Thursday, January 28, 2010


Like a few bloggers / cartoon gurus, you've mentioned 'magic', as a byword for the creative process. I've never really got my head round the concept. Is magic (or 'magick') something you actually practice outside of your writing, etc? I've always had the impression that black magic / voodoo's been pretty big in the West. Tell us about it.

Ah, the “M” word (laughs)'s tricky even talking about something this without sounding like either (a) a total burn-out, or (b) precious and pretentious.
Yeah, Somerset's full of practising Wiccans, White magicians, druids and pagans of every type and persuasion. I only live a short drive away from Glastonbury. The next county over – Wiltshire – is Paranornal Central. UFO flaps, neolithic monuments, crop circles, ley-lines, you name it.

Magic's a real thing, but it's not necessarily what most people think it is. I tend to use the term ”Magic” as a sort of extended metaphor for making things happen, creatively or otherwise. It's a set of personal strategies – a skill-set – designed to get you into the zone or get shit done. It's different for everyone, but for me it's a mixed-bag of cod-psychology, quasi-mystical post-NLP self-help bollocks, self-hypnosis, automation, the I-Ching, fake-MPD persona-juggling, blahblahblah. A series of activities that you can use like an internal deck of Oblique Strategies cards. It’s about invoking aspects of your subconscious, giving into impulsive/obsessive urges, allowing certain skills or personality aspects to surface, etc. It’s about exploiting certain loop-holes in human neuro-consciousness. When you do it properly you can end up in the middle of a sort of weird Synchronicity Storm where ideas flow freely and things almost randomly fall into place. It’s a lot less self-destructive than using booze, drugs or extreme sexual practices (laughs).

It’s essential, I think, to create your own mythology that’s rooted in Times and Places (both real and imagined) that have a strong personal resonance and which, when you access it, allows you to open up certain mental doorways that help make shit happen. Over the years I’ve created an ever-growing personal pantheon – a library of identities, processes, entities, reference-points and assorted weird shit – one that’s completely different to the more traditional occult stuff that, say, Crowley or The Golden Dawn used. My references might include, for example Lol Creme or Webern rather than, say, Choronzon (though all that shit is allegorical too). It’s like a personal tool-kit that’s always evolving.

Julian Cope wearing a turtle shell or bringing a pulpit into the recording-studio is Magic. Genesis P-Orridge and his pals dicking about with a snake and dentist-chair in Beck Road, Hackney, is Magic. Going for a two-mile run through some woods and coming back high on endorphins and ready to write a novel is Magic. It’s about summoning up something – a resource – to get something done.

Magic: it’s, uh, conceptual sleight-of-hand, a repertoire. A lot of it just sounds plain daft: deliberately using repetitive behaviour in order to avoid repetitive creative behaviour, etc. But it mostly works. After a while you don’t really even think about this stuff; you just get on and do. It’s talking about it that’s weird.

So, no, I don’t get nekkid and bother goats, but I know some people who do (laughs).

I've always been under the impression that married bloggers / bloggers with kids are hunched over the screen, cackling to themselves, before their SOs call out, "What on earth are you doing up there?", prompting them to reply, "Oh, just checking the weather, dear." Does your family know of Kid Shirt's existence? If so, what do they think of it?

Yeah, the whole family knows what I get up to (laughs). I try and involve the kids in the creative stuff, if I can. They come at things from angles that I wouldn’t even think of, so I’m always getting ideas off them. We collaborate in all sorts of ways: music, art, etc. My oldest daughter – she’s 9 – already has her own blog, but I’m very protective of her privacy. She needs a place where she can learn how to do internet-y stuff at her own pace without adults hassling or spamming her.

My wife has been incredibly supportive of all my various activities since I first met her. She exactly knew what she was getting into. But I do worry that I don’t give those closest to me a fair shake sometimes.

Yonks ago, I was talking to K-Punk, John Eden, Owen Hatherley, Infinite Thought and Jim Backhouse, and I was really disgusted to learn that they've all received completely loopy emails from people since they starting writing online - offers to have their babies, death threats from Christians, badly worded rants, etc. I haven't had one bizarre / abusive email, in all of 5 and a half years. Have you had any nutso communications since doing Kid Shirt? Reveal all.

Someone wants to have Nina’s baby?? Okaaaaay....(laughs) ((NOTE - it was some girl who wanted Owen H or Eden to inseminate her, if I remember right - BTi))

Nah, no death-threats as a result of the blog. Though I did post this spoof thing a few years ago claiming that the Aphex Twin’s Analord series was actually done using digital gear and Rich James had tweaked it so it sounded like vintage kit. Actually, even though I was joking, it’s exactly the sort of thing he’d do, just for his own amusement. I mean, clearly, I need to get a fucking life myself for even having bothered to write it...but then this swarm of irate IDM kids suddenly swooped in and started leaving abusive comments, calling me a cocksucker, etc for even having suggested such a thing. God, it was like some godawful sweary bug infestation. A nerdrabble. My youngest daughter is better behaved than them.

‘Course, they were all anonymous or had aliases named after old B12 EPs, Black Dog B-Sides, etc. But I tracked a couple of them back to their idiot-hives, only to find that – surprise! - they all made intelligent ‘electronica’ that was sooo lame and boring that it would have been a public embarrassment even back in ‘93.

Their complaints were all, like, “you fucking wanker, you don’t know the first thing about electronic music or you wouldn’t be saying that....” But I think what really inwardly irked them - apart from their myopic worldview, their complete and utter lack of any original musical ideas whatsoever, etc, etc - was the thought that their hero might – just might - have been taking the piss (laughs). If I planted that seed of insecurity in them then I’m proud.

ABOVE: one third of an Ice Bird Spiral live set. Kek once flashed his rump at Henry Flynt! As he says, IBS "didn't look like anyone else" - apart from when Peters and Lee went through their "Mescalero Mad Max sand raider witchdoctor 'weird shape you get in the corner of the room during a bout of sleep paralysis'" phase, of course

How is Ice Bird Spiral going? How much time do you get to rehearse / play, set against the daily grind, boring human-level 'subsistence' crap, and the like?

Ice Bird Spiral are no longer an active unit. “Musical differences” (laughs). Nah, we had a really good run with IBS – got to meet and play with some incredible people – time to pull down the blinds and do something else. There are still releases coming out, but I don’t want to do any more new stuff. There were some moments where some pretty unbelievable and unexpected stuff happened (see, “Magic” again!), but I think it’s pretty much run its course.

We never rehearsed. It was an incredibly liberating experience for me, playing without a safety-net like that. Terrifying, but exhilarating. I loved that whole Car-Boot Aesthetic thing and the fusion of Surrealism, Psych, village-hall theatre, a seance and free-form noise. I don’t think we sounded – or looked – like anyone else. A couple of the later releases are pretty awesome, I think, listening to them now with a bit of distance. The 'Mr. Punch' section on Exit Through the Mirror, Child (we hired a children’s entertainer and I scripted a monologue for him) is genuinely fucking disturbing. And you should check Jayson Densman’s film Party Girl – his use of our music and a couple of sequences that I sent him is pretty amazing and inspired. I never thought I’d ever get to soundtrack a scene in a film where a person’s face is physically peeled off (laughs).

At the moment I’ve got a handful of different collaborations in various states of play, and I’m doing a solo live/ recorded thing as Orchestra Intangible ’73 which should be pretty crazy. The Oneiric Hardware CD has just come out - which is field-recordings of assorted servers, hard-drives and so forth – and the 19F3 (“Nineteen Seventy Fucking Three”) nano-label is up and limping about. I’ve also got an idea for a ballet (laughs) I’d like to tackle later in the year. And I think there’s some more soundtrack stuff happening somewhen...

You've got this tireless enthusiasm for new underground music (and introduced me to the delights of Pan Fino, who're pretty fucking awesome). It's such a joy to read, especially when everyone else is whining that the underground's dead, or become a mere marketing exercise, ad nauseum. How do you keep it up? You seem to sniff out the most demented sounds from the unlikeliest places.

Aww, cheers, Martin. That’s a really sweet thing to say. ((I am actually Britain's sweetest blogger - FACT))

I dunno...I’m just curious about stuff, I guess. Always have been. I need novelty - to be amazed, amused, excited, whatever. I get bored pretty easily. I’m one of those annoying people who find it hard to sit still. I have to be doing something or I feel...distracted. I’ve been like that since I was a kid.

Remember when you were, like, 7 or something, and one week you’re completely into dinosaurs, the next it’s, like...ants or bees or something? You move unselfconsciouslessly from one bizarre reckless enthusiasm to the next. Well, it’s kinda like that for me. I swear that the older I get, the more things there are that interest or fascinate me. I’ve retained a younger guy’s interests, but now I’m also starting to get an old guy’s interests (laughs) know: steam engines, obscure forms of engineering, bowls...(laughs)....

I just dig shit, basically. If I really like something then it doesn’t matter if only 30 other people on the planet have ever heard of it – it’s only right and proper to write about that guy who’s been toiling away for years in the spare bedroom with (at the very least) the same seriousness and respect as you would afford some far better-known cool or influential act.

There’s so much great shit around and most of it is right in front of us.

Finally, what are your literary / comic / musical tips for 2010?

Tips? Ha! Well, I’ve always been wary of that ever since I tipped Tuxedomoon as being next year’s big thing, only for them to immediately split up. Any recommendation from me is usually the kiss of death. I thought TM were waaaay ahead of the curve with that whole early-80’s over-wrought cabaret torch-song meets electronic North African Funk thing (laughs). Just goes to show how wrong a guy can be...

I’m sure if you ask Dan Hancox or Martin Blackdown where things are heading they’d be bang on the ol’ predictive number. Me, well, a lot of my interests are very much micro-niche type things. I’m fascinated by what I call the Sub-Underground – stuff that’s just on the edge of the radar-screen. There, you’re very often dealing with people who sit outside of scenes or work in relative isolation. Or they might be part of some small local node in a bigger, but still fairly vague global network of shared interest-groups where the only guiding principle is little more than a generalised sense of wanting to do something ‘different’. So you end up getting mutually-supportative coalitions of people who might be playing stuff as superficially different as Doom Metal, Folk, freeform Noise, Laptop spazz-outs, etc. The individuals involved might have different emphases on their own interests or obsessions, but they’re happy to share stages, releases, etc with each other. When you get that sort of set-up, the notion of trends generally becomes meaningless (laughs).

Sub-Underground artists tend to be, I dunno, more open to random impulses or radical changes in direction – a kind of “ah, fuck it! I’ve been doing this for 2 years – so time to change...” type gesture. Down at this level the normal laws of musical physics no longer apply (laughs) – there’s often very little chance of much financial re-numeration – or even recognition, to be honest – so gestures cost less; you don’t need to have necessarily created a genre-consistent body of work in order to build an audience. A&R is a dirty word here; the artists aren’t careerist; they’re mostly driven by other, stranger, more personal motives. In fact, at this level, the audience almost expects a higher level of risk-taking and musical curve-balls. The more whacked-out and implausible it gets the more they’ll cheer you on. So, easily-predicable marketing- and PR-driven trends don’t generally play a part in this.

But - to kinda start not-answering your question (laughs) – one of the strands of influence that started coming into play about three years ago was the re-appropriation of elements of New Age music and imagery. I ought to emphasise that there is no real New New Age ‘scene’ and this is just one of a handful of old musical elements or threads that were getting picked up and played around with recently...but now, suddenly, 2-3 years later, a handful of high-profile writers/bloggerati like Simon Reynolds, etc (try and keep up, Simon! lol) have finally picked up on some of The Skaters endless solo projects, Dolphins Into The Future, etc – probably because of their own interest in early 90’s Chill-Out Ambient and 80’s Shoegaze/Dream-Pop.

I mean, I think it’s great that marginalised artists like Lieven Martens are finally getting some more ‘mainstream’ recognition, but I have to say that I’m finding it pretty funny how wide of the mark some of the pundits are about the music. Also, people like Lieven will still be there doing their own thing looong after Simon and Co have lost interest. It goes back again to having your own personal non-market-driven mythology and worldview. And Leiven certainly has that in spades! Did you know he’s handing out own business-cards now claiming he’s an ambassador to The Cetacean Nation (laughs). We’re in a zone here where standing at the back of a show with a note-book just doesn’t cut it; you just have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with this stuff, I’m afraid.

So, yeah, the ‘New Age’ / post-Kosmische influenced thing may start appearing on radar a bit more this year if more pro writers run with it. But it’s just one of a whole bunch of re-appropriated forms and ideas that are being played with right now. Something else that might be getting a bit more visibility soon – especially if Simon & Co. pick up on it – is more Acid House and Rave-inspired ‘Outsider’ music: but really rough / fucked-up lo-fi stuff. Like the ‘New Age’ thing, it’s mostly to do with the age of the people making music. For a lot of these guys Acid House, etc is an unchartered zone – it happened when they were kids – so their take on it is pretty unselfconscious and raw. A bit like the Japanese reinvention of Western Hard Rock and Psych a while’s so wonderfully fucking un-premeditated when stuff like this happens. Irony goes straight out the window.

There were quite a few, I dunno, Anti-Rave (for lack of a better word) mixtapes and productions circulating a couple years ago. It’s the blinking Belgians again, innit (laughs)...I only know this cos I submitted some of my own archival ’94 Amiga stuff to a couple of micro-labels that were playing around with these ideas. I’m looking forward to hearing some more stuff like that which is, y’know, totally wrong...rather than people trying to consciously ape ‘Ardcore tropes, or filter ‘em thru 80’s drug-goggles...but what the first-wave bloggers will make of it is anyone’s guess: it’ll be completely outside of any cosy little dance music Continuum. It’s non-canonical (laughs).

In fact, all of this stuff is part of what I call The Discontinuum: a series of interrupted musical conversations that are now being continued years after going out of fashion. Actually, the Discontinuum links into the whole 19F3 thing, where ’73 becomes a semi- arbitrary (coulda equally have been ’74, ’75 – but ’73 has now become an inadvertent totem-number for me) Pre-Punk point of musical break-off. Actually, ’73 feels like a possible High Tide mark of...something. Kraut/Prog/Folk/Psych/Electronics/Outsider Rock. We didn’t see that particular tide come back in again with any real force until about 2003/2004. And then the water looked verrry different. Darker. I think people had been weeing in it for 30 years. (laughs).

Sorry, Martin...I could talk about shit like this for hours. Which I why I never get anything done.

Rather than just recommend stuff – which’ll invariably just be things by my mates (laughs); plus I’m wary of pandering to so-called Expert Culture - I’d much rather say that the most exciting stuff is probably happening 4 or 5 miles from your house, right under your nose. So, rather than pointing people at, I dunno, the Portuguese Underground or Israel Funk records I’m just gonna say that pretty much every town in every country has something going on. Every village has at least one totally mental bedroom band or loner sub-genius artist.

And if there’s nothing going on round your way, then – fuck it - why not make something happen? Hook up with other folks, create your own non-scene, invent a new genre, go local-global. There’s never been a better time to do something, to make things happen – there’s so many free/cheap tools available. Some of the best stuff has been made by non-artists / non-musicians, so don’t be put off by the fact that you don’t, uh, ‘know’ what you’re doing. In fact, that’s a fucking asset in an era where even the so-called Indie/Alt sector is so utterly fucking bankrupt in terms of creativity. Form a network of like-minded individuals. Then hook up with other networks. Make your own magazine. A cinema. Put on a show. Create your own private world and populate it.

There’s no excuse not to. You don’t need anyone’s permission.

The best nights out are the ones you and your mates put on for yourselves. And if all that sounds like the beginning of some half-baked manifesto then you’re damn right!

It’s Punk V. 7.3.1 innit.

So, there you have it. Go and do something. And there concludes the KID SHIRT interview!
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