Wednesday, July 23, 2008


You really want to get over to Infinite Thought Blog, pronto, before all the letters of the alphabet run out: DR PYGGE, the lady who maintains that online grimoir, is offering free philosophical meanderings on the subject of your choice. I've got a horrible feeling that my request for a indepth breakdown on "John Tyndall" is gonna be met with Nazi twat. Dead. Any other fascinating suggestions, BTI?, but I couldn't request "MOTORWAY SOCIALISM" as some other folk had blagged the 'M's. I think one of the 'X's is intact, so "XYLITOL - THE FIRST TWO ALBUMS" might be a good punt, if you're that way inclined.

I think this is fucking brilliant, actually - just enter any subject and somebody blogs about it. A Random Oracle™ Generator. Can't we subject Dr Pygge to neurosurgery? Open up her head, peer into her brain, scoop out the stalks, cells and slimey bits that do boring stuff like regulate sleeping patterns and appreciate sunsets - shove a hard drive into her cranium - and keep her awake and at her screen 24/7? Then, when the rest of us are itching to death in the fiery pits of insomnia, we could email her topics and marvel as she delivers a well-crafted, 600-word take on each proposal.

I suppose, technically, we'd be "denying her a life" - but we could just impose a heavy tax on baby strollers, and use the proceeds to buy her luxury items, as a sort of thank you. "Conscience money", as the Confederation of British Industry doesn't call it any more.

Monday, July 21, 2008


I know I said before that it's bad form to reject blogospheric memes - but I'm fucked if I'm doing the self-portrait one.

Cease your YOWLING: the truth is, I can't draw for shit. I've always been notoriously rubbish at art, of any kind. When I was 10, I'd have given my left lung to be able to draw comics. It must be brilliant knowing that, with a bit of time and application, you can knock out an eye-melting comic about a squid-headed freak, with a giant lobster claw, running around Victorian London and slaughtering feckless orphans. Or one about Spiderman infiltrating the industrial music scene, to nail some Norwegian neo-folk fascists who're planning to blow up the Notting Hill Carnival, and having a big girly internal crisis (as usual!) when he accidentally develops an obsession with Ramleh and Grey Wolves...

Or even a strip about a lower league football team, whose skinhead goalie decides to get even with the local drug dealers when they turn the team's (West Millspur Athletic) Bolivian striker into a smack addict - punishing the pushers with a lethal combo of BIKE CHAIN, BOTTLE and BOOT! Or, let's face it, a load of old bollocks about Catwoman Commando! - the mog-faced paratrooper from Titan, who's crash landed in Libya on a mission to, to...oh, who long as she's a bit gothed-up and gets her clothes ripped a lot, all the teenage spods'll buy it. Get her body right and, plot-wise, it wouldn't matter if she rode the Milky Way on a fucking unicycle, looking for tins of Purina...

It's amazing, really. "Peanuts" gets turned into a series of animated TV spin-offs and becomes a money-spinning global brand - whereas no such luck befalls "George and Lynne" (Mai khao jai? - a reader in Lampang). Now, far be it from me to piss on "Peanuts" fans' parades, but I always thought it was badly drawn and fairly lame - a load of kids with 'issues', hanging around a junkie beagle's kennel - whereas "George and Lynne" was a stylish and sleek portrait of married life in the suburbs. Which seemed to consist of the duo lounging around, starkers, and rattling off grating sexual double entendres at each other. You'd always have at least one panel in which Lynne's breasts were visible, but what really fascinated me was the way the artist portrayed George's hair - for some reason, the top of his barnet was elevated at a 60 degree angle. Could this have been a fatal flaw in the artist's strategy? A possible reason for the lack of any "George and Lynne" tie-in movie?

Anyway, we're veering off topic - what I'm trying to explain is that, if you want a self-portrait, you're asking the wrong dunce entirely. Unless you want a matchstick man with a smiley face, but that's hardly worth uploading.

No, I'm afraid I couldn't draw a pair of curtains. However, yonks ago, when I worked at Parcelforce, there was a Filipino bloke called Alo and an Indian guy called Satish, who were both very homophobic in a "protest too much" kinda style. You know, like if there was a 'Gay Vicar Leaves Wife' story in The Mirror, they'd suddenly come out with stuff like, If I was asleep on the train, and a man tried to put his cock in my mouth...I'd kill him!. Obviously a reference to the terrifying Gobjob Killers, who brutally terrorised the Thameslink between West Hendon and Cricklewood in the late '90s, preying mercilessly on paralytic straights. Anyway, one boring day at the counter, I doodled a picture of these co-workers nestling under a duvet, gazing into each others' eyes and grinning like cats on MDMA, with "SATISH AND ALO IN BED TOGETHER" scrawled underneath. I was oddly proud of this picture, and showed it to Kelly, who used to handle phone enquiries upstairs. Unfortunately, she laughed so much that Satish came over to ask what was going on. He went bananas, and was convinced that I'd purely drawn the cartoon to insult his manhood. He sat me down and explained to me that his wife had bore him three brats, and you don't get much straighter than that. I suppose it must be a bit of a shock for a proud, married man to see himself bedding down with another geezer - in biro, no less - but, Buddah in a wok, it was only a joke...

Subsequently, I've never attempted to draw anything since, which is no real I'll have to bat this back to Kid Shirt. Sorry, old cock! But, rather than leave you with nothing, here's a beautiful picture of Burnt Oak station in the snow which I nicked off the internet...if anything's close to a portrait of my soul, it's probably this...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Now, a lot of young writers out there often ask: What does it take to work on a prestigious publication like Woofah? I can only get work on Fact, Plan B and The Wire - surely there's a way to nudge my way up the career ladder?Well, far be it from me to slam the fire door in your face and watch your ambitions turn to ASH - instead, I will attempt to demystify the whole process of working on a fanzine.

Each issue starts off pretty much the same: I make my way to Woofah HQ in Stoke Newington, where the wild foxes roam, armed with a pen (I recommend the Gel-X Rollerball 0.7mm Pilot Pen - a bit pricey, but not too bad if you can find your way around a work stationery cupboard) and a bit of paper.

When I arrive, I'm greeted by an emaciated woman and child, sobbing as they pick at a can of cold baked beans. "Alright, *****, is John about?" I enquire. She nods, choking back a tear, and points the way to the 'creative suite', marked by a "DO NOT DISTURB" banner. As I push my way inside, leaving the kid a 10p coin to buy a pack of Space Raiders, before she completely wastes away, I encounter a mountain of press releases, CDs and vinyl, strewn all over the carpet. John Eden is sprawled across the sofa in his "Anglicans Against Fascism" T-shirt, noisily devouring a mutton jalfrezi, swigging Red Stripe, and barking at the mag's dubstep editor, Paul Meme, down the blower.

I try and clear a spot to sit amidst a pile of Cutty Ranks 12"s, but just end up knocking over a pile of rare Belgian fanzines (Crass, 1982. ZINE: So Panny, wurt is zur favourite colour? RIMBAUD: I thought we were here to talk about the Falklands...ZINE: Wurt does lurve mean zu you?). Eden shoots me a filthy look and slams down the phone.

I suddenly notice there's another Woofah contributor in the room, submerged beneath a sea of page layouts, and scribbling down a review. "Oh, hello ****," I say, but he hears me not. "I suppose you wanna drink?" Eden scowls, before reaching for his RAVE KLAXON. "*****!" he screams. "Bring a glass of Red Stripe -and use one of the small glasses. This is business, not a jolly."

So, anyway, we sort out who's doing what. Or that's the general idea. The phone's constantly ringing, another contributor claiming (s)he can't hit deadline cos a giant fox pissed on his/her laptop. Oh, that reminds me - a bit off-topic, but bollocks to Islamic terrorism and 42 days- you spoilt little brats don't remember the years when Britain faced a REAL fucking nightmare:

Anyway, we eventually sort out what I'm meant to be reviewing. This is a pretty straightforward process, and will provide all you budding students of hackery with a valuable insight into the universal working relationship between 'the editor' and his minions:


So, anyway...the stuff he doesn't want gets mailed out to the contributors, and I pick up my material for review - let's say it's a copy of Songs for Reggae Lovers. It's now that John snickers and announces that he wants me to write a review of the CD from the perspective of someone who's just listened to it while - I don't know how to tell you this, poor reader - while...PORKING A COUPLE OF ESCORT GIRLS.

"I'm not doing that," I tell him.

"Oh, go on!" the satyr cackles. "It'll be really funny. You can write, "As Freddie McGregor launched into his 2002 slow-jam update of Susan Cadogan's 'Hurt So Good', I rolled off Crystalle and mounted Debrina....bloody hell, I wondered, did Freddie ever have to pay £50 for a hand shandy? Cos he bloody sounds like he needs one"

"That sounds terrible!" I counter. "Why can't I write about something serious, like the fact that somebody got stabbed at the T in the Park festival, but if it had been a grime event there would have been a press outcry?"

"Cos we did that last issue!" he snorts. "Go on, do the call girl piece. It'll be dead funny."

"No!" I yell. "Anyway, I wanna have a word with you about my rate. I don't think 2p per 1,000 reflects my journalistic worth - any chance of raising it to 5p?"

John turns white and starts gasping. He squeezes the RAVE KLAXON like a man possessed. ***** comes running into the room, with a giant bamboo fan, and begins to cool him as he clutches his chest and whimpers..."OH...MY SOUL...MY SOUL...HE THINKS THIS IS BLOODY PLAN B MAGAZINE..."

"Oh, fuck it, keep it at 2p!" I snap, storming out.


Then it's review time. I sit down and immerse myself in 'Songs for Reggae Lovers'. I fix myself a vodka and orange and open up a Word Doc. I consider my fonts, and then opt for Arial. I'd rather boil my eyeballs in a casserole dish than use Times New Roman. Then the phone rings.

"Hello," says DOPPELGANGER. "Apparently I'm drawing a cartoon for your piece. You banging two escort girls while slagging off Chuck Fenda and Sanchez. How big do you want me to do your fuckstick?"

"Oh, for God's sake!" I cry. "I'm not doing the call girl fantasy thing, it's ludicrous."

So, I down another vodka and orange. And another. I'm screwed for inspiration. I get out my small statuette of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god of hacks. I raise a glass to his health, and plonk some dry pasta by his feet. Suddenly, an idea takes hold. I start bashing the keys. 15 minutes later, I've got a pristine piece of copy. I attach it to an email and bung it over to Woofah HQ. Job done.

Now, I can't pretend this is how ALL Woofah contributors operate, but it's probably close enough. Suffice to say, at this stage, I now bow out of the whole process. Eden and Meme spend a few months shifting columns and paragraphs around a bit, nagging the living bejayzus out of the designers, leaving half the layouts on the train, adding a bit here and there, binge drinking and swearing, engaging in Wiccan rituals, watching the "All Japan Reggae Dancers" DVD with the lights out - as editors do. I check my Paypal account and confirm a new deposit of £0.02. And then it's all quiet on the zine front, until the next issue comes around.

So, I hope I've cleared up a few myths about fanzine publishing. Of course, I'm just a humble scribe, so if you want more information you'd be better off asking the editors directly. But don't imagine that it's all hanging round in fancy bars, surrounded by groupies, being offered hard drugs by Greensleeves Records' A&R department. It's a bloody hard slog - like joining the SAS of zine hacks. Still, cheer up - the new one's coming out soon! Presuming the inDesign documents haven't been wrongly mailed to Whipsnade Zoo's admin department (AGAIN...)


(PS - I know, I know...a bloody 'cat show'??)

Thursday, July 10, 2008



This is the biopic of legendary Joy Division crooner Ian Curtis, who tragically shot himself in 1980. Shot in black and white, as befits a drama of this arty mo(u)ld, the film begins with a teenage Ian taking pills in his bedroom with his best friend, Mark E Smith. Mark has his own vibrant powerpop outfit, 'The Fall', who're tipped to be the next Bay City Rollers - until Ian nicks Mark's girlfriend, Debbie. This act of betrayal causes Smith to metamorphosise into a furious, snarling iconoclast and The Fall suddenly become a ranting, noisy rockabilly machine, dripping with schadenfreude. In fact, Smith's paranoia and mistrust lead him to spend the next 50 years firing people from his band (for psychically attacking him in his sleep, allegedly).

Meanwhile, Ian gets married and lands a job in social services, teaching hairless dogs to speak. But it's not enough, man! He meets up with his mate Bernie (played deftly by Malcolm McDowell) who lets him join his band, Joy Division. Ian sweats a lot and catches epilepsy off a groupie. He then cheats on his wife with a sulky Belgian fanzine editor, who asks bands questions like "WURT IS ZUR FAVORITE COLOUR?" This isn't surprising, Belgian fanzines are generally pretty crap. Then he gets sick of playing to audiences with beards and £200 Toni & Guy 'punk' hair flicks, so he sends a goth onstage in his place, which causes a load of skinheads to riot - ? Yeah, I couldn't figure out what was going on either. Ian returns from his tour a hungry man, but his wife's pissed off down the bingo with the kid, and there's no bloody bacon in the fridge, so he throws a seven. Cue Atmosphere and some right moody shots of smoke billowing from a crematorium.


OK 70s kung fu flick, notorious for its ropey dubbing and hilarious voiceovers. Mr Mong is the village chief, whose unruly daughter wants to learn kung fu, much to his mirth - it's not for girls, apparently. Anyway, a load of bandits turn up, as Mong's got a treasure map, and they want the loot. So they kill him, using a combination of 'Rat' techniques, and then beat up all the villagers, shortly before mockingly asking the daughter, "Does Mr Mong....normally sleep in a coffin?" Much bad man laughter. They kick her head in and she falls off a cliff...only to float down a river several miles, conveniently winding up at the home of some old kung fu master and his idiot sidekick boy pupil.

Anyway, he decides to train her as a proper kung fu warrior. Cue loads of torturous exercises and him rubbing his beard and whacking her with a stick when she doesn't move quickly enough - oh, and a completely pointless 'comedic' sub-plot which sees the idiot boy trying to woo her, but inevitably falling out of a treehouse on every attempt - like, 5 times. Anyway, she learns the Eight Strikes of the Wild Cat and goes off to mullah her dad's slayers. The fight scenes aren't realistic and are mostly sped up, but the rat and cat noises when they fight make up for it, and the film ends on a socialist note. Definitely worth a look, though I couldn't be bothered to sit through it again.


The early 80s video boom saw all sorts of tat make it onto VHS, little of which was weirder than "Private Spy". Originally advertised as a "News of the World on video", this is an astonishing piece of Cold War sleaze from 1982. Apparently, back then, a copy of this cost £25! Which, in modern currency, probably comes to £70, or something. Despite its moralistic overtones, it was obviously punted at blokes who wanted to glimpse a bit of tits and snatch, without having to justify brown paper packages from Amsterdam to the wife.

It starts off with (now dead) BBC newsreader Reginald Bosanquet (I'm not making this up), who appears to be even more drunk than usual, introducing the first item - an expose' of "Lord Rodney", a young Chelsea toff who apparently forced his maid to smoke drugs, and who was implicated in a girl's smack overdose in 1977, but walked free. There's an interview with the chambermaid, in which she confesses that he got her so high she ended up giving him a spot of gobsausage (it also seems she's about to burst into laughter at any moment). They honeytrap him on hidden camera, and the slimy aristo's exposed for the murdering cunt he is.

But better's to come - you haven't lived 'til you've experienced the sheer joy of "PUNTER HUNT!" Basically, the Private Spy team head down to King's X (and we're talking about when the place was an utter shithole) and spend a whole night winding up prostitutes, punters and police officers. Kerbcrawlers frantically cover their faces, mid-hand job, as the team pull up alongside them, shining a light into their cars, taking the piss and reading out their registration numbers. Boasting some of the shabbiest clothing and worst haircuts in history (this is a side of the early 80s you'll never see on any retrophilia shows), the punters brick it, though the prostitutes seem happy to chat. Some of the dialogue's superb, particularly, "What, she cost you £20 mate? You could have spent that on your car!"

The other cool thing is the way the Private Spy team handle the filth, who keep interrupting the filming and, at one point, arrest the hacks. Requests to turn the camera off are met with, "No officer, my camera remains rolling! I'm not having a word on the quiet - these people are committing indecent acts in public places!" One hapless bobby, sent to get the team off the street, is even grilled about the police harrassing prostitutes for free sex. Ghost-like women pound the beat against a backdrop of industrial wasteground, faces caught in lights like death masks, the local residents' committee promising they'll get rid of the "old toms", strips of durex littering the backs of flats...and all the while, punters burying their faces into their laps, pleading, "GO AWAY...GO AWAY", while the team leer, "Come and talk to us! We just want an interview! Children play here during the day, aren't you ashamed? Go on, stick the fucking light on her!" And all over a rubbish 'sexy' Latin/ jazz funk/ exotica soundtrack. Priceless. There's also an advert for "Private Spy 3", apparently featuring John Mc Vicar doing an expose' of corruption in Scotland Yard, though I've never seen that one.

WINNER: "Private Spy 2"

Monday, July 07, 2008


Mr Gilzean chuckles as he shows me around the Museum of the Internet, which he curates in his Colindale council flat. He shows me an Apple Mac still running a 1999 version of Outlook Express - his inbox and subfolders are literally clogged with spam.

"See this?" he asks, a glint in his eye, pointing at a subject heading titled RE: life cycles. "Amazing little virus, that one! First popped up in 2000, I think. Open it up, and it spams everybody in your contacts list with some of the most degrading pornography. And this one," he adds, indicating a subject header, JOKES FUNNY. "They don't make them like this anymore."

"Then there's the death threats, quite common back then. Not everyone could figure out IP addresses or how to track them," he continues, his face aglow, renewed by memories of a golden age. "A lot of weird religious texts too. I seem to remember the neo-nazis would leave threats with their caps locks on. They had a certain charm, I suppose. They reminded me of a man lost in the desert, scrawling a message for help into the sand drifts with his finger."

But is it just spam and death threats you collect, I enquire? "No, there's emails from old friends.." he trails off. "Old work colleagues. I find it incredibly mesmeric to look through my list of contacts and chance upon the email addresses of people no longer in my life. Long ago, before I had this computer, people would exit my life and vanish forever, barely leaving a trace. But this machine's captured their essence better than any polaroid ever could."

"It's a sort of voodoo, a fantastic shamanistic energy to work with. Now I own their fucking souls. I have their words. I have exactly who, what and why they were at the time - and nothing's more potent than that."

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