Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class wpdb in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/wp-db.php on line 56
Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/cache.php on line 36
Strict Standards: Redefining already defined constructor for class WP_Object_Cache in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/cache.php on line 384
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 541
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 541
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 541
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Page::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 541
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_PageDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 560
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::start_lvl($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 659
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_lvl() should be compatible with Walker::end_lvl($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 659
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 659
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_Category::end_el() should be compatible with Walker::end_el($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 659
Strict Standards: Declaration of Walker_CategoryDropdown::start_el() should be compatible with Walker::start_el($output) in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/classes.php on line 684
Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/query.php on line 21
Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in /home/timatack/timatack.co.uk/wp-includes/theme.php on line 540 Timothy X Atack › writer, performer, composer: carbon-based, mammal, hominid
A bunch of barely connected thoughts on writing for different media. Warning: broad terms.
When I write for screen, I use Final Draft. When I write for the stage or performance, I write in Word. Why do I do that?
When I write for the screen, I write for a frame. When I write for the stage, I write for an amount of time.
Time is different on screen, different in live performance.
In writing of any kind there’s one rule, just one: don’t be boring (sometimes you even stumble upon a good reason to break that rule.)
I write in linear narrative order for screen, beginning to end. I write a ‘play’ the same way.
I write a piece of performance in whatever way necessary. Cut and paste / too much of it / too little / poetic / technical / the end of it first, the middle of it first / anything.
A feature film is an album. A 30 minute TV show is an EP. A short film is a song.
Stage or screen, image drives both. Not words. Dialogue is an illumination.
For radio, I hear the sound image first, before the words.
Interactive = unfinished. I finish the writing itself but I don’t finish what it contains – because the audience choose whether or not to do that.
Sometimes theatre is unfinished.
It’s more difficult to make the screen unfinished, to make its aims unfinished. It’s a frame, wherever it appears.
Music is always unfinished.
When I write music, there’s always a story. And it’s always unfinished.
Radio drama: a peculiar type of finished music.
Grammar is important to me, especially in an unfamiliar language.
How do you tell someone the sentence you’ve begun isn’t going to end? What’s the best way? Is it even possible?
Many pop songs used to fade out at the end. Not as often now.
When I write, I hope to be transported.
When I’m in an audience, I need to be transported.
I used to write as a promise. Now I write as an invitation.
An announcement isn’t an invitation.
Sometimes when I play a musical instrument, I do so knowing that later, a digital plug-in or process will make it sound older or further away or angrier, etc. It’s the same feeling when writing for stage or screen.
The text for a stage play, especially, is like a set of stems for remixers.
In a process, there’s the seeds of the visible result. So I never expect producers to treat my writing with ‘respect’ by default. Because ‘respectful’ is just one possible result.
Audiences, especially, have no obligation to be respectful of the writer’s intentions. That’s academic.
Every new show or film or experience is an invitation to an audience, to pick up and play a new kind of instrument. Sometimes slightly unfamiliar. Sometimes completely alien.
What can you do with this instrument? What tunes can it play? The writer’s, the readers’, the makers’, the audiences’.
Give an audience a fish. Etc.
Increasingly I have to write in the world. I’m falling out of love with romantic writerly seclusion. Why isolate yourself? Pull focus.
If you’re writing for unfinished, maybe you have to write it in an unfinished place.
Cities are good for unfinished.
Journeys are good for unfinished.
1. Scripts on set during performance of The Morpeth Carol, December 2011. By Paul Blakemore.
2. Index cards from the depths of time. Can’t remember what most of them were for.
3. Lyrics to a song by angeltech. Written on a train.
120310-000Feira Nordestina, Sao Cristovao, Rio De Janeiro. Forro band towards the end of their set, lead singer giving the audience their phone number for further bookings. Announces different members of the band. Some sections of vocal-less triangle, accordion and bass drum. Shouts of “BRASIL!” Audience members audible throughout. Vocalist gives long shout-out at end, thanking everyone and their dog.
120310-001Feira Nordestina, Sao Cristovao, Rio De Janeiro. Walk through different areas of the fairground just before sunset, past different ‘districts’. Electric condenser / fan noises, sound systems playing different music. Lots of Brazilian voices, passing conversation and shouting. Mobile phone answered. Butcher’s cleaver on chopping board. Long line of karaoke bars inc extract of song called Negra Angela performed by old bloke who dives into the middle 8 a whole bar early then corrects himself. CD stalls playing Forro. Arcade games. Loud cluster of youths. Toy duck being pulled along by kid. Ends with Tanuja being accosted by restaurant tout.
120310-002Feira Nordestina, Sao Cristovao, Rio De Janeiro. Spot at a lanchette between sound systems, different music blaring out from each one. Forro mixing with MPB. Vocal and casio keyboard soundcheck on stage.
120311-000Taxi from Sao Cristovao to Ipanema, Rio De Janeiro. Passenger window partially open. Travels along major bypass road and into a tunnel; small break in tunnel; then out of a tunnel and onto the edge of Lagoa district. Tiny amounts of radio noise. Some large bumps.
120311-001Cicadas in Jardim Botanico, Rio De Janeiro. Some fuckery as I turn up the volume and put on the windshield. Traffic and conversation. Helicopters. People laughing. Monkeys faint in background.
120311-002Jardim Botanico, Rio De Janeiro. Aborted recording of above.
120311-003Jardim Botanico, Rio De Janeiro. Walking along to small waterfall. Helicopters. Stepping away from waterfall at end.
120311-004Jardim Botanico, Rio De Janeiro.Monkeys in the trees, club football game in the distance. Music from football social. Car sounds and horn. Occasional footsteps on gravel. People cooing at monkeys. Some clunks as microphone redirected. Major close-up monkey frequencies at around 2.40.
120312-000Arpoador beach, Rio De Janeiro. Recorded from beachfront outside Arpoador Inn. Voices at nearby tables, heavy surf, traffic noises from behind. Conversation in many different languages as people walk past.
120313-000Jardim Botanico, Rio De Janeiro.Lawn sprinkler, voices, security radio, and odd multi-timbral noise (electric floor polisher?) from renovated mansion.
120313-001Jardim Botanico, Rio De Janeiro.Orchid house. Voices, footsteps in reverberant greenhouse. Mystery noise from 000 still audible.
120313-002Jardim Botanico, Rio De Janeiro. Gloopy fountain in bromeliad house.
120313-003Tijuca rainforest, Rio De Janeiro.Brief moment of calm. Crickets, nearby stream, constant bird call in trees. Footsteps walking up forest path.
120313-004Waterfall, Tijuca rainforest, Rio De Janeiro. Close-up, human voices audible throughout. Switches to distance recording at roughly 2.30. Woman from Buckinghamshire yelling “Tone! Tone! TONE!” and walking off. Approaching waterfall from other, quieter side. Recording continues with less human voices. Some different textures from around 5mins. At 6.40 some sounds of walking away from waterfall, textures change again briefly.
120314-000Channel-hopping through Brazilian TV. Recorded at room level in hotel. Low level air conditioner hum in background. Magazine programme / announcements / news report / news report on violence against women / evangelical sermon / channel ident / American film dubbed into Portuguese / public information film about the disappeared / various trails / political discussion programme / some slushy Christian music and chirpy evangelist / fragments of jingles / Petrobras commercial / trail for a political debate on the parliament channel / Programme titles / Opening of Law And Order (USA) dubbed into Portuguese / amateur rapper on magazine show, screams and cheers. Announcer talks to rapper. Item is on using photoshop to give women an unrealistically ‘ideal’ figure / melodramatic telenovela.
120314-001Leme beach, Rio De Janeiro. Heavy surf, voices in foreground. Kids playing volleyball in background. Dogs barking. Woman sneezing. Radio from nearby juice stall just about audible.
120314-002Forte do Leme, Rio De Janeiro. Tiny moment of calm in military-owned rainforest before helicopters descend again. City noise from streets below.
120314-003Forte do Leme, Rio De Janeiro. Slightly calmer atmos on hillside. Rustle of salamanders in undergrowth.
120314-004Forte do Leme, Rio De Janeiro. Cicada and aeroplane. Faint sound of Tanuja laughing at the fact I’ve started recording the cicada and it has immediately stopped.
120314-005Forte do Leme, Rio De Janeiro. Vista from various angles, military fort, looking out over full stretch of Copacabana beach. Heavy wind at top of hill. Helicopter passing massively close overhead. Buffeting wind noise. Wind in trees. Calm descends at about 2.30. Faint city sounds, then another helicopter approaches. Advertising tannoys audible around 3.40 onwards.
120314-006Forte do Leme, Rio De Janeiro. Halfway down hill, interesting stuttering bird call overhead.
120315-000Ipanema, Rio De Janeiro. Roadside atmos at night. Restaurant tables being cleared. Then a walk down the road past various bars and clubs. Live Bossa Nova act with female vocal. Passing cars. Samba from club. Main road; buses driving past at incredible speed. Car horn beeps. Crossing road and then a pause for a perspective back up the street at distance.
120315-001Rodoviaria Novo Rio, Rio De Janeiro. General atmos at very busy inter-state bus station. Food stalls, conversation, luggage being hauled around, voices as people reach the top of a slightly squeaky escalator.
120315-002Town square, Parati. Lackadaisical conversation between street vendors. Moderately heavy rain. Strangely Eurovision-like MPB from restaurant. Passing traffic on stone-studded street.
120315-003Outside modern church, Parati. Modern Christian music with bad drumming and congregation leader amplified. Repeated verse-chorus. Sounds like it’s never going to end. Street conversation.
120316-000Vista over Parati from Morro Do Forte. Evening. Light rain, dogs barking, cicadas chirping. Loud Brazilian family in house next door. Light aircraft faintly audible. Cars driving up cobbled street. Pulling veranda door shut; sound of rickety ceiling fan.
120316-001Vista over Parati from Morro Do Forte. Heavy rain, drips from guttering, rain hitting foliage, voices next door.
120316-002Vista over Parati from Morro Do Forte. Heavier rain still. The dogs seem to have shut up. The family also.
120316-003Vista over Parati from Morro Do Forte. Intensely heavy rain at height of thunderstorm.
120316-004Vista over Parati from Morro Do Forte. After intense rain; ceiling fan audible from room behind.
120316-005Vista over Parati from Morro Do Forte. Morning atmos. Church bells at 9 o’clock.
120316-006Vista over Parati from Morro Do Forte. Further morning atmos. Circular saw from church renovations in distance. Monkeys and birds. Sounds from small town at bottom of hill; vocal flock of birds fly past. Car driving up cobbled street. Hammering and conversation from nearby homes. Faint sound of fishing boat motors powering up on dockside. I also record a fridge at about 4mins in. A nice buzzy fridge. Plus the fridge door shutting and opening.
120316-007Historic centre, Parati. Street conversation, sounds from various shops opening up mid-morning. Sound of a horse-drawn cart approaching. At 2.30, a runaway horse: just caught in time by its owner. Horse does 3-point turn and canters off into distance. At 3.30, atmos on a narrower side street.
120317-000Edge of forest, Parati. Night. Crickets, cicadas and night calls from various birds. Motorbikes passing two streets away, then very close by at speed.
120318-000Lapa, Rio De Janeiro. At the lower end of the Escadaria Selaron. Some wind noise. Old bloke singing from his flat window. Street conversation, the end of an argument about drug dealers (very, very angry woman berating police officers.) Tin cans being kicked around.
120318-001Lapa, Rio De Janeiro. At foot of Escadaria Selaron, sound of delivery truck parked nearby and an old bloke singing from his kitchen window; lovely tune. Various voices (mostly tourists taking photographs.) Truck sound levels out at about 1.52 and aircraft heading into Santos Dumont overhead. Footsteps on stairway. Singing much clearer from about 3 mins. Change of perspective from c. 4 mins and more aircraft. Retreating up the stairway from c. 5 mins.
120318-002Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Theresa, Rio De Janeiro. Theatre rehearsals in a hollowed-out building containing a metal walkway and staircase leading to a lookout over the city. Sounds of footsteps on gantry; families with noisy kids on second level. Uninterrupted city sounds from distance at c. 2 mins – 3 mins. Café noises in passing. Mobile phone interference briefly.
From c. 4mins city noises with slight wind. Airport constantly active in b/ground.
From 7mins walking up central metal stairway. From 8.20 walking up to uppermost lookout. Conversation at lookout post.
9.54 someone descending metal steps. A moment of relatively uninterrupted cityscape – radio noises, advertising tannoys, traffic. Raised voices from level below. Aircraft passes nearby at c. 12mins. Supercilious and rambling comments from Atack at 14.40.
120318-003 Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Theresa, Rio De Janeiro. Bells at mid-day on Sunday. Ice-cream seller’s horn beeping. Uninterrupted city noise for about 20 seconds. C.2 mins perspective changes; radio sounds drifting on wind, occasional camera shutter sounds. Dogs barking 3.27. Kid yelling MUM at 4.10 as aircraft goes overhead. Constant bell at 4.50. Further bells and repeated Fur Elise chime (propane delivery truck) from 6.10 – 7.50. Then conversation/kids etc. Different bell in perspective at 8.30.
120318-004Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Further perspectives from lookout tower, this time over Centro district. More propane delivery truck (x2 in places). Sounds of shouty theatre rehearsal at start. Police sirens. Some pretty insistent bird noises. Voices from adjoining buildings. People climbing metal stairs at 4.30, ends.
120318-005Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Kids playing football next to quiet street. City noise drifting up hillside. Birdsong throughout. Cars drive past now and then.
120318-006Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Dog barking on street; another dog responds briefly. Van drives past.
120319-000Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Mix of music from different street parties carried on breeze. Funk Carioca and MPB from favela; samba from houses closer by. Occasional cars.
120319-001Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Recording from top floor of building. City noises, aeroplanes, music from favela. Occasional wind buffeting. Cricket chirp. Cars passing by on cobbled street below; voices on street. Activity in nearby houses (doors shutting etc.)
120319-002Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. As above with music shifting to slightly more anthemic, mainstream MPB.
120319-003Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. As above with music changing to more leftfield Funk Carioca. Dogs barking. Very cut-up music with warped vocals (reminiscent of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.) Repetitive waves of synth brass. Wind in trees picks up around 9 mins.
120319-004Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. As above with metal shutters closing on window.
120319-005Statue of Cristo Redentor, Corcovado, Rio De Janeiro. Crowd. Mix of languages in different conversations around observation platform on very busy morning. 11 min recording moving slowly through throng; camera clicks and electronic beeps. At 3.30 tourist helicopter flies past rudely close; hovers around other side of statue then comes back for more. Rubbish bin at 6.50. At 9mins a tour guide giving a history of Lagoa Rodrigo De Freitas and an anecdote about the the lake getting clogged up with masses of dead fish.
120319-006Railway station at top of Corcovado, Rio De Janeiro. Tourist voices. Helicopter in b/g. At 2.30 cog train approaches and comes to halt. Samba band audible inside train. Applause as samba band stops. Queue for train.
At c 3 mins recording switches to inside train; samba uke strumming. Voices of tourists on train. Percussionists tapping away. At 6 mins train begins descent and samba band start playing in earnest. Some fuckery as I rapidly take the mic att down. Occasional applause from passengers. Samba band play until halfway-stop on train journey when they sort of peter out; applause. Voices on train, conversation between passenger and musician.
Mic att returns to normal for train pulling away from mid-way station at about 13.20; voices of passengers as train descends to Cosmo Velho, through favela and rainforest, over about 10 minutes. Lots of clunks and rattles, and some sort of repetitive high-pitched squeak. Train occasionally slows and regains its speed. Some nice mid-frequency wobbles as train goes over a bridge.
120319-007Sugar Loaf mountain, Rio De Janeiro. Sightseers taking pictures; cable car doors close and cable car leaves. High-frequency sound of wheels on cables, fading away. Some wind noise.
Walk around to wheelhouse, wheels turning; then sound of machinery as second cable car approaches, slows, stops, safety barrier and cable car doors open (nice big metallic clunk.)
120319-008At edge of Sugar Loaf mountain observation platform, Rio De Janeiro, Atlantic side. Bossy tour guide keeping her shit together. Helicopter in b/g.
120319-009At edge of Sugar Loaf mountain observation platform, Rio De Janeiro, Botafogo side. Trustafarians having a conversation about Rio geography. Strange animal noise in undergrowth beneath platform. Americans complaining about their cameras. Sound of aeroplane approaching Santos Dumont airport.
120320-000New Metropolitan Cathedral, Centro, Rio De Janeiro. City street noises captured in interior of amazing bucket-like building. Recorded liturgical chant through loudspeakers. Regular two-tone beep of German guy’s camera – strangely adds to the sense of calm (it’s in tune with the chanting.) Aeroplane passes overhead. Everything reverb-ed to fuck. Car horns, brakes and passing bus hydraulics merge into one long, changing chord.
120321-000Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Second failed attempt to capture city noise from top of vista, immediately interrupted by Australians.
120321-001Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Third attempt, this time with some loud French bloke having a ‘say what you see’ festival all on his own. Then, HOORAY, unbroken city sounds from about 30secs to 2.50, then for 1min after. Roadworks in distance. Children’s voices. French guy chatting on and off throughout, but some quiet moments and odd unidentifiable city sounds.
120321-002Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. As above with monotone scrap metal merchant’s tannoy moving in and out of Centro streets below.
120321-003Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Aborted recording of the above.
120321-004Parque Das Ruinas, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. City noises, scrap metal merchant’s tannoy very audible, pneumatic drill, security guard’s pocket radio blasting out advertising, aeroplane overhead, sweeping brush on terrace below, squealing bus brakes singing out like some sort of bird at 5.30, different advertising tannoy at 6.10, insistent indistinct speech. Then a third tannoy at 9mins: regular cadences in the voice, almost like a military drill. Mournful dog lowing intermittently in f/g.
120321-005Primary school, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Scrap metal merchant tannoy passes; then sound of large class of children in reverberant schoolroom, recorded from street outside. Cars pass. Chairs pushed around and doors slamming. Teacher’s voice occasionally raised.
120321-006Streetside, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Ice-cream seller’s horn parping, close-up then drifting into the distance. Dog barking.
120321-007Garden, Santa Teresa, Rio De Janeiro. Moderate wind in the trees, wooden wind ‘chimes’. Military helicopter passes overhead. Cat mewing.
120322-000International Airport, Rio De Janeiro. Departures terminal on quiet evening. Heavy air-conditioning hum. Radio faintly audible from nearby food stall. Passing voices, occasional squeak of trainers on polished floor. At 3.45, electronic chimes and automated announcement (female voice, strangely low, halting, and husky.)
Developed through the really quite wonderful Ferment programme, it’s a funny and scary show where we tell the audience a bedtime tale in the near-dark, complete with a blanket of cinematic sound effects. And OK, whilst it’s not exactly the most visually spectacular piece, it’s still visceral and vivid in that way Sleepdogs have made our own… mostly because of how intimate and direct the show is. The idea is to strip the live experience down to its bare essentials*: if you want, you can just close your eyes and drift into the world we create; but if not, then never fear, because the cast are - for the most part - a right bunch of lookers.
*We did, at one point, speculate about performing the show nude. You know… for the publicity and that… maybe just to wind up the Bristol Evening Post. But this was quickly - and loudly - vetoed.
So yeah — music and sound are integral to our work, and these elements are often conceived or designed in detail alongside the text itself, well in advance of any ideas as to how the story might be physically staged. Sometimes, as with The Morpeth Carol, the sound takes over completely.
Dedicated to the LagerhoUSE in Freiburg, sorely missed.
To music in strange isolated rooms; imagining it breaking out, travelling far beyond.
To the puzzle of putting it together; like those chess games played out over years at a time, each of us walking off and musing on the next move, the next mix.
To writing songs as if on an excel spreadsheet… waveforms chopped up beyond recognition, noises routed through different boxes, different calculations, looking for the most unlikely and exciting formula. Some say you can’t possibly make exciting music like this. Bollocks to ‘em. Bashing away at the drums can be just as dull.
And here’s to bashing away at drums. Drums that play the sound of a detuned radio. Drums that warp the formants of another sound, way over on the other side of the song. Drums that you simply can’t control, where you can’t work out how to hit them, and you’ll only ever do it once before it’s captured forever. Here’s to the only once.
To rooms in basements and behind sliding bookcases, rooms with sand in the floor and the ceiling, living rooms, rooms next to railway lines and haulage depots, tiny rooms beneath central London owned by multinational mega-corps, huge rooms presided over by a mad German with a million ideas, rooms in Italian restaurants that just happen to have a nice piano, rooms that have just the right reverberant qualities for that one song and you simply have to record the vocals there, rooms you’ve measured wall to wall in immensely pernickety fashion to see precisely where the soundwaves will slam into the surfaces.
To in-jokes, built up between you, to epic levels, over countless editing sessions, because otherwise you’d go strk rving mntl.
To the spaces in between, some longer than others, to coming back to it and hearing it with fresh ears, a cup of coffee, and a doughnut.
The new Angel Tech album will be available sometime in the next 20 years.
(This is a sister post to Pre: show over at the Sleepdogs website)
Herewith, a blogburp about collaboration, and being cross-disciplinary an’ that. In the last year or so I’ve been involved in screenwriting, making music, theatre, audio drama, film and pervasive media. So this is a wander around all of those, and the alleyways in between.
If you’re enough of a glutton for punishment to read the whole thing, I suggest you make a cup of tea first.
Probably the longest and most involved collaboration of my creative life has been with the band Angel Tech. We formed in 1995, influenced by Warp Records, The Cure, Bjork, New Order, Seefeel, Talk Talk and Stina Nordenstam. We played gigs, recorded an (unreleased) first album in Germany, composed film soundtracks, got signed to a major label, recorded another (unreleased) first album at Real World studios, toured relentlessly, got unsigned to a major label, made performances with a theatre company, formed our own indie label and self-released a debut album some 10 years after we first got together. We’ve toured all over the world, won awards, hung out with the stars and played gigs with every kind of band from Sparklehorse to Right Said Fred (long story, promoter in Austin TX, “British Bands” theme night.) I once met an A-level art student in Germany who told me that, as a final-year project, she’d painted the lyrics to our song Freiburg in massive seven-foot high letters across the facade of her school.
Anyway, you won’t have heard of us.
Or at least, no, maybe that’s not fair – I’m always very surprised when people actually have heard of us. Let’s put it this way: we’ve always made music we believe to be accessible, yet at the same time we’ve only ever followed our curiosity, our instinct, our desire to hear something different. If I think back on all my creative collaborations over the years I reckon the ones that worked best were with people who, given the option, would rather be confused for 10 minutes than bored for 10 seconds. At any rate, that’s certainly true of my bandmates Neil and Doug.
Some pictures from rehearsals for The Freelance Magdalene, my contribution to Bristol Old Vic’s Short Fuses programme last month…
Short Fuses was performed in the round (with yours truly surrounded ON ALL SIDES by an audience hungry for TASTY STORY and FINE THEATRE.) I haven’t done a show in that configuration for a while, and never as a solo performer. Lessons? Even though it’s just you, sole focus of attention, alone on stage, you don’t necessarily need to turn constantly, like a pig on a spit. Freelance Magdalene is performed in conversational mode, acknowledging the spectators rather than shoving an imaginary fourth wall (or, indeed, a fifth wall in this case) up between stage and audience. The resulting instinct for the actor is to try and make ‘contact’ with as many people as possible, all the time, and you just ain’t gonna do it.
I imagine if I were an owl, able to rotate my neck 360 degrees at whim, then director Tanuja Amarasuriya and I wouldn’t have had to carefully choreograph every step I took whilst telling my weirdy tale. But, let’s face facts - I’m not an owl. So we had to. And we did.
I’ve loved Curtis Eller since I heard his lament for old-school Hollywood, “Buster Keaton,” at the sadly missed Seymour’s Family Club, way back in the day. So it’s tip-top-notch to be supporting the mustachioed one come mid-March. I might even try to dredge up a new song of my own. An album by The Heath Robinson is hopefully not too far off; I’ve certainly got the songs, but I’ve also got a madman’s dream of recording particular tunes on particular pianos that “suit them”… which, in some cases, requires travelling to stupid places like Bishop Middleham in County Durham. Or being really nice to bearded troubadour Stanton Delaplane and asking to make use of his beautiful Knight upright piano for an afternoon. Am I boring you by talking about pianos? Really? Oh, right. I hate you. Go away.
Speaking of El Orchestro Dos Hombres Beardo, here’s me assisting Stanton with some serious “Old Men In Pub Singing” action at St George’s in Bristol, mid-January:
You can see I’m barely using the mic. That’s because St George’s has an acoustic you could practically ride out of the room and down the hill on. I’ve never played there before, but once up on stage I understood in seconds why musi-people drone on and on about the gorgeous reflections and tones you get in the place. Am I boring you, talking about acoustics? Yeah? Yeah, well. Shut up. Shut up, wake up and SMELL THE RESONANCE.
So, if we’re not going to talk about lovely pianos, or acoustics, what ARE we going to discuss, you and I? I dunno. What do you like? Do you like sitting in the dark and looking at things? You DO? Oh, marvellous. So do I. We have so much in common. (Continued)
- TOTALLY OUT OF ORDER, THAT’S WHAT I SAID, COMPLETELY OUT OF ORDER, HE SHOULD WATCH HIS - oh, sorry, hello! Didn’t see you there. How are you? Mmm? Jolly good.
Yes, I’ve been a stranger. It’s been two solid months of writing outlines, pitches, applications and synopses round my neck of the woods. I’m emerging from the clammy darkness with some new work at the end of January, but in the meantime, come with me down memory lane…
In 2004 I embarked on one of my weirder projects, a square-eyed marathon where I resolved (for reasons still unclear) to watch one episode of Top Of The Pops for each year it’s held in the BBC archives, in a single sitting. I dug up bagfuls of VHS off-air recordings from Auntie Beeb’s vaults (one random date per annum) and chained myself to the gogglebox for a whole day. I took notes throughout, writing up the dubious results in brief installments for the really rather wonderful Choke Zine in Bristol. Unfortunately the zine quietly expired (probably for tax reasons) before the full story had seen the light of day; but many years later I chiseled apart a dusty hard drive and recovered my running commentary from the original exploit. Why not finish it, I asked myself? Why not end it all?
And, lo and behold, you can read about the sorry mess, in full, right here: TOTP: RIP
I hope it might bring you some small comfort in these dark times. Happy New Year.