Sunday, January 24, 2010


Simon Silverdollarcircle while back concurred with my "bloggworld, it's like the 1970s innit" quip, albeit praps only to big up beyond the implode and kid shirt as "the punk revolution come to shake us up" (personally I'd say Captain Beefheart and Sensational Alex Harvey Band respectively, maybe) - Simon Reynolds, 2004

Yeah, never mind what they tell you about the 'Blogging Golden Age'. OK, Troubled Diva, TWANBOC, Shards, Church of Me, Blissblog, K-Punk et al started it. But they all used to blog on dial-up, at home, sitting on cushions...while people brought them mugs of cha, mid-post. By 2004, our autonomous auteur heroes were all squabbling in comments boxes, jetting off to Typepad and bleeding Wordpress and declaring 'blogging' R.I.P. Guardian hacks and hackettes breathed a sigh of relief and mopped their furrowed brows, as the blogosphere sobbed itself into silence.

Meanwhile...back on the streets, in internet cafe's from Battersea to Bangkok...the kids were freaking out to the rhythmic keyboard clatter of D.I.Y SCRIBBLEDOM! The new breed had arrived!! Some of the old guard tutted at our unruly posts and "lack of research" - but what did we fucking care, we were having a laugh. Anyway, amidst the foaming brine of the 2004 New Wave emerged a lawless, vibrant WEST COUNTRY scene - Dubversion (via Streatham), An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming, Gutterbreakz, Farmer Glitch, Psychbloke...and, from Yeovil, KID SHIRT - the brainiac creation of KEK-W, who's knocked out more brain-melting prose and art/noise projects than I can shove into an intro. He also mooned Henry Flynt once: show me a Golden Age oldie who can boast that. You can't, so zip it.

Kek's lived in Yeovil all his life - it's a bit like Mark E Smith and Salford, it's what keeps him going. His turf. I find the West Country a bit fascinating, as I've never really been. Well, apart from a school day-trip to Bath, where we got into trouble for trying to extract coins from a Roman-built 'wishing spa'. I dunno, fucking cockneys, eh? If it ain't nailed down... Oh, and I passed through Bristol once, on a train to Falmouth Docks. One day, I intend to check the whole place out. By the way, for the benefit of foreign readers, do you know how to really piss off a Cornishman? Tell him that Dorset invented clotted cream.

Anyway, I decided to interview Kek-W. Some of the questions are rubbish, but I was on a 72-hour insomnia bender when I composed them. I junked one question (about the Avon cidercore group Disorder) as Kek hadn't heard them. I'm in bold, he's in normal.

Our blogs sort of came out around the same time, when everyone was moaning about the 'Golden Age' of blogging being 'dead'. Personally, I thought that was a load of rubbish and that the 'innovators' had just run out of steam, but what do you think? Was the 'Golden Age' just a case of sentimental egotism? And did you seriously think you'd still be scribbling on the internet in 2010 when you first started?

I started picking up on blogs round about the time that The Big Three reckon the so-called Golden Age was petering out. Up until then about 95% of my internet time was spent obsessing about my health and related matters. So I'm part of the Second Wave, I guess. The Silver Age (laughs).

I have to say that Matt Ingram was a huge influence on me, not in terms of content - Matt and I are very different people in terms of our interests, our approach to writing and agendas - but more a sort of "Holy fuck! I didn't know you could do that on the internet" type thing (laughs). Up until that point I'd seen websites as being very static entities rather than onward-rolling info-flows - narratives - so the Woebot blog was quite an eye-opener to me. That you could talk about music in a playful, formal/non-formal format like that.

I still can't read very long pieces on a screen - it's me age, see? I grew up with books, physical media, etc - but what I immediately liked about blogging was you could play around with post-lengths, your writing voice, the tone of a piece, mess about with graphics and so forth. It seemed very fluid.

I really liked Heronbone for a while too. It showed another way of doing things: it was a weird mixture of personal diary, meta-dream-fiction, surrealist drift, psychogeography and, uh...birdwatching. And I liked some of the other, odder peripheral blogs too - the ones that obsessed over architecture, obscure art/film shit, 1930s fashion – it was really interesting and kinda strange for a while. I came out of semi-hibernation round about 2004 and found the spectre of JG Ballard seemed to be hovering over everything. The blogs were very Ballardised back then. Though a lot of it was – still is – too fucking Londoncentric for me sometimes. That’s why it felt important to mythologise the West Country, in order to balance that out.

Did I expect to be still doing this, what, 5+ years later? Nah,'course not. But I think the format still has a lot of mileage in it; my main problem is that I often don’t have enough time to blog as much as I'd like to. I try to post most days, if I can, but there's just too many other things going on sometimes. There's always a mental backlog of a dozen things I'd like to be posting about - records, tapes, books, whatever...but I still think there's a lot more that could be done with the medium. It helped get me off me arse and back on my feet in a lot of different ways. I've met some amazing people and made some great friends. I like the interaction it generates between people, the creation of networks.

I'm still not entirely sure why I blog though. It's some (or all) of the above. Mainly, I think I just like talking...a lot (laughs).

Did Simon Reynolds and the first wave of bloggers run out of steam 4 or 5 years ago? Oh, I dunno, you'd have to ask them that (laughs). If there was a golden age of blogging – and it wasn’t just self-mythologising on the part of early adopters – then I would guess it was mostly based around the novelty of the format. It’s hard for me to assess, to be honest – even looking through their archives back then, there was never much commonality between my worldview and that of K-Punk or Blissblog. No disrespect to Mark and Simon – they’ve always been very graceful and generous in their dealings with me – but I disagree with most of what they write and that’s the way it should be! The worlds that my head and body inhabit are so very different to theirs. A lot less, uh, intellectually rigorous, I suspect...

Now, am I alone in thinking that some of these guys are starting to hit their middle-age envelopes – y’know, where the bandwidth of personal interests ceases widening and, in some cases, begins to narrow? (laughs) But, in fairness, it's fucking tricky not to repeat yourself - in anything in life, not just blogging. It takes a lot of energy - or something - not to keep falling back into comfort-zone behaviour. As you get older you're kinda cursed to keep returning to the things - apart from sex (laughs) – that interested you in yer teens n twenties. I literally have to point a gun at my own head not to write about Amon Duul 2. I'm doing it now.

When in Yeovil, why not pop in to the town's finest establishment, the Globe & Crown? Enjoy a refreshing cider, and some well-earned respite from having your purple-spikey-haired head stoved in by a pack of freak-bashers

I love reading about London in the '70s/'80s, particularly about how trashy and decrepit the place was back then, pre-gentrification. But the focus on London does get a bit myopic after a while. Can you tell us a bit more about the West Country during this era? How much has the place changed? Were there any notable characters / venues / areas, subsequently airbrushed out of history, that you think should be reclaimed / celebrated? Was there a sizeable squat scene there at the time? Any random bits of history the world should know about?

No squats down here, apart from people shitting by the side of the road.

Yeovil has consistently produced more weirdos and freaks per head of population than anywhere else I can think of. It has an abnormally high Freak Quotient, considering how small it is.

I ran into my old friend Dave Workman just after Christmas for the first time in nearly 20 years, and one of the first things he said to me was about how there's always been something mental about this place. And he's been all over the globe, so he should know (laughs). I guess it's a Small Town thing; people making their own entertainment, forming bands, freaking out. Dave is one of six brothers, I think - now all scattered to the four winds - but they used to live in this Waltons-esque house outside of town called The Workman Ranch. All the younger brothers were obsessed with The Stooges, and they all played in various local Iggy/Stooges-influenced bands. Jesus, I could tell you some stories. In the early '80s they hooked up with this guy - a local binman from Thornford; a ciderhead called Rocket Ron - who they used as their frontman to form Rocket Ron and The Death Trips. Ron's a fucking legend round here. He did the definitive version of Wild Thing. It was so far beyond...anything. The Butthole Surfers? Forget it.

Later on, we all got a bit cocky, but in the '70s it was very dangerous living round here if you were an outsider. In the late '70s you'd get beaten up in the streets for just wearing straight jeans. Dyed hair was a death sentence. Seriously, you could get lynched.

I remember getting chased through the cemetery by a carload of casual types one night after the pub. Me and a guy called Max who used to hang out with The Mob. Mark Wilson (from The Mob) and his mates used to drink with the gypsies in a ciderhouse called The Globe & Crown, 'cos they wouldn't get hassled there. Most of my close friends were out in the villages, so I’d leave town at the weekends. But there was only one pub in Crewekerne that we could drink in without getting physically attacked. So we used to hang out in a big group and hope no one would have a go.

One night we were up in Bridgwater for a gig and there were about 20+ of us upstairs in a pub - a bunch of Post-Punky types from south and central Somerset who had hooked up - but these guys still came for us with pool cues and stuff. They took their shoes off and hit people with them. Beat the shit out of a couple mates. Chard was the worst, though. It's about 15 miles from Yeovil. Up until the late '80s you were taking your life in your hands even going there. Really fucking heavy. I'm not joking, the Goth kids that hang around the churchyard in Yeovil these days wouldn't have survived the '70s. It was real character-building stuff.

In the late '70s most of the gigs were out in village halls - miles away from anywhere, where it was safe. People would literally drive miles to see 2 or 3 ragettyass bedroom bands, plus our friend Hairy, who actually brought out a local mobile DJ-rig just so he could play at Punk parties. Hearing all those early seven-inches being played on a sound-system in a freezing-cold village hall while you were cidered-up with your mates was a visceral thrill. Sometimes bands would play round someone’s house, or in a skittle-alley on the edge of town. If there was a gig it would be spread word-of-mouth in the record shop. There were a couple of great gigs at The Deaf Centre – which was this tin-shack down South Street that was a day-centre for deaf people that’s now sadly been demolished.

Apart from The Mob (who, in fairness, were at the heart of that whole anarcho-hippy-punk crossover thing) – another local Punk-era band was The Bikini Mutants who were Christine Cole, Debbie Googe (from My Bloody Valentine) and Geoff who later became Gemma, I think, after a gender reassignment. My old pal Dave Goldsworthy (much later in The Chesterfields) joined them on guitar. They were great. But there were a whole bunch of other little bands like that round here. Fractured Entertainment, The System, The Box Combo, etc.

(As an aside, I was living in Bristol off and on between ‘77 and ’80 so I was lucky enough to see most of the bands round then that I really wanted to see. I think I saw most of the first gen Bristol Punk bands, most of which have been tragically erased by the fickle finger of history. I saw The Pop Group about 5 times in various configurations and also went to some of their party/jam-session nights where people would just turn up with percussion and stuff. It was like a mass free-form precursor to Rip, Rig & Panic. That peculiarly Bristolian mash-up of African drumming, Dub, Hard Funk and Free Jazz was a huge influence on me around ’78-’79-ish. After The Pop Group the next must-see Bristol band was The Glaxo Babies – hugely under-rated and a lot fiercer live than their few records might suggest. I still love their song Stay Awake; really raw and intense...)

Speaking of Cidercore ((NOTE - this is from the question that got ditched - BTi)): in the mid-80s my friend Skipper Webb had a band called Dadi Janki who released a cassette-album called Ciderdelia. When they supported The Butthole Surfers in Newport, The Skipper wore a baby bonnet, bib and booties made out of bacofoil. Fucking priceless (laughs).

But what I really liked about it round here in South Somerset was the raggedness of it all. Punk may have come out of the suburbs, but it was the provinces and the rural areas where it really caught fire (think of the Welsh guys who eventually fled to London and went on to create the Blitz thing…). There was no internet back then, so out in the sticks – away from the cities - people were starved of reliable information…so all the local outsiders would band together and make up their own brilliantly stupid version of what they thought Punk was supposed to be about. Which was the whole point of it, I think. It was like a virus.

Down here, we made a virtue out of our own relative cluelessness. We entertained ourselves. Made shit up. Bluffed it. Improvised with what we had close at hand. I love that spirit of heroic failure that suffused this area for ages – up until, I dunno, the mid-90s – the idea of doing something totally dumb – just in the spirit of doing it, you know – cobbling a few amps together or some decks and playing to just a handful of mates in the most ridiculous venue you can think of. Some of my best nights ever have been in a basement or the back room of a social club, watching or performing in some bonkers and ridiculously-named make-it-up-as-you-go-along band.

These days there are *proper* venues round here and it’s all shitty Emo and Fake Metal bands. All the kids are so serious about what they do, but in a kinda careerist way. It’s sad. (Like London, everything has become progressively gentrified down here in recent years; the interesting buildings are all getting knocked down. Guardian readers, burnt-out city-traders and media folk have all migrated down here – particularly Dorset – and made a right fucking nuisance of themselves.)

Anyway, I’m seriously thinking about putting on another Noise Night in Yeovil sometime later this year. After studiously ignoring the scene for several years various music journalists have recently declared that Noise is officially 'dead', so this now seems exactly the right time to do something like this in Yeovil (laughs)... Yeah, fuck it. ((I'm there - BTi))

LEFT: Vice Squad yowler Beki Bondage. Likes: foxes, encouraging schoolboy masturbation and **possibly** stealing drum machines.

When I was younger, I remember older kids at school swapping copies of the magazine 'Punk Lives' - primarily to ogle pictures of Bristolian Vice Squad vocalist Beki Bondage (I was more into Linda Lusardi, God forgive me). Do you have any amusing anecdotes regarding her? And do you think we'll ever see tattooed, scrumpy-swigging vegetarian molls storm the indie charts again?

No, probably not (laughs).

A band I was in – Red Factory – supported Vice Squad in Weston-Super-Mare in the very early 80s. I’m trying to think where it was – we did one show in that amazing old derelict Edwardian wooden pier – but I think this one was in a bar or a hotel or something. Didn’t Beki used to work at the DHSS in Clevedon or Nailsea, or did I just make that up? My memory’s fuzzy, but I’ve got some faint recall of one of my band-mates telling me that she’d turned up in Top Shop office work-clothes and changed into her Bekiware in the bogs…people were muttering that she was a part-time Punk (laughs). She’s still going now, bless her. Thirty years, that’s not part-time.

Anyway, we blew up one of the speakers while we were playing the show and this grumpy hippy sound-man started shouting at us – telling us off and calling us wankers in front of the audience (laughs). So we had to walk off stage mid-set with our tails between our legs…run the gauntlet of shame (laughs). Oh, the ignomy! I don’t remember much about Vice Squad’s set because I was too busy trying to stop our bass-player from punching the sound-man.

Then our drum-machine disappeared from the stage at some point during the gig. Nicked. I doubt it was Vice Squad (laughs)…I think the sound-guy ‘fined’ us for blowing up his speaker.

Were you ever active in bands / musical cooperatives in the 70s/80s? If so, spill your guts. The more lurid the details, the better. (((PS - YEAH YEAH, I KNOW, HE'S JUST TOLD US HE SUPPORTED VICE SQUAD)))

Everyone I knew back in the '70s was in a band. First ‘group’ I was in – in the late 70s - were called Spare Cells - who were, like a really baaaad Somerset version of Swell Maps.

There were four core members - Mick, Lurch, Stodges and me - plus a revolving line-up of people who could actually play (laughs). Steve Vaughn - who later played with PJ Harvey - used to play bass with us. He was the only person we knew who could play the Batman theme ((and he ended up playing with PJ Harvey? What went wrong? - BTi)). We'd play village halls waaay out in the wilds. Stodges would read Animal Porn stories. Sometimes someone from the Mob might drum for us, or a non-musical mate or a random person from the audience (laughs). There was one song called They Don’t Like Me which had this oddly catchy bass-line (“The bedroooooooooom wallllllls are closing innnnnnn on me again…”), then later we wrote Jugheads and Towelmaster which were both kinda Fall-ish sounding ruh-ruh-repetitive things. It was a right laugh.

I used to dick around with old cassette-recorders in me bedroom and try and make Concrete-ish Noise tapes with absolutely no gear at all. Then Lurch, Ben Jefferies and me did this bedroom thing called The Skin Department with drum-machine, clarinet and tapes where we tried – and completely failed – to sound like Cabaret Voltaire (laughs). This was about 1979/80. That eventually evolved into Rote Fabrik, then Red Factory, which we did for a couple years in the early 80s with various line-ups. That was a sort of dirgey Post-Punk thing – kinda Section 25 rhythm-section with various percussionists, electronics, etc. We had lots of ideas, but just couldn’t play them.

That got kinda interesting around 82-ish when Steve and I started listening to more Psychedelia. We shoulda turned into an Acid Garage Band, but I think we were just too hung up on the whole Post-Punk thing. Then my mate Brendan and Martin Herring (from Tools You Can Trust) joined and it sounded like a grinding slow-motion version of Hawkwind for a while (laughs).

Then more tinkering around at home – making 8mm animated films and playing around with keyboards. I had the first sampler in Yeovil – local people thought it was Black Magic! But no more splicing tapes, etc. Then I formed a Synthpop band called Kickstate with some friends. That was about ’87, but we quickly started making House, then Acid and Techno records. Album tracks and a couple twelves. Even I don’t have everything we did. Thank God (laughs). We did a Late Era Industrial record as Federal State, then called it a day. My Lost Years were calling me.

(Pic stolen from Loki. The Yeovil Acid House revolution was mad-as-a-smoking-beagle flat-demolishing parties and plans for Pirate TV mayhem. London had... Renegade Soundwave)

In the late '80s me and Flinty used to have a great old time DJing early Acid and Techno records at Chesterfields and local Indie shows. You used to get the same reaction from the guitar bands as the Punks had a few years earlier from the musos: “Turn it off! That’s not music!” So you’d play Derrick May and Suburban Knights tunes just to wind them up even more (laughs).

Then me and a bunch of friends, including Tim Goldsworthy, formed a Rave Collective called Eddson and we’d put on acid parties round Yeovil. Some of us were techies and programmers, so we’d do ray-traced posters and run Fractal emulations using hacked software through TVs and video-projectors. We’d been to the Synergy and Decadance parties in London, saw what they did and thought, ah, fuck it, we can do that... So we did. People round here had never seen anything like it.

Everyone in the collective could do something different: we had DJs, tech-heads, sound-engineers, while others made sculptures, paintings, backdrops, whatever. All the money we made would go back into more gear, lights, etc. For a while there seemed to be no ceiling on what we could or couldn’t do. At one point we were offered some equipment that would enable us to set up a Pirate TV station that could potentially broadcast across Yeovil. How amazing would that have been – playing William Burroughs videos at 1am with absolutely no one watching. But we took a vote in the pub and ended up blowing all the money on a free party (laughs).

When I was a kid, 2000AD was the only comic I used to read regularly. I used to be blown away by Nemesis The Warlock, Judge Anderson had a crude impact on my early sexual awakenings (especially when she had the Brix Smith flick) and it never seemed to condescend to its readers. So I'm pretty impressed that you used to do work for them. What strips did you do, and what were you doing (art, scripts, etc)? Were you working for 2000AD full time, or did you freelance? (probably a dumb question, but I've no ideas how comics work - was it like the NME?) Any memorable incidents? Feel free to slay some of my childhood myths and dish the dirt. And how would you truthfully rate 'Tharg' as an employer?

Yeah, I’ve written comic scripts for 2000AD as a freelancer on and off since the mid-90s. Haven’t done anything for them for about 3 or 4 years. That might or might not change.

Basically, how it works – for those interested - is you write a story outline for the strip, redraft it as appropriate until it gets approved, then break it down into episodes/pages, writing it in a formalised script format which is broken down into individual panels with dialogue and panel descriptions for the artist. This is known as Full Script, as opposed to The Marvel Method, which is a vaguer, page-based treatment where the artist breaks down the pages as he sees fit and the writer then dialogues the pages after they’ve been drawn. Both methods have their relative advantages and disadvantages.

I did some stuff that was, well, a bit crap to be honest, and some other things that have held up a bit better. For various reasons I fumbled the ball. I never did anything really great – never fulfilled my own potential - which is a source of disappointment to me, personally. No excuses. But it’s something I intend to put right one day, if I get the opportunity. I’ve spent the last 2 or 3 years sharpening my chops, mostly off-camera.

Still, the good stuff was a lot of fun and I was lucky enough to work with some amazing artists who are also lovely blokes: Chris Weston, Warren Pleece, Dylan Teague and my good friend Andy Clarke all immediately come to mind. Doing a short 5-page strip with Colin Wilson was also a huge thrill for me, even though I never got to deal directly with him.

Shaky Kane is a close friend of mine. I genuinely believe he’s England’s Greatest Living Pop Artist. Most people don’t even realise that what he’s doing is a form of mutant post-Warhol Pop Art. He’s one of the funniest, most uniquely talented guys I know. He streams off ideas at a ferocious rate and has a very unique and personal world view. He’s a fucking national treasure and it’s a real shame that people don’t even know that. He should get loads more mainstream work than he does. He should be where Jamie Hewlett is, with people just paying him to dream up shit. He’d be an incredible ideas-asset for any project. Advertising, animation, films, design, whatever. He’s a real Concept-Engine is Shaky. ((NOTE - I would have linked to this bloke, but his official website seems to be dead))

LEFT: Tharg - only 16.7% 'twat'. Zarjaz!

I’ve worked with six different Thargs. Most were everything a good editor should be: decent, courteous, helpful, professional. A couple – one in particular – were total dudes: encouraging and supportative beyond the call of duty. Lovely guys. Another one, though, was a complete twat. One of the biggest pricks I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.

I grew up in the height of the Silver Age / Marvel Explosion, so Jack and Stan are in my blood. There's no way I wasn't going to have a crack at comics at some point. It was almost inevitable. A lot of writers are actually failed artists – I certainly am (laughs) – I see pretty much everything in visual terms anyway. It’s how I'm wired...


For someone who's chucked in the blogging game you sure are busy.
Tell me about it. Took me hours Googling for an online JPEG of Beki B that didn't have cum all over it.
Fantastic. Yeovil-lore and all.
love it... ah, the memories...
It's cool if you want to spend hours googling photos of Beki Bondage, Martin. Don't feel you have to justify it to yourself (or us) by constructing entire blog posts about it!
Yeah, yeah Rev. The whole Kek interview was just a smokescreen to post a pic of Beki Bondage. Like I couldn't have ogled her up-front last night, when she spat out my pork chop and asked, 'Where the fuck's Woofah 4? Jesus, I knew Marxists were lazy, but surely the whole review section's a year out of date now?"
Bleedin excellent stuff - amazed Kek remembered it all so well - I have some photos of Christine Cole and Geoff et. al. at some gig or the other circa 1979 which it would be a waste not to dig out and scan ....

oh how we partied !!
"lawless, vibrant WEST COUNTRY scene"
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