May 13, 2011
Here’s some more old writing – since it’s the Animal Collective ATP this weekend, I thought I’d re-post this, from !nspired magazine, (re-branded Stalking Elk) back in Dec ’09…
!nspired at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Nightmare Before Xmas 2009
curated by My Bloody Valentine.
So, I break my ATP duck, after several years of almost-goings; and our coach breaks too, 45 minutes outside of London. We wait an age for repairs. Good start. Seven hours and a very restricted Heart Radio play list later, we arrive.
‘On the Buses’ is playing on the specially programmed ATP TV channel in our chalet. A couple of seagulls are stamping the ground for worms outside & shrieking like harpies; they will later turn out to be the most intrusive noise of the weekend, (no mean feat) at around 5:00am each morning. I admire the clean sheets & generous bathtub. Toto, we’re not at Glasto anymore.
First, we see openers The Wounded Knees. I’ve never listened to their stuff before this point, but I’m real glad we make it along, as a) they’re great, b) they introduce us to the instrument of the weekend – the flute, and c), J Mascis makes a guest appearance; for someone universally renowned as being the king of slackers, the guy works harder than anyone else in indiedom.
After catching the Texas-Jerusalem fury of Josh T. Pearson and a little of the De La Soulgood vibes, we see W.I.T.C.H play, again featuring J. They’re brash, noisy & very, very hairy, singing thrashy songs about being a useless motherfucker all scared of the sun and shit. It’s fantastic – like seeing Sabbath before Ozzy lost the last few remaining chapters of his plot. I notice curator Kevin Shields standing watching them a few feet from us; I say hi, thank him for picking some amazing bands to play, and skulk back, shaking.
Primal Scream do their thang, (and do it well) with Bobby Gillespie as always being the greatest rock star ever (in his head). I’m hoping Shields is gonna accompany them on guitar, maybe playing ‘XTRMNTR’ from start to finish. Neither happens.
If the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse had a theme tune, it would be the last half hour of a My Bloody Valentine show. Bilinda Butcher looks *amazing* onstage, her demure beauty contrasting the brutal discord the group are thrashing out. An entire room of indie kids (myself included) simultaneously lust over a 48 year-old woman, and have their ears melted. Earlier, they play ‘Sometimes’ semi-acoustically; it’s the closest thing to aural heartbreak I’ve ever heard.
I fall asleep during Buzzcocks. Not because they suck, but because I’m blind drunk. (I don’t discover the delights of Relentless on tap till the next morning).
Hangovers pounding, we queue early to see Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth being interviewed for TV. Our punctuality pays off – several hundred people are turned away as the tiny Butlin’s production office quickly fills up. I later see Thurston having a drink in the Irish Bar, but chicken out of chatting to him, lacking any dutch courage.
The Sun Ra Arkestra is batshit crazy, and the best dressed band of the festival by a mile. The Horrors are certainly energetic, and sound great, but I’m quickly bored by their near-panto performance. J Mascis and The Fog play four songs off the album of the t-shirt I’m wearing, which makes me very happy.
We chatted the previous night to a superfan from Slovakia who’s come to Minehead especially for Sonic Youth. This will be the 6th time he’s seen them this year; I feel ashamed, it’s only my second. They don’t disappoint, playing a set mostly comprising of their new album ‘The Eternal’, with a couple of classics thrown in for good measure. Their encore of ‘Death Valley ‘69’ is incredible.
Listening to Robin Guthrie’s Milky-Way-via-rainy-beach chiming guitar textures and having another ride on the My Bloody Valentine rollercoaster is followed by No Age, who are joined by Bob Mould, and play a bunch of (I think) Hüsker Dü songs, which are too loud to decode. Fucked Up, preceded by some amusing, disparaging craic (“What’s the difference between The Horrors and having your nuts crushed in a vice? Eventually you get used to having your nuts crushed in a vice.”) close the night with their hipster-friendly hardcore. I meet Oliver Ackermann of A Place To Bury Strangers in the toilets during FU’s set, and lavish him with drunken praise. He’s very sweet and enthusiastic; I jokingly tell him to ‘play louder!’ the next day.
I wish I hadn’t. For the past few years I’ve taken to wearing 32dB attenuating earplugs for all gigs, and even they are being pushed to their limit by the inexorable tirade of sound blasting from the PA. I’ve seen some offensively loud shows – Dinosaur Jr., Mogwai, MBV of course – but what APTBS are doing borders on sheer terror. In fact, if the U.S. are serious about coercing Osama Bin Laden from the woodwork, they should book this band for a tour of South Asia’s mountain ranges. During their closing song, ‘Ocean’, for the one and only time during the whole festival, I notice the sound guy drop the entire volume output significantly when a footswitch is stomped and a guitar goes from hyperloud to a Vesuviusesque ROOOOOOOAR for a couple of seconds, freaking out a *lot* of the audience. Sweet. You wonder how there can only be one band separating them from the dreamy acoustics of Gemma Hayes on the same stage.
Swervedriver seem to be regarded as a bit of an also-ran joke in the popular music press, but judging by their brilliant set here I can’t fathom how they weren’t more successful, especially while the shameless Happy-Shopper-Nirvana of Gavin Rossdales’ pubey crew broke America big time the same year they were dropped by their label.
We have a Sunday roast, I have too much booze, and spend far, far too long ranting about Simon Cowell & SyCo/Greenwell Entertainment (again) to my long-suffering girlfriend; consequently missing EPMD, and most of Dirty Three. FAIL.
NYC Super cuties The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are immediately followed by Providence scary bastards Lighting Bolt, which is the most bizarre line-up I’ve experienced since I had a (self-chosen – Cineworld Wood Green may be shit, but they’re not insane) matinee double-bill of Juno and Rambo IV. Both bands are great, though I can’t imagine a split 7” selling very well.
Our final dose of My Bloody Valentine (who have ramped up their closing Cape Canaveral carnage to such a degree that my girlfriend hides behind a wall at the back of the room) is followed wandering around the site in a delirious daze, the calming antidote of La Haine in the cinema, air hockey, Burger King, then bed.
Verdict: 9/10 (it would have top marks, only if Butlins kept a Peregrine Falcon on site to ward off the sleep-ruining damn dirty seagulls…)
We also saw a bunch of other bands and stuff over the weekend, but I’m already well over twice over my word limit, (sorry, Kit) so here’s a play list instead, via the good people at Spotify.
May 10, 2011
In keeping with my plan of putting up the few wee scraps of writing of mine I actually like on here until I summon the courage to start basket case blogging again, here’s a piece concerning travel in video games which I wrote for the wonderful !nspired Magzazine. Said publication has recently undergone a Pokémonesque evolution into the bigger, badder (and, freed from the tyranny of ethereal strings of 1′s and 0′s, now available in physical form) Stalking Elk Magazine, which you should certainly check out. If you’re of the Twittering persuasion, be sure to follow editor-in-chief and all round anarchist-lit renaissance man @KitCaless, for irreverence and real ale tips.
May 5, 2011
So, my intention of updating this every week very quickly fell flat on its stupid face. It’s not *entirely* down to apathy - I’m sitting on a LOT of writing that I want to get up on here at some point soon, but I’m a touch worried with regards to public disclosure, due to how far my last bout of serious illness went. I want to be as frank as possible, but I also realise that upfront honesty may very well come back to bite me in the future, if, say, a potential employer Google searches my name and finds this blog. Anyway, in the meantime, I thought I’d update sporadically with other bits ‘n’ bobs, just for shits ‘n’ gigs.
Here’s a (very) short live comedy review I wrote last month, for the wonderful Stalking Elk Magazine.
‘Kim Noble Will Die’
Following an initial run in 2009, Kim Noble’s autobiographical show ‘Kill Noble Will Die’ has returned to the Soho Theatre. Having been unaware of the comedian a couple of years ago, but hearing frenzied discussion of this particular performance since, I was intrigued. Three people (one being Noble himself) suggested that I shouldn’t see it. I can understand why they recommended this – it is, at times, genuinely harrowing to watch. While themes of loneliness, self destruction and suicidal intent abound, there’s a brutally honest, confused human quality that I couldn’t help but identify with. The audience may squirm, but Noble’s intent seems not to intentionally gross out, rather to confront and slay his demons on stage – actively dragging spectators into his embellishment free world, un-cocooned, without a safety net. Technically, it’s brilliant – a seamless mixture of fringe theatre, video art, live projection (which Noble flawlessly interacts with) and groundbreaking, uncomfortable audience participation. A weaker stomach may find the show hard to tolerate, but I can only recommend it. If you’re considering going, ask yourself one simple question – “How do I feel about watching a video of a grown man ejaculating over a photograph of Bono?”
March 11, 2011
My bouts of acute delusion have, both times, been accompanied by massive sensorial bombardment. The notions of ‘seeing things’ and ‘hearing voices’ are widely discussed as attributes of madness, and while I have indeed experienced these, they are but part of the fun. When sliding into a manic episode, one is engulfed by a feeling of hyper-awareness. The sensation is like being tuned-in to sheer existence, mentally and physically – the static of lethargy clears, and sentience seems suddenly deeper, amplified. The world becomes unfiltered, acquiring a constant luminescent glow and glorious background hum. Your visual colour palette subtly changes, re-processing the hue of the environment, creating a tapestry of deep purples and bright pinks. Then, when slipping uncontrollably toward psychosis, a phantom rich taste appears as a constant in the mouth – flavoured like an intoxicating chemical cocktail of perfume, fabric softener and cardamom, and skating a fine line between sweetly delicious and vomit-inducing.
Things can get exceptionally weird. I recall, as I became more ill, being able to feel warm blood squirting through my entire body, down to every last capillary. I always sensed I was vibrating on the spot, and became intrinsically aware of the physical space I occupied – balance, momentum, and even, seemingly, an idea of gravity acting against movement all became greatly palpable. My sense of smell became incredibly sensitive, to the point where cooking food would overwhelm, and I would have to leave the room. Perception of time became confusingly warped, deceptive. I once walked down Green Lanes on a busy Saturday evening, and everything around me was playing out in slow-motion – speeding cars inching down the street, leaving fat, visible trails of light in their wake, sharp horns becoming long, low pitched drones. That was terrifying – just crossing the road to get to the shops felt like taking my life into my hands, as I couldn‘t trust what my own sensory array was registering.
I heard ‘voices‘, not as a solitary speaker addressing me, but as a garbled sea of pseudo-Brownian noise, with gibberish sentences, repeated word loops, and occasionally definable statements from countless different voices pushing through the mix of fizz. I began believing myself to be some kind of telepathic receiver, picking up signals from deep space, temporal pockets of past and future, or even gods. Proper crazy shit.
My visual hallucinations were always a subtle warping of reality, rather than completely self-generated manifestations. Typically, objects would appear to stretch, shrink, bend and sway, and I would have a sense that my field of view was slightly dislocated from normal, as if I’d taken half a step back into my own skull. At the height of my psychotic break, my own reflection, and other people’s faces, would sometimes appear to change – gaining an animalistic, gargoyle-like look for the merest fraction of a second – flashing pointed teeth, noses morphing to snouts. Extremely scary. If you’ve seen the films ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, or ‘Black Swan’, each does a good job of visualising what I experienced – the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, often close to imperceivable contortions are unfortunately familiar. The latter prompted distinct recognition when I saw it at the cinema recently – I had been convinced that my body was mutating into that on an animal, given my highly irrational thought processes at the time, (which I will discuss at a later date) coupled with the bizarre sensations pulsing through my frame. At one point I ‘felt’ my toes merging together, flesh sealing shut as hooves inside my trainers, and at another, having been administered fluorescein eye drops in hospital, was convinced that I was shrinking, my bones were re-shaping, and I was turning into a dog. I later read that the drops can trigger an uncomfortable nausea – my deluded brain must have filled in the gaps and interpreted this in the obvious, logical way…
As soon as I was sectioned, and my brain flooded with Zyprexa, this sensory assault ceased. Alas, my mindset took far longer to return to rationality.
March 4, 2011
It’s approaching a year since my last bout of psychosis. March 10th 2010 is a date eternally burned into my memory – the day when the insanity I had been gradually, unknowingly, accelerating towards for several months took hold and nearly ended me. The rapid, subtle change in my mindset as I became increasingly ill is still terrifying; if happiness can be compared to the feeling of the tide lapping against your toes, and mania like taking an unaided swim into the centre of an ocean, then psychosis is akin to being dragged deep down into the darkest, coldest sea and torn to pieces by razor-sharp teeth.
Re-assembly and recuperation takes time. I started back at work this week, which has been a huge step, and something I couldn’t have imagined I’d ever be able to do again as little as six months ago. I’ve been, by personal choice, and with the blessing of my doctor, entirely medication-free for a while now – I have never been able to accept the numbing, dislocating sensation of being on anti-psychotic drugs or mood stabilisers. While it’s perhaps not the easy option, as I’m having to constantly monitor myself for fluctuations in mood or irrational thought, it makes a welcome change from months spent in torpid apathy.
I’m starting this blog primarily as a way of making sense of what happened last year, and what I can do to prevent it happening again; the unfortunate consequences of a severe case of bipolar disorder have already gouged several huge chunks out of my life, and have deeply affected those close to me. Just having a wee word with myself, y’know?