MARTIN SHARP INTERVIEW

Among the sad passings this year was that of Australian artist Martin Sharp. I’m certainly no expert on Martin’s art or its influence, but I always responded to the colour and the humour in his work – say on his sleeve for Ginger Baker’s Air Force – even before I knew it was his. I interviewed him in March 2013 for Uncut about his work with Cream,  but his remarks on mid-1960s London are well worth a look even if psychedelic heaviosity isn’t precisely your bag.

Martin wasn’t in great health when we spoke, but his wit, insight and generosity of spirit evidently could not be dampened by illness.

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Bill Callahan: Dream River (The National, UAE)

You will I hope join with me in celebrating the addition this week to Bill Callahan’s February 2014 tour, of a second date at the Royal Festival Hall. I reviewed his album Dream River for the readers of The National – the broadsheet newspaper of the United Arab Emirates. As you will infer from the edit, the title of Bill’s 2000 LP Dongs Of Sevotion was deemed inappropriate for that publication’s market.

More info on tickets here: http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/bill-callahan-78995?dt=2014-02-07

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John Fahey Film: In Search Of Blind Joe Death

James Cullingham (who made a Fahey doc for Canadian radio in 1982) has made a nice film about John Fahey. It is the first such documentary – a surprise to Cullingham as much as anyone else. It’ll be on BBC4 in November apparently,  but in the meantime it’s showing in London in the coming week. Details at the bottom of this, which is a news piece from Uncut magazine I wrote a couple of months ago. 

The film tells an at times enchanting, occasionally disturbing story, tacitly as much about the rise of Fahey as a hip figure as much as anything else. (It’s hard to imagine Pete Townshend, sincere as his admiration for Fahey  is, participating before now in such a film.) I hope you have the opportunity of checking it out. There is more info at: http://www.johnfaheyfilm.com

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Steve Albini On Nirvana’s In Utero

A few years ago I interviewed Steve Albini for Uncut. He is a great person to talk to, read blogs by, generally have opinions confirmed by. We’re kind of all on about In Utero again at the moment, and it’ll be hard to get a more lucid account than one from the man who produced it – someone who, a bit like Bob Johnston on the new Dylan Bootleg Series release, is kind of being titoped around by the official channels/current administration.  Anyway. May post the rest of this later for the other 14 or so Melt-Banana fans/ATP 90s guys. The word count for this is  666, just so you know.

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Miles Davis Album By Album: Doo Bop (1992)

About a year ago, I researched an Album By Album feature for Uncut magazine. For the feature I tried to talk to as many musicians as I could who had played on some great/pivotal Miles Davis albums. Doo Bop, from 20 years ago, isn’t everyone’s favourite – but it is the final Miles Davis album, and Easy Mo’ Bee was happy to tell me about his part in it. Mo Bee (as his rep told me to call him) had told this story a few times, as you probably would if you’d worked with Miles Davis, and “did the voice” in much the same way people do a voice when they’ve just met Paul Weller. He was a nice guy to talk to. In lieu of the traditional “lack of new post apology” I will try to post a few more of these interviews in the coming days.

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Lawrence Q&A, Part 4: Denim

For the last couple of weeks, what with the Felt Q&A at Rough Trade, my continued enjoyment of the bookzine compiled and edited by the folks at foxtrotecholimatango.blogspot.com and the arrival of the very nice Felt book from www.firstthirdbooks.com I’ve been putting up a pretty much unedited Q&A with Lawrence, which was the product of a piece I wrote for Uncut magazine before Christmas. One of the subjects alluded to artfully in Paul Kelly’s Lawrence Of Belgravia film is that of Lawrence’s problem with addiction, which seem to have begun around the time of Denim’s demise.

I felt this was the sort of thing to bring up, if not to exactly press the point on. So, about an hour and forty minutes into the interview, as he talked about the end of Denim’s particular road, I did, and Lawrence, not angrily or with any side at all, simply said, “I don’t want to talk about that.” He may have added “…if that’s all right” because I do remember saying, “No, that’s fine.”

He liked the way the subject had been treated in the film, and suggested that equally, it was my job to handle it somehow, not his to explain it. I can’t quite face transcribing the exchange word for word, because, if I’m completely honest, I’m in no enormous rush to listen to it again. The interview didn’t, happily, end there, as I asked a bit more about Felt (which I have cut into the Felt part of this transcript, which can be found in earlier posts) and we talked a bit more about that.

We finished talking about twenty minutes afterwards, and I got up to leave. Lawrence, someone with no shortage of enthusiasms to expand on, said ,“Oh, are you going?” signed my record, gave me the notes he’d prepared for me and gave me a quick tour of his flat. A room with many shelves, housing his magazine collections (“Pared down to the absolute minimum,” he said, indicating several substantial stacks). Some pieces of cardboard with quotations ascribed to himself.  This room, he said, will be his studio when it’s finished, and its transformation was chiefly the handiwork of a young man called Ralph, who appears in the film, and who in addition to his practical talents is, Lawrence says, “the world’s best drummer” and has played with Scritti Politti.

A detour into his hallway reveals his bookshelves (“all curved edges”), filled with vaguely esoteric cult lit and, on the way out, his records – again with some inessential items put to one side to sell. One of these is an album by The Butts Band. “It’s just total shit,” Lawrence explained. “How could you go from the Doors to this?”

Lawrence accompanied me to the lift and then out of the building, and on to the Hot Dog Streets…

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Lawrence Q&A, Part 3: Felt

A bit of a longer post to finish up the Felt section of this Q&A. Hope it’s not too tiring.

This is what led you to titles like Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty?

Lawrence: John Peel called it “the worst album title ever”. I thought, wow, he doesn’t like my stuff. It’s good in a way, because it meant I was doing something. I wanted him so much to like it, because I knew how important he was. But I felt the words were different to anyone. I wasn’t hiding, I was willing to stand up and be counted for it. I was proud of them.

I wasn’t copying my heroes, I was doing what I was told to do when I read their interviews, like: ‘absorb us, learn from us, and do something different.’ I wanted to add to that rich tapestry, and if you were going to copy someone, you’re never going to be counted, like the people you loved. I hate copying people. At school, I wouldn’t want to have the same shoes as everyone else.

Lawrence shows me an exercise book in which he has transcribed a sweet and clever poem about a tortoise that he wrote when he was a child. I say to him that he’s got very neat handwriting, to which he replies something like, “If you think this is neat, you should see my best…” As with the Scooby Doo play he wrote when he was 8, mentioned in Paul Kelly’s film, you get the impression Lawrence is still pleased with, or maybe even consoled by the idea of having been a promising child.

In this book is the first poem I ever wrote when I was 9. We never used it in the film.

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Lawrence Q&A, Part 2: Felt

Can we talk about the beginning of Felt?

Lawrence: Maurice Deebank used to come round my house in 1978, and I used to think “I could do a band with this guy” but he wasn’t ready. I’d known him since I was 7. Then I’d think “I’ve got to do a band, but I can’t do it with this guy. I’m gonna make a record. I’m not good enough to write songs. I want it to be the best record ever, but I’m not capable of that yet. So what can I do?” It was the time of the DIY revolution – the one period when making a record in your bedroom was good, Thomas Leer with “Private Plane” and Robert Rental. I thought “I’m gonna make one of them…” I thought it’d cut out all the rubbish, having a van, putting a band together, rehearsing, getting some attention. I’ll make a record.

But I couldn’t make a great record, because I’d be doing it in my bedroom. I thought, “I’m going to make the most outlandish thing possible, it can’t be ignored. But it can’t be about music. It’s got to be a massive statement, like “I’m here. Waving the flag” “So I did “Index” in my bedroom, I tried to do something unclassifiable. It was neither good nor bad. It was just there. It just existed. I was trying to conceive ways of doing it, being famous. I wouldn’t have wanted to do a local group, and build myself up. I wanted to do a group that signed to EMI. I thought if I detour round this for a while, I can get myself known. I fit into that DIY thing perfectly – I was a fan of noise, I’d come of age, I was post-punk, though that wasn’t a word then. I loved unusual music, Fripp and Eno. I understood music wasn’t just about songs, but about many, many other things. I could introduce myself.

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Lawrence Q&A, Part 1

Late in 2011, I interviewed Lawrence of Felt/Denim/Go-Kart Mozart for a retrospective piece in Uncut, which ran in the January out December issue. Lawrence is a great conversationalist and an interesting sort of person to hang around with for an afternoon, so he generated quite a lot of material, not all of which was within the remit of, or could be accommodated in that published piece.

This, then, is a bit more of an informal take on things, which has a bit more incidental detail about my meeting with Lawrence, and features his responses to my questions at rather greater length. I’ll put this up as several posts: an introduction and stuff on what Go-Kart Mozart are doing now, a couple of bits on Felt and a last bit on Denim.  There’s a Felt Q&A at Rough Trade East in London tonight, so it seems timely to do this right now.

 

The very beautiful new Felt photo book (with text by Lawrence) is available from www.firstthirdbooks.com

*

When Lawrence answers his intercom, he tells me that rather than letting me in to come up to his flat, he will come down to meet me.

“We’ll go and get a cup of tea and take it back,” he says as he strides into a nearby café. Lawrence orders a large tea, into which he places several sugars. “I haven’t got a kettle,” he explains. “First I didn’t have one because I was poor but now I don’t want one. My friends, it drives them mad, they say ‘I’ll buy you one, Lawrence.’ But I say, ‘No, don’t!’ Because then you drink tea all day and all night, whether you want it or not, don’t you?”

Nor has he got a fridge. “In the winter, it’s cold enough to keep milk on the balcony, and then I can have cereal. I don’t need a fridge.”

But what about in the summer?

“In the summer, I just don’t have any cereal,” he says.

Up in Lawrence’s flat, which is in pretty much the same work-in-progress condition as we see it in Paul Kelly’s great Lawrence Of Belgravia documentary film, he tells me that he’s been having problems with getting people in to decorate for him. One decorator painted the walls in his lounge, but fell out with him when Lawrence noticed that she hadn’t painted between the pipes that feed the radiators. He explains that this would drive him mad, as he lives at floor level (his TV’s on the floor; he doesn’t have a computer because of  the cables they can entail, which would be in his eyeline) and complained.

“She called me a snivelling little cunt,” he recalls, evenly. “A big butch lesbian. Then she got her stuff and stormed out.”

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