Week goes: phones, birds, speaks, tunes, scribbles, listens

This is the first image from The Dead Phone, a stageplay I’m writing for the Inbetween Time Festival 2010.


It’s been a scattershot week. Good and productive for it. But to give you a picture, woven in and around the day job, I’ve had -

Thursday: Writing the first drafts of The Dead Phone. It’s a series of conversations, conducted on a stage, empty and blank but for 1) a table 2) a succession of performers and 3) a telephone connected to the afterlife. Currently drafting an extremely upsetting and foul-mouthed exchange, full of violence and regret.

Friday: reviewing Forced Entertainment‘s Spectacular for Venue Magazine. An amazing show – succinct, unexpectedly affecting, totally focussed. Remarkable in that it even survived constant interruptions from a self-obsessed tosspot of the highest order (the link is for Ed Rapley’s description of the event — I have to stress, Mr Rapley is by no means the tosspot in question.)

Saturday: listening to hours and hours of new music with Neil from Angel Tech. Plus, getting drunk and staying up all night. Particular revelation: Treny by Jacaszek, and uncovering some lesser-found recordings by my newfound musical hero Gabby Pahinui.

Monday: a studio session with Angel Tech, laying down some harpsichord-y, sine wave-y synth sounds and then the 3 of us attempting to sing against them in cascading harmonies.

Tuesday: seeing Suspension at Bristol Old Vic. God, but I hated it. Hardly surprising; there’s a kind of tried-and-tested theatre that simply doesn’t float my boat, basically summarised as “actors shouting in long shot.” Unfortunately this production had it in spades.

Thursday: Going on and on about myself at length, at Arnolfini’s Getting To Know You event. I was appearing alongside Kathy Hinde and Michael David Jones, both of whom spoke far more eloquently than I did. I’m fine yakking away about my work on a website, as must be evident by now – doing so in the actual flesh I find a wee bit more difficult. But with the help of those kind, patient souls present we did manage to come up with a pithy description of my performance practice, “a live artist working with narrative fiction.” Very handy. Plus, I got to dig up some old photos of past projects, including this one by the fantastic Ed Dimsdale -


- from Skinworks, a show by Bodies In Flight, that Angel Tech scored and performed in. Pictured: my fat fingers on an obsolete home keyboard, and Kaylene Tan of Singapore performance dudes spell#7.

Friday: a full day recording in a Barton Hill rehearsal studio with Angel Tech, laying down some very loud guitars and drums (a relatively rare example of such for us… getting, as we are, older, and greyer, and less prone to the Kerrang angle* on any given tune.) (*Kerrangle?)

Also on Friday: the announcement of Theatre Bristol / Bristol Old Vic’s live performance commissions for 2009 / 2010. I’m one of them (woo-hoo!) and will be writing, performing and co-directing a show called Buzzard.

It’s the tale of a man with an interesting vocation: he’s a Birthday Buzzard. He dons a huge, anthropomorphic bird outfit and enters your home on your special day, before criticising your entire life in scathing, vituperative terms, like some sort of grumpy anti-Santa. Here (at a very early stage, it must be stressed) is my first, slightly childish rendition of the titular bird…

Buzzard scrawl 1

Stretches of working like this make me very happy. For a long time (until two or three years ago, even) I was worried that my diary’s hopping from music to film, to writing or live art to recording and back, meant that I was fundamentally unfocused, that I was still in a child-like state of indecision, grabbing at as much as I could, hoarding ideas and strategies. People would occasionally tell me as much — saying that I had to settle upon one or t’other, eventually. Well, you know what? Fuck it. My successes may be moderate (to say the least…) but I’m happiest with them on these terms.

It’s all connected, anyway. The live art infuses the film work. The storytelling seeps into the music. I wouldn’t call it multi-tasking (it still takes a mental effort to gear-change between songwriting and screenplays, for instance) it’s just I can’t imagine doing one of these stupid things without all the other stupid stuff.