Thursday, 25 August 2011

Reflection - Revolution - Ritual

Tag: P. J. Harvey

THIS WEEK I have been browsing female-centred music reviews and interviews and continuing to find related books or essays which I think I should read; also tracking down names of artists and bands. In turn this has led me to think about my relationship with feminism in the context of writing about music and to re-evaluate the purpose of this blog: celebration interviews with independent UK female artists; dancing and stomping on the boundaries of traditional female roles and creating their own “norm”. How do they do it?

One stormy night…
I visited the F-Word web site and learnt about Electrelanes, http://www.thefword.org.uk/reviews/2011/08/electrelane who have been absent for three years while doing PhD’s and then I clicked on a section titled Essays in order to read six superbly written instalments, by Cazz Blasé, writing women back in to the story of punk, under the banner “Punk Women Write Back”. http://www.thefword.org.uk/features/2011/01/punk_women_writ I learnt that Riot Grrrl has not necessarily been taken seriously as significant by female rock, pop and punk writers, which will not be a fault of this Blog. I discovered lots of amazing books, such as “The Lost Women Of Rock Music” by Helen Reddington. I felt elated, as if I had found a treasure, in terms of research for my Blog and information which support my thinking, as a music critic and feminist, BUT I was also starting to loose my nerve - and along with it any belief in this Blog’s value. The reason? This blog's concept of celebration interviews, rather than an analysis, in the context of feminist theory. The sheer, unadulterated naivety of my idea, with a bonus, the notion that maybe some kind of method to survive the creative process, both in terms of making music and being able to survive on making music would appear like a shining thread through all the interviews - invisible only to those who “needed to know” or who are ready to see. 

   “Plonker!” I shouted to myself, standing up, leaving the screen page open and walking around the room quickly for a bit because I was highly embarrassed.

It reminded me of the moment that I realised I needed to go to university and learn the new theories: deconstructionism, semantics, post-modern feminism and psychoanalysis. (I didn't have any A levels but was accepted, based on an inspired, rather than wise, essay I wrote about gender and border crossing and also because I maintained weekly writing for a National newspaper and passed the preliminary Foundation subjects.)  

The understanding that I needed to update my education happened during an interview with Polly J Harvey, in my role as assistant editor for Lime Lizard. She told me that feminism was dead, or something along those lines - and I didn’t say a bloody thing. We talked about dreams and, serve me right, that night I couldn’t sleep. Why didn’t I say anything? Because I didn’t know what feminism was – in the middle class educated sense. At that time, it had meant equal opportunities on an official level, but still mind games, a sexual politics every present in an unofficial capacity.  I had led the life of a Queer (a woman who does not serve any female stereotype) and feminism in the public arena, upbringing and sheer enthusiasm and doggedness had provided that, but I didn’t know the theory; I didn’t know there were different types of feminism even, such as French feminists, who celebrate difference and to which I developed a preference for during my studies, particularly Luci Irigaray, Juliet Kristeva and Helene Cixous.

My experience of feminists had been as a young mum going to march with Babies Against The Bombs (that daughter is now 29!) and being told to wipe off my lipstick, take off my summery top and replace it with a dirty khaki tee shirt, with paint on (provided). In my head it was still about burning bras. I could see P J Harvey would be the kind to prefer a nice brassiere.

It hurt all the more – my ignorance and inability to push a point – because I had been inspired to seek out women-centred music after the experience of UT, live, which was my first live review for Melody Maker and commissioned by Everett True. http://www.utmusic.net/ut-discography I had previously been writing music reviews for LAM magazine, the free cultural magazine left outside London tube stations. I remember accidently stomping, in my doctor marten boots with fluorescent orange laces, on my first article - about New Zealand indie royalty, The Chills - as the page lay open on the wet tiles of Tufnell Park’s tube entrance.

The UT review was a response; in the middle of any UT song I felt that I understood everything – or at least felt that kind of confidence and hope – in flashes, moments of chord chaos and guitar swells. To disconnect you, erase the empathy and therefore any responsibility for you at all, they would fluster around changing, re-setting and tuning instruments, every one of them, it seemed to me. There was a guy in the band, I remember; with a smile so big you could put it on a pumpkin.

It didn’t take long to realise that there was an inevitable reaction when I skipped in to the office inspired by the latest independent female artist or band. For example, Lida Husik,  then signed to Shimmy Disc, who stayed at my house while visiting from the States. My enthusiasm was interpreted as “love” by a few (hello Zane!). Then it was my P J Harvey review, the first in the National press and I overheard the comment: “Another one of Ngaire’s lesbians.” It still amazes me how people’s sex lives relate to anything unless you want to have sex with them. Maybe it’s because rock’n’roll – if yer talking rockabilly and blues the core of rock and pop – means fuck or fucking. That said plenty of people knew her value because no doubt the guys at Too Pure who ran the White Horse in Hampstead, who put on her first London show, would have tipped them off too. For once this gig didn’t have a dog, or next door neighbour but the other three people were there. And the review was published.

Finally…
Then an interview with Kristin Hersh in the Guardian came my way; courtesy of writer Lucy Gulland. http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2011/aug/22/kristin-hersh-memoir-interview-edinburgh 

Lucy was infuriated because the journalist who had written the piece had focused on Kristin's manic-depression (replace that with madness), self-loathing and judgements on her role as a wife and mother. Lucy wanted to know why we couldn’t know the logistics, such as how does she finance her recordings; write, perform and raise a family of four? (Scroll down the link to find Lucy’s comments in full.) Lucy made it clear what sort of interview it SHOULD have been and with that I realized, in a flash, that it should have been exactly the sort of interviews I am doing, and developing, on this Blog. 

I remembered my friend Lida reminding me how anger is energy. Originally, the fear of not being “clever” enough just deflated my pleasure of the text but this was different, there was something much more sinister about this interview and I had to get to bottom of it. Finally, I got out the cardboard box of feminist essays out of the attic. I can’t believe I kept them in the attic, the place where madwomen were kept, out of sight, on the edge, making as much noise as they want! I freed them and dusted off my non-fiction women’s shelf.

And I soon realised the male journalist was taking the traditional form of silencing the woman, in order that he may identify her as mother/wife/mad woman. If he had asked her about the points Lucy Gulland had mentioned (in Comment): how does she finance herself, take the family on tour and so on, that would have been giving her voice; defining her own behaviour as natural and of value, rather than her "serving" his image of the female roles. He could not acknowledge her as different otherness itself - and no doubt he's an intelligent man.
  
First thought: No wonder I'm single.
Second thought: This is why my blog is so important. I've decided.

Onward for ritual and revolution.

Next interview September. 


Monday, 15 August 2011

WE MADE A MESS AND WE'RE NOT SORRY - An art lesson with brother and sister duo Hysterical Injury

Background:
It’s a rainy day. The music journalist is listening to Mambo Taxi, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth on U Tube; remembers Huggy Bear, reads some reviews; hears about Never Mind the Bollocks: Women Rewrite Rock by Amy Raphael (published in the U.S. as Grrrls: Viva Rock Divas) and the book Frock Rock: Women Performing Popular Music, a sociological study of women musicians in British popular music. Eventually the name of Delia Sparrow (Mambo Taxi, Ye Nuns, with the notable female guitarist Debbie Smith ) crops up, which leads to the mention of one ANNI GARDINER, singer/songwriter and bass player of brother and sister duo Hysterical Injury.

Music journalist locates “Three” by Hysterical Injury ON U TUBE. Presses play. Press play now:


Oh yes! High energy, noisy bass, driving drums and slick and clever video -  no satisfaction of “the gaze” (http://en.wikipedia.org/WIKi/Feminist_film_theory) only singer/songwriter and bass player Anni's legs and feet tap, tap, tapping. Listen to this or the bass in “Labyrinth”, BEFORE you ask the question, “How can it be a proper band with just a bass player and drummer?”

Music Journalist meets Hysterical Injury. (How could she not.)

Characters:
Anni Gardiner: singer, songwriter, bass player of Hysterical Injury, artist, mother. Open, active, intelligent, beautiful, a prodigious laugh; can say words like “fuck” and it doesn’t sound gratuitous, lazy or coarse.
Tom Gardiner: drummer, runner, adapting fast to the intensity that has to be maintained when playing for Hysterical Injury; a subtle laid back man, who makes his sister laugh.
Music journalist: excitable, loud mouthed, determined, mother.

It goes something like this: Note it is meant to be fast and slows down after four minutes - not to be missed!
video

And ends up like this:

1. ANNIES BASS
Anni has a big stack! She likes lots of amps, power. Once it took a small village hall in Wales sixteen seconds of “Snow” to realise that they didn’t think Hysterical Injury was for them.
   “Can you turn it down, dear?” the promoter asked. Anni was happier to pack up, turn around and go home rather than turn down her bass.

Anni and Tom were raised in a tiny village in Wales. One day she was moaning about being bored and her Dad gave her a bass. Musical influences came from their parent’s record collection. Later Anni’s own preferences, which are on going: the layers and language of Throwing Muses; the noise and rhythms of Sonic Youth and in particular Kim Gordon; the depth and drive of Fugazi (even) have been dragged in to the sibling’s own time and place, own ideas and emotions. The reason Hysterical Injury are going to be massive is because people are more open to bands like HI, because of those “who went before”.
   Anni Gardener’s clear, pop vocal melodies rise about the beautiful bass noise in the way I always wanted it to happen for The Faith Healers.  There is an edge and humour, which P. J. Harvey promises in her images and song titles, but not the sound…

Speaking of Influences
There is a tradition in alternative indie/rock/dance music to be proud of right now: the drive to record and distribute music yourself, nowadays via the Internet, gig regularly, as a means of a living; stay sober (except for the parties); there is also a Riot Grrrl legacy, I am finding: you don’t have to piss in people’s suitcases or drink more than the boyz to get noticed anymore, it’s OK if there is more than one of you (writer, musician, sound engineer and so on).

Anni likes these punk inclinations, our culutural inheritence, but does not approve of reproducing tradition, in the rock and roll sense, either in terms of its swagger and and sound, or its hedonism.

   “To repeat what The Stones did, like for example The Libertines, is completely uninteresting to me,” she explains, matter of factly.

video


2. THE BAND NAME
Delightful in its ambiguity and jaggedness, both funny and a nod to hysteria and manic depression, engendered by psychoanalyst Freud; and clearly so not a purely female trait.
video


3. JOE STRUMMER CHARITY, STRUMMERVILLE
The band has just received a generous bursary from this fantastic charity. Anyone can apply for a grant. To find out how to apply or to donate click on the following link: http://www.strummerville.com/
   Be warned there are a lot of forms to fill out and a lot to organise before you can send it back. Anni remembers the process with horror yet in the end, the next contact from them was a request for bank account details so they could give them some money!

4. LIST OF SONGS ON NEW ALBUM
Anni and Tom have been working on an LP, as yet untitled, at Jim Barr’s studio, who is a regular bass player in Portishead. Expect a recorded sound with the same high energy, a bass with enormous personality, urged by Tom’s drumming – a fabulous momentum, bearing teeth, but never alienating, angry or mean.
   Tom and Anni share glances: the way siblings do when they remember arguments, disasters, exciting days out with mum and dad – or without the parents, for that matter.
   “It hasn’t been easy, for me in particular,” says Tom, grinning. “ I’ve had to get used to it. There’s an intensity that has to be maintained which can leave you quite… “(clenches teeth, growls).

5. THE WORDS OF NEW SONG, “INTO THE CABIN”
6. “ROSETTA’S WAVES’”
Last night Anni tried out new song “Into the Cabin”. She wasn’t sure how well it would work. She produces it from her bag, screwed up. Whole lines of phrases are scrawled out, words run right to the very edge of the paper in joined-up handwriting.

“Rosetta’s Waves” is the celebration of black female blues guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe; pre Hendrix, Muddy Walters - practically pre Jesus - another, truly brilliant invisible link to female artists heritage. I love it before I’ve even heard it. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/.../in-praise-sister-rosetta-tharpe


video

Kristen Hersh
Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses) has unknowingly become a role model for women in the alternative, creative field, particularly musicians. Anni has read her latest book, Pardoxical Undressing (http://somethingtocryfor.blogspot.com/2011/05/paradoxical-undressing-kristin-hersh.html ) and managed to talk to her for ten minutes at a book signing. It is the logistics of parenting, writing/composing and performing which drove her to overcome the embarrassment of demanding a one-to-one. There are other similarities: the understanding that language is man-made; of songs having their own sense, rather than story or meaning; of layers in every song.

The Tour
Hysterical Injury are touring this October but play random gigs all over the place all of the time anyway. See their web site for up to date details through this link: http://www.myspace.com/thehystericalinjury

For Anni’s top tips on other bands to see in Bristol see the opening of the video clip under the 2. BAND NAME.  She also recommends this: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Adventures-Kate-Theory-Deborah-Withers/dp/0956450709





7. OUR LIVES ARE FUTURIST NIGHTMARES
The name of the second EP, which includes “Labyrinth”, “Three” and “Snow”; not difficult to understand why this was the EP which got them noticed. http://www.myspace.com/thehystericalinjury#!/thehystericalinjury/musicAvailable on I tunes. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/the-hysterical-injury/id354565904


8. MEGA! MEGA!
No doubt in my mind.





Friday, 5 August 2011

UK Female Artists One: Rita Lynch by Ngaire Ruth


Guitarist and song writer RITA LYNCH is having a bit of an “awakening”. She asked herself a question and made a very quick decision: “What’s important?  My son and writing songs are all that matter.” Blue Aeroplanes drummer, John Langley, has been working with her for three years now, and she produced a blinding album “What Am I?”, quite clearly the record which announced that she knew exactly who she was and where she was going and why.. The songs: a stripped down, fistful of guitar rhythms, certain from the off, rolling, like they do, lyrics that make sense and yet, they don’t – it’s a feeling. In autumn comes the follow up, “Crack On”.

THE INTERVIEW
It’s awkward, weird, to see such a bright, intense character like Rita Lynch (twenty five years in rock’n’roll and counting), drive in to your shady, tree-lined, avenue of Victorian terraced houses, in a little red car and get out, all smiles, arms open and ready to greet you. On stage, even when it’s only a few centimetres higher than the audience, Ms Lynch, with her chunky, raw guitar rhythms, Patti Smith voice and drummer, Langley driving everything forward with those relentless beats, seems impenetrable, protected. This is why fans come up with words like “Goddess”, even though Rita is THE true grit rocker, with user-friendly melodies, painted toe nails and her own angel. (The latter assumption being my own fluffy notion, not Rita’s.)

Much later, when I ask what is the thing that people say to you which makes you cringe? She replies, without hesitation: “Calling me Goddess! That’s a hard one to live up to!
   “I mean I love all the attention but sometimes I just feel it’s too much. I’m gonna let you down. I’m not that fantastic. Even sometimes when I’m doing gigs I feel I’m transcending beyond myself in to something else, so when people give me too many compliments I can’t cope. I worry that if I meet them in person I’m going to let them down.”

And what would have been the worst musical comparison?  This takes a bit more thought, but finally: “Blondie on a crash diet!” (Which sends her in to chuckles and makes me shout: Fuck off!)

I want you to hear her laugh. Press play.

WILD WOMEN, THEY HOOP AND HOLLER
I would not have been surprised if Rita Lynch had turned up in my backyard riding the sun, bare backed, scorching my pride-and-joy vegetables on entry. Being serious, maybe at least in a balloon, perhaps having parachuted from above, or at best, on the back of a noisy motorbike, but the little red car will do for me. The manager sits in the passenger seat, I note, cos Rita is driving. Ah. Here we have a theme. We talk about themes and Rita can’t think of hers, but in retrospect I realise, this is it. She is now in the driving seat, metaphorically speaking.

Her reputation precedes her, as it does with all wild women, who are simply a force of nature, having taken on the challenge of expressing timeless primitive forces, using up their valuable energies turning chaos in to beauty. Same old, same old, attitudes and assumptions; and being sexy, grungy, rocky (as opposed to poppy, which is allowed, because that objectivity), doesn’t help. For those, like Rita, of any gender, for whom their art can sometimes be a confrontation with psychosis, rather than the lame understanding that art is the freedom of expression of some vague kind of subjectivity, the side effect is often, in fact, a crisis of subjectivity, something that bad habits and gloomy friends attract to like moths to light. But Rita survived. All the while, behind the scenes, she still remembers to write the songs, take the rubbish out, pays the bills - even though there is no money - and prepares the dinner before people start to get hungry. I would rather talk to the artists who are ”still surfing”, than muse creatively about those who crashed and burned.  (viz Amy Winehouse, of late).

In tandem with my good thoughts, she gets out of the car and brings with her a pint of milk, as the chosen refreshment of the day. OK, it’s very rock’n’roll the way she swigs it right there, in the middle of the street like that.


HERSTORY
In her musical career, Rita Lynch has produced seven albums and been in a number of bands. (Currently these are available via www.ritalynch.co.uk, from Fruit and Flowers or Angel records, or at the live shows. “Crack On” will be available as a download and in CD format.) It would be a fair comment to say that one of her earliest assembles, Lynch and the Piss Artists, were not intent on chasing the fame monster and it would be true to say that Rita has never made a lot of money out of music; that she never made a commitment to living off the beast which whispers, simply has stuck at it; fallen in to one thing and come out with something else. For example, the best advice she’s probably ever been given – in terms of music – was when her partner of the electronic duo she played bass for, decided to sing a Lou Reed duet of “Pale Blue Eyes “. It worked so well he told her: “Forget the bass and sing.”

“You see back in the day it was easier to be on the dole. It facilitated people who weren’t from middle class backgrounds to think higher thoughts, do creative things. It created the bohemians, like me, in my opinion. Now you can’t do it. “

This is one of the things that worries Rita today, along with phases of what getting older actually means.

I have put these ideas in to her head, probably, because that’s what music journalists do, stir thing around and see what rises to the top.

Rewind to the Eighties, Rita now has blonde extensions and favours leather and rubber and is a singer/songwriter with guitar – dragging her first musical influence of Bob Dylan in to her own time and place. She has been living in Bristol since she was 21 and she is still innocent enough to be brave, that is, embracing ideas, truly, madly, deeply – in the way artists often do, almost on behalf of the rest of us, who know better.

Do you or did you take pleasure out of drawing attention to your sexuality, I dare to ask?

“Absolutely,” she returns. “But not so much anymore, as I get older, I have started to retain a bit of dignity. I remember hitchhiking out of Paris once. You could see this huge queue of hitch hikers and I thought ‘fuck this’ so I went in to the toilet and I changed in to the shortest shorts and put some make up on and within, like, a minute I got a lift. I used everything I could, as you do.”

TOMORROW’S MUSIC? NOT TODAY THANK YOU
Back in the day, Mick Mercer (see Mick Mercer.com) decided to interview her for Melody Maker but he couldn’t get it passed Features Editor, Steve Sutherland, who thought the Paper didn’t need a feature on “junkie lesbians”. Rock’n’Roll the supposed bastion of alternative thought, deed and open to desire, rejected her for being too “way out”. Geez. Get a grip! It’s jaw dropping, plain faced embarrassing that rampaging rabble rouser bands, songs falling apart at the seams, silliness to fill in, with names like Lesbian Dope Heads On Mopeds (all male, by the way) should have got copy space?

“When I first started I got hailed in Bristol as the next big thing… and it didn’t happen. In the lesbian scene I got massive exposure but it didn’t really cross over. Then they did this documentary ‘On the Road With Rita Lynch’ for Channel 4, a twenty minute documentary. And then when I started to have heterosexual relationships, there was an element of the gay scene feeling betrayed. None of it really did me any favours.”

Ironically, there was nothing particularly “ghetto” about Rita’s music, even back then, despite her in-yer-face sexuality. It was hardly punk or had titles and words which were never going to get on the radio. In fact songs from her first album, “Call Me Your Girlfriend” included “Beautiful Eyes”, a song that floats over the darkside, blinding, which became the soundtrack for the independent film “Rosebud”. A later album, in 2000, produced three tracks, used in the film, "Vampire Diary", (“Feels Like The End of the World, “Far Away” and “Fallen For You”). All these songs are timeless soundscapes, full-on lingering and longing. Words like devotion come to mind.
   Rita accepts the description: “I was a lot younger and more innocent. At some point the romance goes in to other things.”


  
THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
It’s been an hour and half drive from Bristol, St Pauls, smack bang in Montepelier where Rita Lynch lives, to here. Rita is well known in the Scene, which is far too laid back and busy being successful to call itself that. In 2008 she joined the Blue Aeroplanes, a well know Bristol band, once adored by critics Nationwide, thanks to the charm of it’s founder and song writer Gerard; still producing intelligent, emotive guitar music. In a recent review Rita was described as being “the new vocal foil”, I like that. A recent gig also included original guitarist Angelo, now in Massive Attack.

In St Pauls, a writer, performer and single mum, can make mistakes, be allowed to learn and grow from them, the one place perhaps where there isn’t judgement, instead a smile and a wave, with a rhetorical shout “Still singing?!” over a pounding soundtrack out in the street.

“I am completely influenced by the place. I love it,” she explains. “It’s so free, people are out and about, playing music, chatting. We are all outsiders, it feels like. Punks used to get arrested. These days, I seem to represent something because I kept going, but I’m one of them, I had problems, a kid on my own, and I’m still here, doing what I do. 
   "My new target is to produce one album a year.”

THE BACKYARD
Her son is aged nine and severely autistic. This is relevant because Rita has had to fight so hard for everything; getting housed, trying to get a nurse to help out at home and at the school; endless and necessary meetings with teachers, assistants, specialists. Standing her ground, certainty and urgency are evident in the songs and explain the forthcoming LP’s title: “Crack On”. This does not mean that Rita is champion of angry female shouty stuff, she certainly doesn’t want to alienate people. Neither does it mean that she is a trail blazer for all working class single mums or even mums of autistic children. And I am not going to tell you about her choice of sexuality because why should I fucking care! Do Goddesses have sex at all? All that type of behaviour will, yet again, facilitate putting her in to an appropriate ghetto. No. Rita Lynch is producing music that has a place in the mainframe.

The album I have been playing is “What Am I”, the one I am calling her “turning point”. ( In fact, after much womanly wittering the root of all turning points can be found when Rita, a painfully shy pupil who was failing, due to the inability to find her voice, was told she would be taking C.S.E’s not O’Levels, the G.C.E. equivalent. Without further ado she went up to the teacher’s staffroom and banged on that door. She told that teacher that she was going to take O’levels and, in the end, she got eight.)

The CD of “What Am I?”(Angel Records) is so cute, in terms of the way it looks! When you take it out of the cover it’s exactly like a tiny vinyl. The LP says good bye to instrumental accompaniments, such as second guitar and bass. The opener, “Sit Up, Sit Down” has the energy of P. J. Harvey’s “Sheela-Na-Gig” and "Losing" which follows, takes those dynamics and one step further, showing Lynch's unique voice and John's rhythms to the full: elated, defiant - sharp and sinister.
   “The whole point of playing guitar for me is to write songs. If I learnt how to do silly, wizzy things it wouldn’t help me write the song.“

IT’S A MYSTERY
I love that Rita has given herself a clear musical format and boundaries, but the creative process is still all about unleashing the primitive timeless forces in to the here and now.

“I believe in the unconscious. I just pick up the guitar and come out with certain things, they might not even be real language, but they’ve got syncopation and rhythm. Sometimes I will go back to old tapes and I will put proper words in; I kind of jam with myself. It just seems to flow – out of that.

That could be interpreted as quite a spiritual thing.

“It’s more because I am driven to do it. It’s not a happy, happy thing, necessarily, the process of creative expression, but that doesn’t mean the end result need be ugly, it’s working through that.

“Sometimes after a gig people will say, ‘Did you enjoy that?’ and I’ll think, ‘No. Actually I could quite easily bang my head against a wall now!’ I don’t do this because it makes me happy, but it’s still something I have to do. What else is there to do?
   
Julia Kristeva, French feminist, psychoanalyst and linguist says the unconscious both calls for interpretation and cannot be exhausted by interpretation. That “calling” can be at odds with responsibilities such as parenting, earning money, maintaining a homelife.

 “Sometimes when you are being true to yourself it feels like things are crumbling, but that’s the time to sit tight and keep going. Sometimes when you are doing it you may be thinking: this will lead to my disaster but what else is there to do?

Rita says this phrase a lot: What else is there to do?  It shows that her “staying power” is not related to confidence or arrogance, its just part of her very being.

“Whatever I’m going through in life will probably come out in the songs.”

Whether that is positive or negative?

“Yes.”

I get that. I get that there is a thread musically, but not lyrically, thankfully. Perhaps that’s the difference with indie or rock bands?

“That’s true. Sometimes people seem to write the same song over and over again. They do!
   “I try to be honest and think that if I have felt this at some time somebody else will have done. Sometimes I look at back at things I’ve written and think, ‘I just can’t say that it’s too obvious!’, but then I think what I’m going through surely other people apart from me have also experienced.
   “At the moment real live events are turning very quickly in to songs.”

Like I said, Rita Lynch is having a bit of an “awakening”. 
www.RitaLynch.co.uk 









  



Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Ngaire Ruth is ON-it, Big Bad Blog Two.


I am wondering whether you have got the idea of this Blog yet. The science vocabulary in Blog One would be a clue to the fact that it is an experiment. It is both the production notes and the product. Interviews with:  some high kudos characters for whom producing and performing is up there with breathing, who unashamedly chase The Fame Monster or… not; some new and interesting contenders for the former; some who made an impact either as solo or front people or writers of bands, thinking here of Lesley, Silverfish, Roxanne, The Faith Healers or Pinky McClure. (Still waiting on ideas here, in Comments section.) Like stars, these women came, burned brightly, reminded me to pay homage to the inner girl – or certainly that it was safe to bring her out to play in the current company I was keeping (Camden, Melody Maker, Lime Lizard) and then went. And where did they go to? Well, I know for a fact that Roxanne is still an artist, but not a performer and lives with a collective in London somewhere.

And here’s the thing about this glorious format, an interview like that can link to current exhibitions, show artwork, as opposed to pensive, yet focused music shots where the subject is trying really hard to “look like they are thinking of something.”  The mind boggles at the opportunities, when I consider links to every reference churned up and stroked lovingly, by words and memories you understand, relating to places, small labels of city scenes, from London, Bristol and beyond (apparently, there is a beyond, I know for a fact there is a very real thing called “Cov Love”).

Get on with it!
My first interview is with Rita Lynch, this Thursday (4th August, 2011).See above photograph.

I walked in to The Thunderbolt, Bristol, spring 2011. It was noise, a fuzz box wall-of-sound. It was crowded, self-absorbed and smelt of damp. It was like a pat on the back, hard, from an old mate. I knew the soles of my shoes were going to stick to the place on the way out. (Good!) It was just like The Falcon or White Hart of old where I saw bands for the first time, usually, and wrote about them, in the National music press, including P. J. Harvey and Blur. The relief that this was still going on, when I had given up ever being able to re-experience the hope, the intellectual and emotional peak which comes from listening to a band or artist, live, who pushes the boundaries, almost brought tears to my eyes. Easily though, I gave in to the pleasure, rather than nostalgia because the sound of the guitar and drum beat, beat, beat was dragging me in.

As I moved closer, to watch this Rita Lynch woman, the tunes and layers in the music became clearer. She held her guitar close and played furiously. Scrap that. She played her guitar like she was going to die the next day. This was my impression, absolutely. The tunes were jagged; complex yet her hand movements graceful, free-flowing and the melody fought to “get there” because it knew it had a chance, given the knowledge and understanding of the drummer, John Langley. He is needed here – because they seem to connect, driving the music forward - more than in the Blue Aeroplanes, with whom he also plays. So, apparently, does Rita, but I can’t see that here and now.

I remember when I went to see the Lives! Editor, at the time it was Everett True, about writing for the Melody Maker. Back then I was reviewing, pretty much the same as the Melody Maker, as an independent freelancer for the underground London paper, free at the tube stations, LAM. He asked me if I liked the Blue Aeroplanes. I said, “Who?” An absolutely huge grin appeared on his face. He sat back in his typing chair, over exaggerated his sigh and shouted, “Did you hear that Chris?” At the same time, Chris Roberts appeared from behind a screen with a face that gave away neither approval nor disapproval, only humour. Where was Everett dragging them up from now?

I saw the Blue Aeroplanes live, for the first time, this Spring and the experience was intense and vital, not at all “the nice collective of intelligent and talented beings playing jingly jangly indie”, I had expected. This has a place too, usually indoors, on my stereo, for company,  but live, I want to be possessed, owned. But that’s another story and not for this Blog.

Have you ever tried to go up, the way you went down?
Often when musicians talk off their motivation and ideas, the interviewer, particularly if they’re talking to a female, will focus on the “angst”, such as their periods of manic depression, abusive or co-dependent relationships. To me, these are just in-evitable downs, to the ups. Why can’t we talk about the “ups”, as earnestly and analytically? Have you ever tried going down, the way you went up? I think that is part of the creative process that a singer/songwriter takes, whatever their gender. It is very clever. It is an emotional intelligence. It is about what goes on in their backyard; waking up in the morning and spinning the wheel, to see how you feel, and working “with it”. I am interested in the backyard.

Visual learning
Colour and texture is also a theme because the trigger, for me, the realisation that my idea could produce something, entirely, adorable, helpful, funny, vibrant and really truly, feasible - by working with and adapting the Blog format - was when colleague Neil Kulkarni, (read him, it’s like skateboarding, while hitched to a rare, classic car, driving, at speed, in zigzags through bustling city streets), recommended to me a Blog, on this site, from Lucy Cage. Lucy was part of Lime Lizard when they moved from the young rich American’s house, with the lizards, in to a proper office. But then, I am only guessing. I was at the house, you see, earlier on. (By the way, the original Editor, Britt, still has my rare copies of The Face and I.D. I always felt she started the magazine to a) meet Robert Smith and b) appease her boyfriend.) I digress: Lucy’s excellent Blog, in particular something in a piece titled, Something To Cry For. Something To Hunt, a review of Kristin Hersh’s new book, “Paradoxical Undressing”, captured my imagination. It was this: the touching and enviable story, from the book, and Lucy’s thoughts on it, where the young Kristen is encouraged to move away from playing primary colours, to mixing the palette, such as playing yellow and blue to make green, with paternal patience and love.

So colour and texture are a must here, and the moment I or the Blog turns the colour off or becomes stuck in the Primary colours. Tell me.

Questions
There are two types of questions: open and closed. For example, how could you make that sentence more interesting? Open. What adjectives could you add to those nouns or adverbial phrases, in order to engage the reader? Closed. You see, I know how to do that as a teacher – the person I have become over the last six years, since I have been responsible for my own backyard, so to speak – but now I have to apply this skill to my writerly notions. And get back to inventing words, like “writerly”. Surely that must be a word?

And here’s my backyard: one of the exciting parts of this project is adding new skills to the old ones. Maybe this will also end up a theme in the interviews.

Questions are not there, even the open ones, to be followed, like a jobs-worth, but they do help me focus on the theme for this experimental blog.

Here are some of them so far:
Write to play, play to perform?
Bands played with/musicians, writers, artists worked with? Both as a record or log and with regard, if appropriate, to the little nuggets taken away to use for yourself, either literally, or as a trigger for other personal project or relationships with people… which led to something else.
I’m most proud of the fact?
The best advice I’ve ever been given is …
You cringe when people describe you as?
Musical compromises?
How to avoid those compromises?
Here and now or five/ten year thinking?
Current projects. Where to get other stuff?
Expressive or hysterical?
I worry about?
Indoors or outdoors?
People used to say to you?
A child of?
The things I like about myself are…

Mystery and Suspense
In the end this Blog will be a fine source or reference but also, I hope a trigger for inspired thoughts and ideas, even reassurance and laughter. If you are ready, you will be reading between the lines all kinds of useful things, real life tools for working/thinking, a wholehearted embracing of foolish notions, wry, sniggering, kindly. (Oh yes you can!)

I have an image in my head of a chubby cheeked maiden, eyes focused and bright, safe, satisfied grin, riding the sun, at a gallop, guitar strapped to her back and what’s that? A tail?