identity, the music you listen to has an impact the clothes you wear, the way you speak and the way you behave in society in general. London is strongly divided by this musical culture and anyone would be a fool to say that they can’t see it. The way youths dress today derives strongly from what bands they like. This might seem quite a dated way to judge people but it’s not; it makes sense. Having come from such a strong cultural background I was somewhat sceptical about the kind of music I would find when I moved to rural France. However, I quickly learnt that if anything, French kids know more about what they are doing than the mainstream music reviewers give them credit for.
When I arrived in France I was shocked by the cultural difference between my very rural school and where I went before and so I went looking for something that I could relate to, a scene which would make me feel less alien in this seemingly very conservative part of France and I found it in a town called Saint-Lô, a place with a thriving music scene. People my age in Saint-Lô know what they like and have a strong sense of style. The town’s main venue ‘Le Salle Normandy’ has in the past had well-known bands playing (including Foals and The Cribs) but mainly plays host to unknown bands from around the area. These bands are the gems.
Befriending a guy named Valentin at a Foals gig I learnt that not only was ‘Le Salle Normandy’ the venue to be at every weekend, but that his band The Guest were something special. My weekly jaunts to Le Normandy led me to see many other bands and to meet many more people involved in this slowly growing underground scene. I was discovering that whilst French mainstream music may be lacklustre (Les Shades, Gush...) the local bands being allowed to support these big acts steal the glory. One of these supporting bands called The 60th Underground is a band who is a good example of this 60s scene not only through their music, but their clothes – think Carnaby Street in the 1960s. The 60th underground are not dissimilar to The Guest in stage presence and energy, however, their secret weapon is not a Farfisa Organ but a saxophonist and a ‘Bez,’ also called Valentin, his presence on stage is compulsive viewing. His main role seems to be clapping, hitting a tambourine/cowbell and dancing for about 40 minutes, non-stop. He is high energy, epitomises everything that is right and cool about this scene. Another group gaining a solid fan base here is Les Kitschenettes, seeing them live at a small bar tucked away in the bottom corner of Saint-Lô (small bar, BIG band), there is no word to describe the power of their music; short 60s songs, which are energetic yet controlled and perfectly executed.But don’t take my word for it, come and see them yourself.