Flow

I sometimes find a frustration in the timing of my moments of creative buzz and flow. When I’m sat at my desk in my office job, for example, it can just hit me in the face and start flowing through my veins. Sure I do my best to shoe-horn creativity into my administrative tasks – redesigning systems, creating support documents in Photoshop, getting involved in working groups and picking up projects. However, sometimes that is just not enough. At moments like that I want to run out of the door and home to my guitar to jam out all of the sparky energy into something truly meaningful. Then when I actually do walk through the door all I want to do is eat, read and/or watch endless episodes of Once Upon a Time or Grace & Frankie or RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix.

I have this ongoing internal battle where I simultaneously argue that it’s great and terrible to have a full time job. Its great because it provides a salary that pays for a rental house with my inspiration on display always reflecting back at me, providing space to create and the safety and happiness required to free my mind for creative endeavours. It’s also terrible because of the fraudulent feeling I have a lot of the time – fraudulent due to the need to pretend to be interested in systems and support documents (or even worse, fraudulent due to actually being interested in those things), also due to feeling deep down that I’m an artist, a musician, generally a creator, yet I spend a smaller percentage of my time actually doing that.

I remember a discussion I had at art school where I was asked if someone was a chef in their day job but made art in their spare time, could they call themselves an artist? I said no, of course not, they are a chef who also makes art. Well maybe I was quite naive back then, or maybe I’m being lenient on myself now. Either I’m an artist musician who happens to also do administration, or I’m an administrator who also happens to make art and music. Why do I even care? Sometimes I ask myself that too, because I feel more content in life right now than I ever have. The vague ‘long term plan’ is to spend a year or two in a job like this focussing on music and then seeing where I am at that point. If it seems the time I’ll train to be an art therapist and continue my musical endeavours in my spare time.

Well yes that sounds like a pretty great life too actually. I think there is a lot of self-doubt entwined in my generation and those immediately above and below mine. It’s like we are always looking for the next thing – the next job, the next place to live, the next holiday, the next project, the next guitar (or car, or pet, or child, or outfit). It has become so difficult to be in the moment with all of these distractions around us (one of the reasons I have one of Aldous Huxley’s mynah birds tattooed on my thigh actually). Then there’s all that pressure, especially as the first generation of lower middle class children coming from a working class family. Pressure to live up to our own expectations, given how much our parents have worked to support us. To do it for the family and make all their sacrifice worth it.

I went to a world renowned art school and foolishly thought that meant I had ‘made it’. Whatever that means. I don’t know exactly what vision I had in my future for being a full time artist. But then that was probably the problem, if you don’t know what it looks like how do you make it happen? I’m now learning to try everything once, if I like it I find more of that and if I don’t I just stick that on the long convoluted list of ‘things I’ve done’. What I’m taking from all of this is that I need to find ways to curve my flow, or bottle it and save it for later. Music is definitely a great influencer, as is dancing, and reading. I will endeavour to go for a book or a boogie rather than a Netflix if I want to get to work on any of my passions in an evening to get my juices flowing! If all else fails I tend to fall back on my favourite mantra gleaned from the oh so sophisticated and alternative film, Bachelorette – “Fuck everyone!” Yeah I’ll just do whatever the hell I want and not worry about why or what anyone else thinks of it.

Now Live Events – Welcome Home

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Over the past couple of years a wonderful collaboration between myself and Anna Malzy has developed and created a beautiful project called ‘Trampoline’.

We are excited to be able to once more bring this to life as part of an awesome programme of events put together by Now Live Events!

Check out the programme and book your place here:

http://www.nowliveevents.org/deptford-lounge-2016/

And for more info on Trampoline go here!:

https://www.facebook.com/trampolinefilm/

 

What metaphorically sticks?

Since January I have been throwing ideas at a metaphorical wall to see what metaphorically sticks. Working full time whilst developing a video making service on the side, whilst rehearsing and performing with a band, whilst going to swing dance classes, whilst teaching guitar, whilst writing a one person musical, whilst developing research to continue applying for a PhD. Phew! That’s a lot of stuff for one person to manage, whilst also having a life. The inevitable moment of realisation that as much as I may want to, I can’t do everything all of the time has finally happened.

So some reflection is in order. As much as I like the idea of working for myself and living life on my terms, I don’t think running a video company is the way I want to achieve that. When it felt like I was gradually segwaying from one job into another I realised it wasn’t worth me killing myself working all the hours under the sun to do so. If it felt like ‘work’ in the traditional sense, it wasn’t what I’d intended it to be. However, having the all encompassing banner of ‘Be Sparky!’ to work under was helpful. I managed to be bolder and more efficient by using a separate name than I had ever been when just being me. Promoting yourself with your name as a person is much harder for the slightly introverted type than promoting an organisation/product/service/company (whatever it is). I made more money freelance doing it this way than I had ever done previously.

As much as I get caught up in music and love the way it takes over and makes me feel in a way that nothing else can, being in a band wasn’t giving me the overpowering feeling of fulfillment that I had expected. Looking at the music industry from the vantage point of a group of musicians just starting out and having to play to empty rooms and deal with the arrogance, misogyny and sheer rudeness of other bands wasn’t the easy going fun community it often looks like from the other side of the fence. Finding the few diamonds in the rough along the way though did make me see the potential of working more closely with those individuals on the same wavelength, trying to do things differently.

Having a weekly burst of movement in a room with a bunch of other people doing the same and completely letting go of any inhibitions is just fantastic. I’ve always been a naturally active person, sitting down in an office all day was a difficult transition for me to make as I didn’t know what to do with the excess energy. Over time the excess in energy has become less and less and I think a big part of that was my body adapting to the amount of physical activity in my life. So now I have upped the dose! Monday is gymnastics, Thursday is swing dance. Having those two weekly activities will continue to help keep me buzzing which will only do good things for all my other creative outputs.

It’s also true that my theoretical and practical research was becoming hypocritical in that I am creating work which encourages us to better understand our bodies in order to better understand each other and the world around us. If I’m neglecting my own practical development it doesn’t make sense to be reading about it. Over the summer I have agreed with my work that I will work four days a week which means that I have my Fridays free to concentrate on my artistic practice (or whatever feels right to spend my time on). Now through all this throwing and sticking, I’ve decided to use that time to concentrate on writing little musicals that fit neatly into the sets you get at gigs.

Through all of this, I think I’ve learnt to not worry about why I’m doing something but just do what feels right. If it doesn’t work out how you intended it hasn’t ‘failed’,  it’s just helped you to learn something new about yourself and what you want. Asking a child what they want to be when they grow up is a problematic question – life is constantly learning about what you do and don’t want and that will never stop changing. All the more reason to stay grounded in right now. Here and now boys! Here and now boys!

Interview with Nele Needs a Holiday

Recently I asked Nele some quick questions to give us all an insight into how her mind works. Okay maybe no one will ever understand that but we can continue enjoying her with wonder and awe! Don’t forget to check out her awesome song FFFD here

Who is/are your favourite artist(s) at the moment and why?
Kimya Dawson, because her music makes me feel like life is ok. Because she is so honest. Because she does not use autotune.
Beyoncé, because she is so good at pretending she is a goddess.


 
What is the hardest thing about being an artist?
The constant promotion you have to make for yourself. That, and carrying gear on public transport.
 
What piece of advice would you give to yourself 5 years ago?
Don’t diet. Don’t spend so much time on Myspace.


 
Whats the craziest situation you’ve found yourself in because of your music?
I was on a first date with someone, when a girl came to my table and asked for my autograph. I’m not used to giving autographs, so I felt really weird. And my date thought I was someone really important. It’s probably the first time I realized I have fans. People I don’t know, but that know me. That’s a really weird concept, if you think of it.


 
What would you want to ask that/those favourite artist(s) you mentioned before?
I would like to ask both Kimya and Beyoncé how they do it, being a mom and a musician at the same time. And whether it influenced their music. I would also like to know whether Jay-Z changes his daughter’s diapers sometimes.

All Hail Lucius

Last week I saw one of the best things I’ve ever seen and one of the most disappointing. On Wednesday I saw Lucius play at Koko in Camden, and Friday saw Jane Horrocks star in ‘If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me’ at the Young Vic.

I somehow had managed to go the last seven or so years in London without ever going to Koko, so was happily surprised to find it had so much character. After hearing about the music going on there I assumed it would be some soulless room, quite in contrast to the chandeliered old-theatre-esque venue I found myself in. I’ve been following Lucius for years now and LOVE them. When I used to play music with my friend and we made beautiful, blended harmonies, this is the sort of thing I imagined we would become; and they do it so well. The support act was distinctly average, with a fine voice but badly out of time bits of drumming, a few unnecessary twiddles on an electric guitar from the guy playing with her and no depth. When Lucius came out and created the electric atmosphere that filled the room while they were on stage it created a rush of serotonin and the feeling that you could eat the music around you. There was not one note out of place throughout the entire set. There wasn’t a moment where I remembered how long I’d been standing or hoped for it to end soon. Every song was carefully curated as a performance to keep us all wowed and involved. There were sing alongs, there were moments that made everyone cry, and there were moments that made you happy to be alive. I’ve been at some incredible gigs over the years – my top two so far had been Radiohead and Prince. Now Lucius are easily up there with them. Words cannot describe, as much as I have tried, how awesome an experience that was.

Two days later, we were pushing through the crowds at the Young Vic to find our seats in the auditorium. The description that led me to buy the tickets was something about it being a cross between a gig and a dance piece, with Jane Horrocks A.K.A Bubbles from Ab Fab taking the lead. All of that sounded like a recipe for excellence. Sadly it did not hit the mark. The set was incredible, a giant pug in a giant plug socket – with a moving on/off button and the plug being taken out of the socket during the performance. The stage floor was a light show which had been designed to work with the pieces being performed throughout. I was hopeful as Horrocks stepped onto the stage in a cool boiler suit and big heavy boots with just a microphone and a short monologue asking why are so many songs written about love? I agree with the sentiment so I was ready to be drawn in.

No. The first song wasn’t hitting the mark, any chance that I would know any of the songs was removed by the terrible execution of the lack lustre band and the dodgy singing. I did recognise one Smiths song but only whilst it was being murdered. You can get away with bad vocals if the energy is right, but there just wasn’t any. When it came to the dancing, I have no idea what they were going for, and I don’t think they did either. The placing was all over the place, there was no clarity around whether they should be in time or not. If they should have been they weren’t, if they weren’t supposed to be it didn’t look like a decision. There were four different voices coming through, one from each dancer, but none of them seemed to talk to each other and they weren’t distinct enough for there to be any point in it.

Given that the apparent theme was around love songs, it seemed strange that none of the songs being played were love songs. The dancing wasn’t exploring love, it was exploring sex. If it was supposed to be the anti love song show, that didn’t come through at all. There were a few fleeting moments of excellence – one of the dancers voices was like that of a Pete Doherty on stage, with some interesting front man gestures coming through. There was one song where the placing was actually ok, with a feast for your eyes and a mix of band, dancers and Horrocks all interacting. That is what I had been expecting throughout but the moment quickly came and went.

This was not a gig. This was not a dance performance. So I didn’t see how you could say it was a cross between the two. We were sat down in an auditorium within a middle class,middle aged, mostly white audience in a room with no soul. There was no two way dialogue between performer and audience. In essence it felt like an exploration of egos of someone deciding: I fancy being in a band, how can I make this happen? What a colossal waste of money – both that of the funding to put the show on and mine for the ticket (which was twice the price of Lucius, and not even a shadow of the brilliance).

All Hail Lucius.

It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later

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Last night I went to the Prince Charles Cinema to see Daniel Kitson’s new film. It’s a piece documenting one of his shows in the round in Manchester called It’s Always Right Now Until It’s Later. Great title. Eloquently, as always, summing up an entire ninety odd minutes into seven words. This reference to mindfulness doesn’t go amiss within the live piece or reflexively the recorded. The fact that this work focusing on focusing on the moment, the now, the lived experience is documented on video and then screened to a different audience three years later is curious. With Kitson standing before us in casual clothing, a full head of hair and a beard to introduce the piece, then appearing moments later on screen in a pale suit with very little hair and no beard – our attention is immediately drawn to time and place.

In the introduction, we are informed of Kitson’s artistic choices around documenting his live work: the importance of him always being on screen, of showing the audience and the room in the shot so as to capture the atmosphere, of not zooming in so that there is no context. Again, this draws our attention to those decisions within the video, some moments you can be sucked into the story and not think about it and others you come out of your trance and remember where you are and what you are watching. Particularly those moments when the audience in this room laughs more than the audience three years ago or vice versa. There is something about watching this familiar performance style on screen as opposed to in person, in that the space it creates really makes you stop to notice quite how incredible the performance is. All the complexities and details of the story, mixed with all the complexities and details of the movement through the space – and now the addition of the choices made in capturing it on screen. I became much more aware of how aware he is of the audience. As one person in an audience in the round, you know he is aware of you. As a person in an audience watching the piece from all angles and noticing audience members behind him and around him, you see how much work goes into engaging with all of them.

Recently, I’ve been trying to put a lid on the many existential thoughts that usually pass through my mind seeing as they had been getting a little overwhelming. When overwhelmed by existentialism, my general solution is just to try and distract myself and decide to think about it later. Given that I didn’t really pay attention to the title of the thing I was going to see until I got there, there was very little warning for me to forcibly have that lid taken off to spend an intense ninety odd minutes dwelling on those sorts of things. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I most definitely did. I just left feeling possibly more of the disheartening sadness and pain of the passing of time and thoughts that we are all going to die than the uplifting funny and beautiful moments that give all of that meaning. I don’t know if that’s more based on my perspective or on the way the story is written. Possibly a bit of both. All the same, I thought the experience was very good on many levels. I’m always a fan of synecdochic ways of presenting work, and if this was a first experiment into a new strand to add to Kitsonian bow I think it was very successful.