Sunday, 30 September 2012

Art: Die Plankton @ Tate Liverpool

Some photographs taken during the Tate Gallery, Liverpool Die Plankton performance at Made Up Mix in 2008.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Music: Keep or Cull No.16: Best Coast - Crazy for You (2010)

A cute girl singing cute songs about love and longing might not be the music that a man in his late-20s should actively seek out and pay for, but in 2010 that’s exactly what I did. I first came across Best Coast while flicking through the various MTV variants looking for something of vague interest (I have long given up on that often futile task). A dark-haired girl with a guitar was singing a song about wishing she had a boyfriend, and I was immediately intrigued. The subject matter might be a bit soppy, on the verge of being vomit inducing, but there was something about the naval-gazing lo-fi guitar sound and the nostalgic reverb soaked tones that really struck a chord with me. I should have hated this song, but I didn’t.

Crazy for You opens with the aforementioned ‘Boyfriend’, a song that can only be described as perfect pop. Its sound is reminiscent of 1950s girl groups, with sumptuous backing vocals and repeated lyrical lines. What makes this track avoid sounding cheesy and derivative is the guitar work: distorted and spacious; a pop-tinged psychedelic drone at points feeling like Kevin Shields’ solo efforts on the Lost in Translation soundtrack with some mean indie hooks thrown in for good measure. The titular ‘Crazy for You’ is pure jangle-pop that is over before it even gets started: a quick verse / chorus / verse / chorus with gorgeous vocals that leave you wanting more. ‘When the Sun don’t Shine’ is probably my favourite track on the album, with thundering drums and a vocal melody to die for. ‘Bratty B’ is pure surf-pop brilliance. ‘Honey’ feels like Hole at their most pensive, and is probably one of the most introspective songs on the album. Album-closer ‘When I’m With You’ builds being lazy and dreamy into another honey-dripping slab of pure pop genius. ...

Read more HERE.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Photography: Ilkley Moor

Art: Jim Medway - Drawings @ Manchester Art Gallery (2003)

In a tiny space in the Manchester Art Gallery, Jim Medway displays his latest exhibition ‘Drawings’. The Manchester-based artist falls somewhere between the role of the children’s illustrator and the social realist. His images are of real people he sees in and around Manchester, especially the young, urban underclass: the ‘moshers’, the ‘scallies’, and other steroetypes we all recognise. What sets Medway apart from social realism is that his people are depicted as anthropomorphic cats.

Unlike other artists and illustrators who have used anthropomorphic animals in order to humanize the creatures represented, it seems that Medway has used anthropomorphism to represent something entirely different. He uses the feline faces to dehumanize the people he is drawing. The faces are all twisted and scowling rather than representing something cute or lovable (in the Beatrix Potter vain). Medway represents the hostility and negativity within these people - the anger and the boredom that he sees.

Medway sees his work as positive - a humorous and affectionate depiction of the “lovable rogues” he sees around Manchester. Medway’s imagery seems to contradict this assertion: the facial expressions are clearly over-exaggerated, with the scowls are distorted beyond normal human and feline facial capabilities.

The use of cats connotes negative emotions. Cats have been portrayed as lazy, anti-social, unfaithful and, at times, evil. The symbolism of cats represents the people in the drawings as strays aimlessly wandering the streets of Manchester. Medway claims that the drawings are affectionate towards the people represented. It is very easy to read an oppositional meaning of this. The exaggerated facial expressions and the use of anthropomorphic cats only serve to reinforce a negative message.

An image of a young girl has been drawn on one of the walls in black marker pen. The girl is smiling, wearing a plain dress and picking flowers. This image is obscured by two framed drawings of teenage gang members. Rather than trying to show any essence of youth culture and identity in a positive way, this obscuring of the young girl shows how the childhood innocence of that young girl will soon be lost to teenage curiosity. The white dress symbolizes purity and is juxtaposed against the black ‘Slipknot’ hoodies and ‘Duffer’ jackets of the teenage tear-aways.

The artist fails to achieve social realism and achieves nothing more than an exaggeration of stereotypes. The characters in the drawings are more like the lovable characters from children’s books that have grown up and rebelled, than a fair representation of Manchester’s youth. Medway’s work is let down by its underlying contradictions and the artist’s inability to be honest: honest with the public, and perhaps honest with himself.

Jim Medway’s ‘Drawings’ will be on exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery until the 16th November 2003.

This article was originally published in the Art Fist catalogue in 2003.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Music: Keep or Cull No.15: Antony and the Johnsons - I am a Bird Now (2005)

The Mercury Prize is a bit of a strange concept for a music award. Each year an album is nominated by its judging panel as being the best album of the year with the remit that it must be a British or Irish act. Over the years there has been some notable head-scratchers, whether it’s Primal Scream’s Xtrmntr being absent from the list of nominees in 2000, or the prize being awarded to Speech Debelle in 2008 for her album Speech Therapy. With this, the Mercury Prize has also helped bring attention to obscure or unknown artists. I wonder where Dizzee Rascal or Badly Drawn Boy would be today were it not for the Mercury Prize? It’s a strange set-up, and I’m still not sure where I stand. One thing I do know is that awards in themselves are pretty meaningless; they are usually the result of a small committee with vested interests. But they are still entertaining, and if issues about contemporary music become a mainstream discussion point for a few weeks in a year, then where is the harm?

In 2005 the Mercury Prize came out with a bit of a left-field victor: Antony and the Johnsons’ I am a Bird Now. There were a number of reasons why this album seemed like an odd choice. Firstly, only a few musos who regularly flick through Wire magazine knew who they were. Secondly, there were some other excellent albums on the shortlist: Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm, and the Go! Team’s Thunder, Lightning Strike (the less said about Hard-Fi, the better). For me, I thought that the Go! Team should have won the prize: their album was innovative; they sounded like nothing else at the time; and each track on the album was brilliant. The inclusion of a band where most of its members did not fit into the remit of the award struck me as a bit odd, but I’m glad it was because I would have probably never heard such an inspiring and beautiful album. ...

Read More HERE.

Photography: 'Holy Island' series

Music: Keep or Cull No.14: Alice in Chains - Dirt (1992)

One of the first genres of music I really got into of my own volition was grunge. When I was 11, I was obsessed with bands like Nirvana, Hole, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, Screaming Trees and Mudhoney. I was pretty blinkered at this point in my life and would only listen to bands that had guitars, and preferably had a grungy, angsty strain to their sound.

For someone who was so into grunge, it now seems pretty odd that Alice in Chains passed me by during that period, and I only bought the album in a charity shop in Penrith in Summer 2010 when I was writing up my PhD. There must have been some strange psychological need to feel carefree and young again, but for a while I was listening to a lot of grunge again, and rebuying albums that I’d sold years before, or buying ones that I had overlooked or not owned physical copies of before.

I’m not sure how it happened, but from the birth of Napster and Audio Galaxy, until the closure of Oink, my CD collection had been neglected. I’d bought so few albums in that decade that I could probably count on two hands how many I actually bought. I had embraced internet piracy and enjoyed a barrage of free and limitless music. The advantages to this are obvious: I could, on a whim, think ‘ooh, I wonder what these guys sound like’, and within a few minutes have the album loaded onto my MP3 player. There were disadvantages too, ones which I never realised at the time, but have since become quite apparent. Firstly, the music became more transitory and less meaningful. If I didn’t like an album on the first listen, I’d probably just delete it; some of my favourite albums of the past have been growers, only becoming great once they had settled in my mind. Secondly, I downloaded far too much music to appreciate. I had a half-terabyte external hard drive that was always full – I realised I had become an archivist rather than a music-lover. Thirdly, I was listening to music differently: with a CD, you are forced to listen to a collection of a band’s music, usually recorded in a short period of time, with an overarching intention in mind. I would find myself listening to music on my MP3 player on random. Between 2004-2009, I owned a 40 gigabyte Creative Zen Touch, and would always listen to the player (which was always full) on random. It was full of bands and music that I was unfamiliar with; I remember having the vague notion that I could get into all of this new music if I just stumbled across it while listening on random – I didn’t.

When I accidently plugged my photo-printer plug into my external hard drive, and it started to smell all burny and never worked again - I was gutted. I’d spent half a decade collecting and cataloguing music and now it was all lost. What I felt was a catastrophe at the time, I now see as a blessing. In a strange way it liberated me. I found myself buying music again, enjoying albums in their entirety, actually getting into bands and falling in love with music again. Many people go on about the importance of owning the actual physical format: for me it wasn’t about that, it was about the way I listened to music that was important, and for some reason owning the physical copy of an album made me give more time to it. ...

Read More HERE.

Art: 'The Chapman Brothers are taking us for a ride' (2003)

Nominated for this Years Turner Prize, the Chapman Brothers have always tried to offend and create controversy: from ‘Fuck Face’, to the defaced Goya prints, the Chapmans have been causing offence, usually to readers of the Daily Mail. I’m not a Daily Mail reader and the Chapmans’ work leaves me feeling unsettled, not because their work is offensive or controversial, but because their work is mediocre and incredibly superficial. 

In the vain of most Saatchi-endorsed artists, Jake and Dinos’ work is outrageous in all senses of the word. The work hits you instantly and sparks an instant emotional reaction, whether it is awe, disgust, laughter or confusion. The key to the Chapman Brothers’ work is shock, and on a superficial level their art succeeds. 

When considering their piece ‘Hell’: to some, it is an incredibly powerful piece of work which shows the Chapman Brothers at their gory best. The installation contains nine glass cases arranged in the shape of a swastika. Each of the cases contains hundreds of small model soldiers killing and maiming each other in a ultraviolent vision of hell. The work took the brothers two years to craft, and in my opinion they wasted their time. The work is of the same standard as a Games Workshop diorama, little toy soldiers in a death orgy of broken bodies and fountains of blood - the type of imagery that you grow out of when you’re thirteen.

The piece has a lot of Nazi and Holocaust references, and this is apparently where its power comes from. From an early age we have been conditioned to react in a certain way towards Nazi imagery and images of the Holocaust, so is it any surprise that we are going to have some emotional reaction to it? There are certain themes that will create an emotive response regardless of the quality of the work.

What we can applaud the Chapmans for is their craftsmanship, and it is this that gets overlooked by the content of their work. The Chapmans’ work is highly detailed and painstakingly rendered. However, it is no more skilful than the work of a 40 year old virgin, who still lives with his mother and came second in the Games Workshop’s annual Golden Demon awards.

Do I have to spell it out for you? The Chapman’s are taking the piss! Their image of Stephen Hawking on the top of a cliff, the ‘Ubermensch’, is not as some see a visual depiction of the Nietzschian concept of the ‘Ubermensch’ - the notion that he who has a powerful mind is stronger than the man with the powerful body. It is making fun of a disability, using Stephen Hawking to shock their audience. When we look at works such as ‘Fuck face’, they are simply taking the piss. When they defaced Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ – it wasn’t the fantastic anti-war statement many critics made it out to be: they were simply taking the piss.
Let it be written in stone - the Chapmans are taking us all for a ride! They are probably sitting in their big fat money bins laughing at the readings people make of their works. They are probably laughing at Saatchi for buying so much of their rubbish. They are probably laughing at us, the art lovers, the gallery goers, the people who want to be challenged, who want art to be avant-garde. They are laughing at the sensation they cause.

Is it because they love art or just enjoy pissing people off? I don’t mind artists getting people’s backs up, but they seem to be playing the same note, and the joke’s getting a bit tired. I’m not suggesting that the Chapmans’ grow up or change their art. I just pity the fools that take them seriously.

If you can be bothered to waste your money The Chapman Brothers’ retrospective is being shown at the Saatchi Gallery until the 14th of March.

This article was originally published in the Art Fist catalogue, 2003.

Art: 'Star Guitar' (2002)

This was made using darkroom techniques to manipulate a black and white photograph

Music: Keep or Cull No.13: Abyssinians - Satta Massagana (1976)

I was raised in a house that was always filled with music. It wasn’t necessarily good music, but it was music nonetheless. My parents and their friends around Wolverhampton all loved reggae music. Now for some people, their love for reggae was quite passionate and vocal, even though the extent of what they listened to was UB40’s Labour of Love and Bob Marley and the Wailers’ Legend. There is nothing wrong with these albums, the latter might be one of the best compilation albums ever made, but I’m not sure how much you can profess to loving a genre of music if your only reference points are a pop-reggae act from the West Midlands, and the biggest selling reggae artist of the time. This would be a bit like saying you loved rap music, but only listened to Eminem and the Streets.

I love reggae, and luckily for me, I was exposed to a bit more of it than ‘Kingston Town’ by UB40. When I was growing up, there used to be a pirate radio station which was run out of a tower block on the Heath Town estate in Wolverhampton. Heath Town in the 80s and 90s was a pretty horrible place to live: decaying concrete precincts; brutalist architecture; and drugs – lots of them. The radio station was called Skyline FM and broadcast a mix of reggae, dance-hall and jungle. The production was lame, and the tracks would be quickly faded in and out as the almost incomprehensible MC gave another shout-out to ‘tha Bushbury massive’. It was nauseating stuff, but they would play some artists that I went on to love: Barrington Levy; Augustus Pablo; Ras Michael; Prince Far I; and Abyssinians. ...

Read More HERE.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Photography: 'Dean on Ilkley Moor Bar T'at'

Music: Keep or Cull No.12: Air - Moon Safari (1998)

A Level results days is always such a mixed bag of emotions: from the people who walk away with a handful of A’s, to the people like me who barely scraped a pass, or worse failed completely. To say I was gutted when I received my A Level results is something of an understatement. I was predicted C’s, so when my results came back as two D’s and an E, I was quite upset. Luckily, I’d managed to secure a place at university through the magic of an administrative error: the course I’d applied for at Keele University had been pulled from the curriculum at the last minute, so I was offered a place on any course I wanted, so long as I came out with two E’s. As soon as I received the letter confirming this, I pretty much checked-out of my studies, spending more time playing pool and drinking beer than studying. My results were my own fault, and I knew it – it was that realisation that I’d let myself down that bothered me more than the actual grades, and I knew that I was perfectly capable of better.

It’s strange how these results have stuck with me, and no matter what I have achieved since, they always seem to come back and bite me in the arse. In March 2011, I was awarded a PhD, and prior to that I’d completed a Masters’ degree with distinction – I’m a much different person now than I was as an eighteen year old, but as I say, the A Level results still seemed to matter. I tried applying for quite a few of those graduate recruitment schemes, but was kicked out of the selection process almost immediately due to my A Level results, with the universal response from these companies that those were the rules and they couldn’t make exceptions. The fact that I’d taught A Level and undergraduate classes was of no consequence. It seemed a little short-sighted by these companies, but I’m sure they have their reasons. ...

Read more HERE.

Sport: Judo Adult Beginners' Course - second session

Last night we attended the second session of the Judo Adult Beginners’ Course. We began by recapping what we had been over the week before including back rolling break-falls. After a warm-up we repeated the exercise from last week where a person is called up on the mat, you then sit on their back and drop backwards into a back rolling break-fall. I felt much more confident with this move than last week, and rolled through each time comfortably.

We went over the movement for the Osoto Otoshi. This is the move I wrote about last time where you step around the side of your opponent, put your leg behind theirs, and twist them down. We had learnt this move in our previous classes before starting the ABC, so I felt confident with this, and when I worked with different partners I could help keep them right (though I did get kicked in the shin and have my toe stood on a couple of times!). Once confident with this, we were shown how to take three steps while gripping your partner and then performing the move. This was quite challenging at first, mainly because I was over-thinking the motion. If I had just felt it rather than tried to rationalise the steps, I would have probably got it sooner.

We went over some basic groundwork including the theory behind pinning an opponent and how to perform a Kese-Gatame (scarf hold). I was paired with someone quite a bit shorter and lighter than me, and I was quite surprised at how effective the hold was. To perform the move, your partner lies on their back and you sit up into their armpits. You then have to take hold of the back of the collar and pull their arm into you. You then tuck your head down, which puts all of your weight across their chest and levers their arm so that they can’t sit up. One locked in, you have to move your legs so that your right leg is pointing out straight, parallel with your partner’s collar bone, and the left leg is bent as to provide extra leverage if needed. ...

Read more HERE.

Photography: 'Harbour Study'

Music: Keep or Cull No.11: Aphex Twin - DrukQs (2001)

Music is really important to me, almost to the point where I think I attach a kind of sacred value to it. When music is cheapened, it bothers me. When a song I love becomes the soundtrack to an advert, it bothers me. ‘Which Will’ by Nick Drake is an astonishingly beautiful piece of music, with its meaning punctuated by the knowledge of Drake’s death shortly after recording it, has for me been tainted by its use on a mobile phone commercial.

On 24th July, 2009, I got married. We were married in Cumbria, at a lovely hotel in Penrith, and one of the main things I was in charge of was the music. We had a covers band play at the night reception, they specialised in indie, rock and 60s covers. The keyboard player from the band DJed under the strict stipulation there would be no Abba, no Grease Medley, and no Robbie Williams. But my main concern was with the music for the actual ceremony, and the bit afterwards where we signed the register. This was difficult: I needed music that captured the gravity of the day; music that my wife and I could both agree upon; and most importantly of all, I didn’t want to be music from an advert. This last point might sound a bit strange, but it really was a concern of mine. I’d attended a wedding the year before that had used the music from a Lloyds TSB advert. The piece of music, taken in isolation is really nice piece of music, but as I was watching the wedding party make their way down the aisle, all I could think about was the Lloyds TSB advert.

I must have listened to hundreds of pieces of music to try and capture the perfect feeling, but I always had the niggling thought in the back of my mind: what if some mobile phone company uses it and ruins it for me? So, I decided to compose a short piece of music just so there would be no chance in the world that the music could be ruined. For two days I isolated myself and wrote a piece of music that I felt would be perfect for our wedding. I am currently in negations with Vodaphone to have the music help sell phones... I kid.

Further to the actual wedding music, we had to choose songs for signing the register, and exiting. We had Primal Scream’s ‘Come Together’ and Pixies’ ‘Gigantic’ for exit music. For signing the register we had Rachmaninov’s ‘Theme on Paganini’, Yann Tiersen’s ‘Comptine d'un autre été: L'après midi’ and Aphex Twin’s ‘Avril 14th’ – all stunning pieces of piano music. Shortly after the wedding, both ‘Come Together’ and ‘Avril 14th’ featured in adverts, but at least the music for the ceremony can never be tainted. ...

Read more HERE.

Photography: 'Cloud Studies'

Music: Keep or Cull No.10: Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (2007)

When Arcade Fire’s first album Funeral was released, I immediately fell in love with it. In 2004, it seemed that the UK indie scene had grown beyond bursting point. Any fool with a guitar and floppy haircut seemed to be in a generic indie band, and every other song on the radio sounded like a bad Gang of Four or Libertines tribute act. So when Arcade Fire burst on the scene, with their finely crafted songs and unique sound, they really grabbed my attention: they were doing something different.

By the time Neon Bible was released, Arcade Fire were probably one of my favourite bands. When I first heard the album, I didn’t get it: the sound was bigger; the lyrics were more political; and it felt like they had been listening to a bit too much Bruce Springsteen. It was only when I saw the ensemble play in Manchester that I understood. The album, at least the way I saw it, was like a movie soundtrack for modern life. This might sound incredibly naff, but with its cinematic sound and politicised lyrics, this is the conclusion I drew.

Album-opener, the otherworldly ‘Black Mirror’, brings to mind some of David Lynch's darker moments. At points, it feels as though Black Mirror is about to lose control, the layers of instruments swirling and building to one of Arcade Fire's signature crescendos. This is a great opening track as it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album: you knew immediately that this wasn’t going to be like Funeral. ‘Intervention’ is the track for me that defines this album: the use of a church organ sounds both over-familiar and fresh at the same time to create a song that is incredibly powerful. The album closes with the emotive ‘My Body is a Cage’, a song which is both heartbreaking and haunting: an excellent, if somewhat downbeat climax to the album. ...

Read more HERE.

Comics: Die Plankton

Photography: 'Church Study'

Music: Keep or Cull No.9: Arrested Development - 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of... (1992)

I love it when I get to see bands who I never thought I’d ever see: over the last few years I’ve seen Dinosaur Jr., My Bloody Valentine and the Stone Roses, and in 2004 I managed to see Arrested Development at the Wardrobe in Leeds. This might not seem like a big deal, they’re probably not a group that people would think of as “must see”, but for me they were.

Arrested Development were probably one of the first groups whose album I made an effort to buy, rather than just tape the singles off the Top 40. I was 10 years old, and had a meagre record collection at that point: Guns and Roses’ Use Your Illusion I & II; Nirvana’s Nevermind; and some generic compilation tapes that relatives had bought me for Christmas with titles like Dance ’91 and the Best Dance Album in the World Ever... Part 2.

When I saw Arrested Development live in 2004, I admittedly made a bit of a tit of myself and managed to get incredibly drunk. I enjoy a good drink, but I’ve never enjoyed being drunk, and have never set out to “get hammered”. I’m not sure how it happened, or even recall what I’d been drinking, but by the time the band came on stage I was feeling pretty messed up. At one point during the show I was sitting on a stool and leaning with my head down on a rail. I managed to throw up on the shoes of a minor celebrity, Ben Freeman, who was apparently in Emmerdale. My girlfriend (now my wife) took me home in a drunken stupor, as I apologise profusely and told her how much I loved her in the way that only a drunkard can. ...

Read more HERE.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Photography: 'Watson'

These are some photographs I have taken of my guide dog Watson during summer 2012. They were taken at Farnley Hall Park, Leeds, The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, and Ilkley Moor while off duty.

Art: ‘Sorry, we can’t allow dogs in the gallery.’ Art galleries and the visually impaired.

Art galleries are strange places to visit for a guy with a guide dog. I’m visually impaired, and I also love the visual arts. For many galleries, this is a difficult notion to grasp.

Some galleries are not exactly the easiest places to visit: poor lighting; countless obstacles; grumpy invigilators; and trip wires surrounding paintings are just a few of the issues that someone like me has to contend with.

There are understandably some instances where dark lighting and floors scattered with tripping hazards are necessary. But I’ve been in galleries where I am unable to proceed to the next room because of something as simple as a poorly lit throughway, even though the size and layout of the gallery would have allowed an alternative route.

I could have asked for an invigilator’s help, and I’m sure they would have obliged, but instead I turned on my heels and left – for those with disabilities, independence is very important.

There is also a lack of understanding and awareness about the presence of guide dogs. Guide dogs, by law, have exactly the same access as the general public. When a gallery asks if I can leave the guide dog in reception, or tells me which rooms I have to avoid, I wonder if they would ask a wheelchair-user to leave their chair in reception?

Steps have been made in recent years to improve the physical access of disabled users; but in terms of intellectual access, galleries still leave a lot to be desired. Token gestures of appeasement tend to come in the form of a sculpture that you can touch, and objects that you can hear or smell. It is an incredibly patronising assumption to make that a person who is visually impaired would want the same intellectual relationship to art as a toddler.

It is time to look beyond the legal requirements about disabled access and actually rethink the the gallery environment: a wheelchair ramp and some Braille on the lifts just won’t cut it anymore. There are over two million people in the UK living with visual impairment, and simple improvements to the gallery experience would make thousands of people living with visual impairment feel more inclined to engage with the visual arts.

At minimum, galleries should consult with visually impaired people. It should not be seen as an inconvenience by galleries, but rather an exercise in evolution. All we want is an experience that makes us feel confident about our physical safety, whilst retaining independence; an experience that allows us to intellectually engage with what is on display; and more important than anything else, an experience where we feel welcome.

This article is set to be published in October 2012 on's 'Rant' section

Photography: Bric-a-brac studies

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Music: Keep or Cull No.8: Afro Celt Sound System - Volume 1: Sound Magic (1996)

The first music festival I ever went to was Glastonbury ’98. I’d just finished my GCSEs and got my first job making nuts in a nut factory in Wolverhampton. The work was repetitive and tedious, and at the end of every shift I’d end up picking out tiny flecks of iron filings from my fingers, but for £3 an hour, I didn’t complain. At the end of each week, I was paid in cash, and the bulk of my £105 pay packet was usually spent on my bike ride home in a record shop in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, called Max Millwood’s Records. The shop was crammed with overpriced CDs and dusty cassettes, and I could happily browse in there for hours, chatting to the staff about music and searching through the bargain bin for some hidden gems.

On one of the weeks, at the end of June, I took a few days off to go to Glastonbury festival with a couple of friends from school, and some other people I didn’t really know at the time, but who became good friends through the experience.

My parents didn’t have a lot of money, so for my birthday in the May, they paid for my return coach ride to Glastonbury. I had kept aside £60 spending money for the weekend, and went down without a ticket. I figured that I would just jump the fence; I’d heard of people doing it, and figured it couldn’t be that hard. At the bus station I met up with a few school friends, and realised that I wasn’t the only one without a ticket. Arriving at the site, we looked up in horror at the fence. Other friends had convinced me that there was nothing to the fence, and that it may as well have been guarded by garden gnomes the security was so lax. I felt duped. As a Glastonbury veteran (he’d been there the year before), I felt that he’d been slightly misleading. But if I hadn’t been so confident in my ability to gain illegal entry, I probably wouldn’t have gone: he did the right thing. ...

Read More HERE.

Comics: Die Plankton

Music: Keep or Cull No.7: Atlas Sound - Parallax (2011)

There are some albums that are just perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons, and Atlas Sound’s 2011 album Parallax is one such CD. I was having one of those lazy Sunday afternoons myself yesterday, relaxing at home with my wife, reading the Sunday paper, playing a bit of Limbo on the X-Box, and taking my guide dog Watson to our local park for a well-earned run.

My wife and I were laughing uproariously at Stewart Lee’s hilarious piece of satire in the Observer about a poo that looked like Tony Blair. The poo would keep popping back up when you thought it had been flushed away; there wasn’t just one of these poos, but at least half a dozen, all bobbing around the toilets of senior Labour ministers, but no one really knew where they had came from. What set us off the most was the image of Ed Balls calling in John Prescott to his private office toilet in order to break up one of the poos with a “really fast wee”. I’m comfortable with the fact that I enjoy the occasional bit of toilet-based satire. It’s fine.

An extended scatological metaphor wouldn’t work for Parallax though, because this is a great album and it just wouldn’t feel right to use poo as a humorous device when discussing this album. Also, the fact I’ve brought the subject of poo into the discussion shouldn’t be read as a reflection of how I feel about Altas Sound’s sole member Bradford Cox or his work. If anything, Parallax is the opposite of poo (no, not wee), in that it is fulfilling and adds musical sustenance to what could otherwise be a drab and unhealthy diet. ...

Read more HERE.

Comics: Die Plankton

Photography: 'Through the Looking Glass (Self Portrait 22:33)'

Music: Keep or Cull No.6: Ash - 1977 (1996)

When I was 15, I went on holiday for the first time without my family to Torquay with one of my best friends. My parents were staying with my aunt and uncle in Exeter, and so dropped me and my friend off in Torquay to stay for a week with their friends.

The couple were in their twenties, and were very relaxed in their attitudes to 15 year olds drinking in their house. They were a couple of stoners who had made a decision to leave their jobs, sell their house and move down to Torquay in order to sign on the dole and grow their own weed. Their house was as you’d probably expect from a mid-90s stoner couple: bongs were used as objet; the walls were decorated with large tie-dye throws with Ying-Yang symbols on them; they had all manner of ‘psychic’ paraphernalia, such as crystals and tarot cards; and they had lots of blue bottles and little wooden boxes dotted around on every free surface. To a 15 year old me, these were the coolest people in the world. Well almost, they didn’t have a problem sharing their harvest with my friend, but refused to let me partake as they knew my mum would have been pissed off with them.

The first few days of the holiday were great. Me and my friend spent them exploring Torquay and ogling women in bikinis. We got to watch Divine Comedy at a Radio 1 Road Show, and saw Charlene from Texas do a solo set of Marvin Gaye covers. As the week went on, my friend decided to remain in doors smoking weed. It was middle of summer and I decided I wasn’t sitting around in a semi-darkened room to watch other people get stoned and decided to grab my walkman and borrow a copy of Ash’s 1977. I wandered around the backstreets of Torquay for a while, enjoying the music and just taking in the surroundings. I came across a skip, and looking inside I found a skateboard. This wasn’t one of the new, double-ended skateboards that all the skater boys had at this time, this skateboard was old: it was thin, shaped like a fish and had wide wheels. I even recognized the make: Santa Cruz. I checked the board over and realised that it was in fine condition. Thus, the dynamic of my holiday changed for the better: I now skated around Torquay, with its wide promenades and numerous car parks, weaving around the tourists and enjoying the sounds of Ash and the Doors. ...

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Art: Interview with Neil Stevens

Here at Art Fist, we are interested the many ways in which artists can take advantage of their talents in ways which may not be considered the 'traditional' route for a creative talent. Neil Stevens of DeadStanceFX is a Wolverhampton-based special effects artist who has utilised his talents to carve a career in FX.

What is it that you do?

I make and sell masks, props and special effects prosthetics, and also undertake commission work.

Can you tell us about the creative process

Sculpting in oil and water based clay is a major part of what I do as this is how I create the effect I want to make a mould of, and is also one of my favourite parts of the process. I can then create a prosthetic in many different materials such as gelatine or foam latex ready to apply to an actor or to sell onto a customer.

How did you get into FX?

I got into FX at the age of 14 when I bought some liquid latex and people at school paid me a few pounds to make scars for them. I've been hooked on special effects make-up ever since.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I think my highlight has been working on my first short film called Bigger and Badder for which we provided all the special effects make-up. It's a werewolf film and is due to be shown at several film festivals this year which I'm really excited about.

Friday, 14 September 2012