Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A Is For A Beginning

This is a mix that I did for my friend Ali's website which you should check out as it is good and you can actually download the thing there.

A Is For A Beginning

When Ali first asked me to do a mix for this site I was both touched and a little nervous. I was initially nervous because I don’t actually know how to mix despite fairly regularly being asked to DJ and doing a semi-OK job of seeming vaguely like I know what I’m doing. I feared that I might be expected to churn out some 60 minute, beat matched, second perfect, Trakteratto session replete with horns and samples. Once I had made it clear that such a thing was well beyond my capabilities but that I would be more than happy to supply something more akin to a mixtape I then became nervous because even doing that is pretty tough.

I have tried and failed to make mixtapes I’ve been happy with countless times and possibly come away with a success rate of, at best, about 2%. A good mixtape requires a good theme, a cohesive selection and a great sense of pace. I suffer from enjoying too disparate a taste in things coupled with a miniscule attention span to ever make 60 or 90 minutes of anything ever hang together in a broadly acceptable manner. To negate this problem and give me an excuse to lay down anything I like under the guise of doing so beneath a thematic banner I offered to make Ali not one but twenty six mixes once monthly all beginning with a single letter of the alphabet. In alphabetical order. If you all hate the first one though just tell me and I’ll fuck off.


1. Abner Jay – “The Reason Young People Use Drugs”

2. The Adolescents – “Wrecking Crew”

3. Aethenor – “Untitled”

4. Agathocles – “Mutilated Regurgitator”

5. The Aggrovators – “Russian Stout”

6. Akitsa – “Ode Au Temps Passe”
7. Akron/Family – “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen”

8. Alasdair Roberts – “Slowly Growing Old”

9. Albert One – “Turbo Diesel”
10. Alcest – “Le Secret”

11. Allen Ginsberg – “Dope Fiend”

12. The Almighty Defenders – “All My Loving”
13. Amps For Christ – “Colours”

14. Angel Witch – “Angel Of Death”

15. Angelo Badalamenti – “Twin Peaks Theme”

16. Antioch Arrow – “Chaos Vs Cosmos”

17. Anton LaVey – “Satan Takes A Holiday”

18. Aphex Twin – “Xtal”

19. Arab Strap – “The First Big Weekend”

20. Archers Of Loaf – “Web In Front”

21. Ash Ra Tempel – “Bring Me Up”
22. At The Gates – “Slaughter Of The Soul”

23. Antidote – “Real Deal”

24. Autechre – “Dael”

1. Abner Jay (http://www.subliminalsounds.se/DOK/abnerjay.html) - “The Reason Young People Use Drugs”
Abner Jay claimed to be the “last working Southern black minstrel”. Born in Georgia to slave parents in the early part of the twentieth century Abner began playing in medicine shows at the age of 5. His records took in elements of folk, blues, gospel and Pentecostal music which he played on any number of instruments ranging from a banjo that he claimed was built in 1748 to ‘the bones’ (some old chicken and cow bones that he used to bang a beat out with). He released many LP’s on his own Brandie Records label including this cut which is from an album entitled Swaunee Water And Cocaine Blues. However, I first discovered Abner's music on a reissue from the excellent Mississippi Records (http://facstaff.unca.edu/sinclair/miss_records/index.html) a label which, if you’ve never checked it out before, you really should have a look at. It’s like a treasure trove and link to a lost world that is fast becoming forgotten.

2. The Adolescents (http://www.theadolescents.net/bios_files/band_bio.html ) – “Wrecking Crew”
The Adolescents embodied just about every aspect of early 80’s Orange County punk rock. Loud, fast and bursting with energetic, simplistic melody. One of the happiest days of my life was finding the "Amoeba" 7” on blue in that funny record shop on Belnheim Crescent that is actually two separate record shops in one space run by a couple of old guys who argue all the time. If you are into punk records go there. The guy on the right hand side as you walk in gets unbelievable stuff.

3. Aethenor (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=84374 ) – “Untitled”
Aethenor are a band whose personnel include, but are not limited to, Stephen O’Malley (you know, the guy with the beard from Sunn O))), Vincent de Roguin from Shora (http://www.myspace.com/shoraband) and Daniel O’Sullivan. I try and mention Daniel as often possible because he’s quite possibly one of the most gifted British musicians of his generation. He plays, or has at some point played with, Guapo (http://www.guapo.co.uk/), Miasma & The Carousel Of Headless Horses (http://www.myspace.com/headlesshorses), Mothlite (http://www.myspace.com/mothlite) and Ulver (http://www.myspace.com/ulver1). He is also my age, went to school opposite me and generally makes me feel lazy every time I think about him. Aethenor play a dissonate, scraping, droning, hum that is occasionally cacophonous yet somehow strangely soothing.

4. Agathocles (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=2649) - “Mutilated Regurgitator”
23 seconds of live fury from Agathocles. I once interviewed Eric Wood from Man Is The Bastard and he told me that Agathocles were one of the only bands whose work rate he considered to parallel his own. Have a look at how many records Eric has put out (http://www.recordhospital.org/mitb.htm) and you’ll soon realize that is no light praise. Agathocles are from Belgium and they have been playing unrelenting grindcore since around 1985. In that time they have notched up at least 150 releases. What have you done today?

5. The Aggrovators (http://www.roots-archives.com/artist/142 ) - “Russian Stout”
Taken from the 1977 collection Aggrovators Meets The Revolutioners At Channel One Studios this cut features the infamous session outfit in particularly bouyant form. The Aggrovators were essentially legendary producer Bunny “Striker” Lee’s in-house band. Along with King Tubby, Prince Jammy and Phillip Smart, Lee helped pioneer the dub sound. Jackie Mitto, Sly & Robbie and Aston “Family Man” Barret all served time with The Aggrovaters and the bands longtime drummer Carlton “Santa” Davis is credited with establishing the ‘flying cymbal’ sound that was to become commonplace in dub. The group took their name from Agro Sounds, the record shop that Lee ran in the 60’s. How has no one ever stolen that for a record label name?

6. Akitsa (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=2224) - “Ode Au Temps Passe”
Canadian black metal horde Akitsa is basically one guy who goes by the name O.T. Other than that he is based in Montreal, has been making music for about ten years now under the Akitsa moniker and plays a harsh, raw, misanthropic take on the genre I can’t tell you too much about the guy. I first came across Akitsa after picking up a split with Prurient aka Dominick Fernow whose Hospital Productions (http://www.hospitalproductions.com/) label reissued the LP entitled Goétie that this track is taken from. O.T. is singing in French by the way so even if you can make out the screams through the shards of crackle then unless you’re fluent it will still be incomprehensible.

7. Akron/Family (http://www.akronfamily.com/) - “The Alps & Their Orange Evergreen”
I’ve always been a sucker for rootsy Americana, the more bucolic the better. Maybe it was over-exposure to The Basement Tapes as a kid? Who knows. Anyway, Akron/Family’s take on folksy roots music offers sweeps and swooshes of adventure enough to justify the lofty praise they regularly garner. If Micheal Gira is going to have you as his backing band you’re gonna need be talking a real talk I guess.

8. Alasdair Roberts (http://www.alasdairroberts.com/) – “Slowly Growing Old”
Ali Roberts plays folk music so thick and burdened by the weight of history and tradition that you fear it might buckle and bough at any minute like a huge old oak that’s just had enough of being around so long. Luckily, and much like a mighty oak, Ali’s music stands tall and unquivering in the cold winds of prevailing modernity. Once upon a time he played in the band Appendix Out and he also played in the short-lived Amalgametd Sons Of Rest which was kind of like a contemporary version of Pentagle consisting as it did of Roberts, Will Oldham and Jason Molina. Anyhow, I saw this track performed at a place called The Glee Club in Birmingham where some chick with a weird voice called Joanna Newsome was supporting him and I am not afraid to say that I was almost moved to tears.

9. Albert One (http://www.albertone.net/) – “Turbo Diesel”
Much has been made of the resurgence of Italo Disco in the last half decade and, love it or loathe it, it’s hard to argue with its infectiousness. I first discovered Italo after attending a night called Cocadisco (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=17834115290) which began life at The Social on Little Portland Street and has since moved from The Dolphin in Hackney to Visions in Dalston to Corsica Studios in Elephant & Castle. Cocadisco is the baby of someone who I am lucky enough to regularly work with and has a vast and passionate of knowledge of Italo, techno, acid and just about any other form of dance music you’d be willing to cut a shape to. For introducing me to the sound and generally being one of the greatest humans on the planet this one goes out to Piers Martin.

10. Alcest (http://www.metal-archives.com/band.php?id=19701 ) – “Le Secret”
Alcest make black metal so glacial that the guy behind it has named himself after snow. Neige has been perfecting the art of frozen, shoegazey black metal from his blot-hole in Avignon, France, for the better part of a decade. This title track from his 2007 two song EP is possibly his high water mark. Bleak, but strangely uplifting.

11. Allen Ginsberg – “Dope Fiend”
Everyone knows that Allen Ginsberg wrote Howl and was buddies with alchie-Jack and junkie-Bill but have you ever heard his blues jams? If you’ve ever read any of his stuff you won’t be too surprised by the tone or delivery. Whiged out rants and conjecture that manage to be simultaneously light-hearted and needlingly insightful. Other tracks from this mid-70’s album entitled First Blues include “You Are My Dildo”, “Vomit Express” and “CIA Dope Calypso”.

12. The Almighty Defenders (http://www.myspace.com/thealmightydefenders) – “All My Loving”
I am not entirely sure that this is out yet or that I should be putting it on here but never mind. I guess I am biased as I know all the people involved but what’s not to love? This is basically The Black Lips and King Khan & BBQ Show playing raucous Gospel-influence garage and rhythm and blues. Like I said: what’s not to love?

13. Amps For Christ (http://www.ampsforchrist.com/) – “Colours”
A reworking of the Appalachian traditional song “Black Is The Colour Of My True Love’s Hair” put through the frazzeled feedback of the Amps For Christ process. Amps For Christ is the solo-ish project of Henry Barnes whose home made speakers and amplification equipment gave Man Is The Bastard its unique range of sonic brutality. With Amps For Christ Barnes has turned his experience with amplitude towards softer frequencies which are closer to free folk than the powerviolence influenced noise of his previous work.

14. Angel Witch (http://www.myspace.com/youranangelwitch) – “Angel Of Death”
While nowhere near as well know as Iron Maiden’s 1980 self titled debut Angel Witch’s first record was also released that year and I’d take it any day of the week over Maiden’s initial effort. It contains all the elements that would go on to define the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (operatic vocals, dueling guitars and vaguely heathen and satanic imagery) but delivers them with a sense of commitment and intent that few other bands of the era can hold a candle to.

15. Angelo Badalamenti (http://www.angelobadalamenti.com/) – “Twin Peaks Theme”
I am not sure what I could possibly say about this that would add anything to just listening to it. So do that. And then maybe listen to Badalamenti talking about working with Lynch (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a_9D5PiOjog&feature=related).

16. Antioch Arrow (http://www.myspace.com/antiocharrow) - “Chaos Vs Cosmos”
For three years of my life I lived in Nottingham, a city that has a lot to be said for itself, not least, a hugely fertile music scene. When I first arrived in town there were a bunch of kids who dressed like they wanted to be in a San Diego screamo band. There was also a band around called The Murder Of Rosa Luxemburg (http://www.myspace.com/themurderofrosaluxemburg) who weren’t really from Nottingham but did actually sound a bit like a San Diego screamo band. They no longer exist but their singer Shaun plays in a band called Lovvers who don’t really sound anything like a San Diego screamo band. Whenever I remember those days I think of Antioch Arrow who were just about the best San Diego screamo band of all time. Apart from maybe Heroin.

17. Anton LaVey (http://www.churchofsatan.com/) – “Satan Takes A Holiday”
This was originally written by a guy called Larry Clinton in 1937 and was used as incidental music in spook shows and medicine shows. LaVey covered it on a 1995 album that bought together his lost recordings. Just in case you live in a monastery and don't know who Anton LaVey is: he's the founder of The Church Of Satan. I discovered this jaunty little instrumental gem on one of the Lux & Ivy’s Favourites compilations which are basically a bunch of mixtapes put together by Cramps fans containing songs that Lux and Ivy covered, played before or after they performed live, mentioned in interviews or the compiler just y’know, imagined they’d be into. They have a lot of great stuff on them and are well worth tracking down.

18. Aphex Twin (http://www.aphextwin.com/) – “Xtal”
While it may seem an obvious Richard D. James choice to go for something off of Selected Ambeint Works I can honestly say that no other single piece of music (aside from maybe “Papua New Guineau” by The Future Sound Of London) so accurately communicates the feeling of being on drugs as this track. If you have never taken drugs: don't bother. The day after sucks. This won't give you a comedown and leave you broke and crying on Monday at work. That said I find it hard to listen to this despite its overwhelming beauty because I literally feel my body semi-convulse with tidal waves of memory and borderline nauseau and bliss.

19. Arab Strap – “The First Big Weekend”
While the previous track may well sonically distill the experience of taking MDMA based substances this song lyrically encapsulates the entirety of a weekend bender so perfectly that much like “Xtal” I am always moved almost to feelings of great discomfort every time I hear it despite its incredible poignance. Its accuracy and economy are disarmingly powerful.

20. Archers Of Loaf (http://www.myspace.com/archersofloaf) – “Web In Front”
Fuck the Pavement reunion. Now THIS I would pay every penny I own to see live. Indie-rock perfection. There is an amazing acoustic version of this song on, the now sadly defunct, bands MySpace page.

21. Ash Ra Tempel (http://www.ashra.com/)– “Bring Me Up”
While Can, Faust, Amon Duul and Cluster often garner the lion’s share of Kraut credits I’d take Ash Ra in their various incarnations over all of them. Manuel Göttsching’s work is probably best realized on his infamous solo LP E2-E4 which many site as the bedrock of what would become techno but just about any piece he turned his hand to demonstrated sparks of wiley genius. This track is taken form Ash Ra’s fifth album proper, Starring Rossi, which was recorded in 1973. It was the first record with which the band abandoned the lengthy jams they’d become synonymous with for more focused song structure. The results were pretty great.

22. At The Gates – “Slaughter Of The Soul”
Most death metal tends to give me a headache and I have a head that enjoys most marginal music. It’s all too formulaic, jocky and macho. Sure Death, Repulsion Obituary and Suffication were great but post 1989-ish my interest wanes rapidly. However, there is something about At The Gates’ final LP that, despite every nerve and synapse telling me I should feel otherwise, I love. Sorry.

23. Antidote (http://homepages.nyu.edu/~cch223/usa/antidote_main.html) – “Real Deal”
Now, I dig the Cro-Mags as much as just about anyone but if I had to choose ONE NYHC record to take to Valhalla with me it would be a toss up between the Antidote and Urban Waste 7 inches. Both those records have it all. You can almost hear the Lower East Side barreling out of them. As a side note: this cut has Bloodclot on background gang vocals.

24. Autechre (http://www.myspace.com/myslb) – “Dael”
It would almost seem unfair doing a compilation of artists beginning with “A” and including Aphex and not Autechre. While they might not have plumbed the breadth and depth that James has managed in his output there is a lot to be said in the ability of Sean Booth and Rob Brown to put an album together. Tri Repetae might just be their magnum opus but it’s a difficult choice.

NME Radar Piece: Joy Orbison

A new generation of young, open-minded and musically informed producers and DJ’s including Brackles, Bok Bok and Pangea have been quietly breathing life into a dubstep scene stilted by generic, macho, mid-range basslines with more wobble than a bouncy castle for some time. Now these young whippersnappers who happily mix grime, 2-step, funky and techno without blinking have their own anthem. Joy Orbison’s “Hyph Mngo” has been universally praised, played and rewound within the scene since Hessle Audio lynchpin Ben UFO closed his Fabric Live mix with it. A perfect balance of joyous synths and warm, percussive sweeps; the track owes as much to deep house as UK garage. Joy is in fact a 22 year old from dubstep’s spiritual home of Croydon called Pete who as well as Todd Edwards lists G.G. Allin as a MySpace influence. “I was never a dubstep purist” he admits, “I’m a huge Theo Parrish fan and Carl Craig is a huge inspiration”. “Hyph Mngo” should be the sound of mine, yours and everyone else’s summer but the deafening buzz around the track remains fairly bewildering to its creator: “at the time I made it I was DJing a lot and I just wanted something to play, it was actually one of the first things I did”.

NME Radar Piece: Government Warning

Despite it’s indisputable influence on the first wave of American hardcore Richmond Virginia has a since cultivated a legacy of churning out stout necked, jockish death metal bands. And Alabama Thunderpussy. Along with a small cluster of acts affiliated with the No Way record label, including Wasted Time and Cloak/Dagger, Government Warning are determined to change all that. Taking cues from early 80’s acts and distilling the fury of early Poison Idea, the puerile sense of humour and balls out fun of The Adolescents and more than a dollop of the drink-and-drug-until-you-can’t-speak-no-more approach of legendry Budweiser sponsored good for nothings Gang Green (early anthem “Arrested” details vocalist Kenny’s desire not to end up back in the slammer). The band have rapidly become one of the most talked about acts on the DIY underground since releasing their first 7” in 2006. With a 15 song debut LP charmingly entitled Paranoid Mess currently available on La Vida Es En Mus and a live show that made this writers eyeballs bleed from it’s sheer speed and ferocity at their sole UK show on their recent European Tour you’d do well to catch them next time they make it over. If Kenny can keep out of trouble with boys in blue that is.

Vice v7n10 Record Reviews

Green Day

5 Having emerged from the crust-till-we-rot 924 Gillman Street scene and cut records for Lookout! these three cartoon characters have been working with diminishing returns since signing to Warner front Reprise. Can’t see another album in them past this middle of the road piece of junk unless that video for “Basket Case” that seems to be on MTV every three and half seconds really pulls them through.

Frank Edwin Wright III

Blink 182
Cheshire Cat
Cargo Music/Grilled Cheese

6 This just seems to be a bunch of tracks from last year’s Buddah which came out on Filter re-recorded and polished up. If you like your punk poppy and bright eyed then you could do worse. A little less maniacal then the Green Day record and equally destined to the ditch of obscurity amid the bones of a million other pop-punk bands before long.

Angelic Airwave


7 While it doesn’t have the spit and sawdust heaviness or riffing of Badmotorfinger this fourth go-around from the Seattle miserablists might just be the downer ode and coffin nail in the whole grunge things pallid casket.

Pat Lear

The Offspring

8 If I had to choose between this, the Green Day record and Blink182 it’d be this all the way. Sure it’s hardly re-inventing the Adolescents shaped wheel but it has all the stuff that will have you singing along in your headphones as you run home half cut kicking over rubbish bins and trying to waylay tomrrow’s hangover for as long as possible. Shame every cover they’ve done since the vinyl version of the first LP has sucks so bad though.


Current 93
Of Ruine Or Some Blazing Starre

10 Over ten years and at least thirty releases in and David Tibet shows no sign of giving up the avant-folk ghost just yet. Maybe he’ll be like one of those old pack horses that just drops dead one day from a life of sheer toil and exhaustion. Either way he’ll have left one of the most formidable gluts of unbridled creativity behind him, the like of which we’ll possibly never see again.

Menstruel Knight


9 And it all comes together for the Northen Irish guys who you always wanted to be amazing but never quite followed through. Well, here it is in all its harsh, stop-start glory. If this doesn’t make them superstars fuck only knows what will. Worth picking up for “Screamager” alone.

Billy Blands

Far Beyond Driven
East West

8 Did you ever see the original sleeve for this? Instead of the drill bit shattering a guys skull, like the one that you should already be holding in your hands if you have even a single iota of taste, the banned version had the drill whirring a hole in a guys ass. So much for capitalizing on the new found “commercial viability” that Vulgar Display Of Power had bought ‘em.

Ted Maul


8 While it remains thoroughly in the shadow of Spiderland it has more than enough confusing polyrhythmic flouncy bits to make it exciting in its own right. And it has a weird butterfly that looks like it’s going to be crystalised forever in amber on the cover.

Math Jock

Sunny Day Real Estate
Sub Pop

9 Unlike every other single thing that has come out on Sub Pop in the last five years this didn’t make me want to slit my wrists headbang alone in my bedroom. Instead it made me feel like running around outside and saying good morning to people and generally that everything is going to be a-ok. Thanks Sunny Day Real Estate.

Walter Rifles

Vice v7n9 Record Reviews

Paint Your Face
Perezcious Music

0 Frankmusic, Miley Cyrus, Rye Rye. With an endorsement track record like that how was the first record on Perez Hilton’s own label ever not going to be a stone cold classic? The fact that the record in question is made by a genderless gnome with less testicles than Mika who appears to have stolen Macy Gray’s wig should also come as no surprise.

Perry Nutkins

Where Were You When It Happened?
Drag City

7 Have you ever seen Monotonix play live? Imagine if Lightning Bolt and Hella got together to do a pub rock band. But way smellier. I swear my t-shirt still smells from the time someone pushed into the drummer guy. Do they not have showers in Tel Aviv or something?

Bruce Grobelar

Hudson Mohawke

3 How did a label that defined at least three different eras of British electronic music end up releasing so much spineless piffle? I blame guitars. Before Maximo Park and Pivot got signed a so so, middle of the road album like this shoe-in for creative agency waiting room muzak would never have cut the mustard at Warp HQ. And while I’m here: what is going on with the sleeve? It likes like a psychedelic Dairy Milk advert James Bond title montage. Phew the Warp 20th Anniversary box set just landed on my desk. It’s OK guys, all is forgiven. I love you again.

A Guy Called Arthur

In A Dark Tongue

8 Not quite as cast-in-stone-forevermore perfect as any Neurosis record you’d care to think of but Von Till could probably fart “The Star Spangle Banner” and I’d lap it up. You know big Steve is apparently an elementary school teacher when he isn’t making music? I’d cower behind my textbook for an hour if he were taking me for double maths. The guy basically looks like a cryogenically frozen Viking berzerker.

Alex Petri-Dish

Wojtek Godzisz
Wojtek Godzisz
Tigertrap Records

8 Gather round children. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. A long time ago in a place called the early 1990’s there was a band called Symposium. Looking back they weren’t particularly good but I would have fought you if you’d said anything different at the time. I wanted to get their logo tattooed on my wrist and the lyrics to their song “Fizzy” engraved on my headstone. In the decade and half since I have occasionally been fairly glad that neither of these things ever went past the point of vague fancy. However, I cannot quite convey how happy I was to get the debut solo album by Symposium’s bass player and general lynchpin through the letter box and be pleasantly surprised that he appears to have morphed into some kind of Moondog character and that the music that he has chosen to make since those heady days sucks in nowhere near the same galaxy of awfulness that Hell Is For fucking Heroes find themselves in. In fact it’s really rather good and bizarrely has Alexis from Hot Chip on it.

Average Man

Black Boned Angel
Riot Season

9 If you like things that sound like Corrupted, Asunder or the universe being chained to a medieval rack and tortured into nothingness then this might just be for you. I am guessing that the title refers to the First World War battle. It would certainly have made a chillingly accurate soundtrack to those hellish nine months.

Birchville Brat Motel

Shit & Shine
229 2299 Girls Against Shit
Riot Season

9 Wow. Shit and Shine still sound like they are playing their cacophonous racket through equipment that might have broken at some point in the late 1980’s by bludgeoning sound out of it through sheer being really angry all the time-ness and, as ever it couldn’t sound better than just about anything else I’ve heard this month. Or year.

Circle Jams

Hey Friend! What You Doing?
De Stijl

8 If you’d have told me when we ran a piece on Pens a while back that a year later they would have an actual record out on De Stijl then I am not sure what I would have done. Not believing you would probably have been involved at some point though. Well stone me and my lack of belief because here is just that and these 14 tracks sounds just as fresh and chaotically cathartic as the band did the first time I heard them. Except I think they have learned how to play their instruments just a teensy weensy bit.

Jammin' Johnson

Vice Interview: Michael Winner

Here is another one for Vice v7n9, The Film Issue. It was fun.

Making A Statement Regardless

Michael Winner On Working With Brando & Directing The Most Authentic Western Ever Made

Michael Winner. “Calm down dear” and fights with Gordon Ramsay about whether his opinion is worth a dime when it comes to food or not. That’s it right? Hmm, not quite.

If you are anyone who knows anything about film then you will know that Winner lays easy claim to being one of the most successful British directors of his or any generation.

Name another Brit film maker who cut pictures with Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, Robert Duvall, Robert Mitchum and Sophia Loren. Struggling? Try adding to that the fact he basically created the careers of Ollie Reed and Charles Bronson for good measure. Now whose side are you lining up on when it comes to Winner vs acne chin sweary guy?

Having defined 1960’s ‘swinging London’ with films like Play It Cool, West 11, The Jokers and I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname which invariably featured Reed and more than a little more swearing and nudity than the BBFC were happy with he casually took on Hollywood directing everything from western’s (Lawman), to crime (Big Sleep), to hitman thrillers (The Mechanic) and Horror (The Sentinel).

The defining moment of Winner’s busy Hollywood period came in 1974 when he let Bronson loose on the streets of New York to avenge the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter with indiscriminate anger and a really big gun to the tune of a Herbie Hancock soundtrack in Death Wish. While the concept of a normal guy getting mad and getting even has formed the template for a million movies since no one had done until Winner and no one has done it as brutally and stylishly since.

After keeping Vice waiting for fifteen minutes in a sitting room whose walls couldn’t breathe for memorabilia from a lifetime spent in film and well wishing notes penned by everyone from Brando to Burt Lancaster Winner sailed into the room spewing greetings, good will and orders to our photographer not to shoot him below his eyeline or else. Apparently Orson Welles once told him that it wasn’t a good look.

As well as being inhumanly tanned and in worryingly good shape for a 74 year old he also really fucking likes saying “fucking” all the fucking time. It’s kind of fucking contagious. Ramsay wouldn’t even triumph on the swearing front.

Vice: Doesn’t Jimmy Page live next door? How did you end up becoming neighbours?
Michael Winner: I’ve lived in this area for years but Jimmy and I became very close when he did the music for Death Wish 2. We got on as soon as I met because I adored him straight away. He was well into his druggy period when he did that first score for me but he did it wonderfully well. He said he wouldn’t have anyone near him while he was composing the music. He’d never done music for film before and we wanted to be sure it would synch properly because in film the music has to fit with the image to within a 24th of a second. Jimmy told us that he wouldn’t send us anything until it was finished and no one could go and see him. It was done at his studio in Cookham that Chris Rea ended up buying off him and turning it into a house. Shame. Anyway, the music is the last thing you stick on the film so we were all a bit nervous when it came in. I always edited all of my films myself and I remember running it through the machine so clearly. I’ll never forget that as I put my foot on the pedal to start the film the music and the picture moved together perfectly. It was unbelieveable. Everything fitted to the 24th of a second.

As well as Jimmy you’ve had more than a few A-List wining and dining buddies. Any favourites?
As a dinner companion or a gossip on the phone Marlon (Brando) was the nicest, loosest, least competitive person you could meet. You actually felt like he was your buddy. Burt (Lancaster) I adored but he had an edge to him. He’d occasionally turn a bit sarcastic, a classic Scorpio. Of the women I worked with, Sophia (Loren) was the best. The most proffesional and witty. She appears quite haughty but she’s not once you get through to her. Ollie (Reed) was a dear friend. When I first met him he would drink every day in this pub in Soho and he’d written this story about a man who carried his house on his back up a hill that he wanted to make into a movie. The Ollie I remember was an artist.

From the nudism in Some Like It Cool to the raunchy sex in Dirty Weekend and the sado-masochistic elements of Nightcomers your early workshocked and surprised its way through the 60s. Did you purposefully intend to push the BBFC’s buttons?
Nightcomers was pretty tricky for its day but it passed uncut in theatres. The video was cut though and the same happened with Dirty Weekend which wasn’t actually banned, just censored. You do your best to get stuff out there and you just have to work thinking “if I have trouble with the censor, I’ll deal with it when it happens”. I hit trouble many times and largely dealt with it. The censors were largely idiots, one of them was actually at Cambridge with me and he was a fucking idiot then and he was a fucking idiot as a censor. They all tended to be failed directors who suddenly find they have power over every director in the world and they misuse it.

As well as starring Orson Welles didn’t I’ll Never Forget What’s’isname also feature the first recorded use of the word “fuck” on film?
I’m not sure about that but we ran in to hot water over because of a scene between Ollie (Reed) and Carol White’s character where cunnilingus was implied. You couldn’t see anything though so I don’t know what the big hoo ha was about.

How did you make the transition from doing tose Swinging London type pictures to making movies in Hollywood?
I went over and did Lawman and suddenly I was very hot with United Artists, they loved me. Basically, with cinema if you’ve got the star you can film the menu of the Woolsey. We had Burt [Lancaster] and it was having him that really got the film going. Duvall was in it too but he was nothing at the time. Burt and I met and got along immediately but we would always argue. He threatened to kill me twice actually when he got in a temper. He dragged me up by the pelvis screaming “you cock-sucking areshole British piece of shit”, the lot. Fuck me. But he remained a dear friend and he was a wonderful man so who cares if he tried to kill me a couple of times? We did two films together and that’s really how I got into westerns and that Hollywood system. I’d never even done a western before but I got very serious about it. I had American professors come up and look at locations and I wanted to get the details correct. I asked what they usually used for oil lamps and they said that they just used new ones and threw some dust on them. I told them that was ridiculous and that they could get authentic period oil lamps for twenty quid on the Portabello Road. So the crew were all coming over from England with these things crammed in their luggage. It was the most authentic western ever made. Everything was real. We sold the set to John Wayne who was coming in and doing another movie on the set after us.

Did you ever meet Wayne?
Very briefly. I was staying in his house while we shot Lawman and I remember he was worried about the amount of raccoons there were on his land.

In 1972 you made three major motion pictures in a year. Now it takes Tarantino about a decade to do one.
It was a different world back then. We shot Nightcomers with Brando and after eight weeks we were already on to Chatto’s Land with Charlie (Bronson). Now they want twenty re-writes on every script they see but back then it was all these Jews from Russia and all they wanted was a handshake. The studios were one man and it would all happen just like that. It took me three months to get a two page deal memo out of ITV for a fucking afternoon TV show that I am working on now and it worked out as less money that a fucking Pimlico Plumber gets on a Saturday afternoon call out per hour. In Hollywood before there were fucking faxes and emails you could do a deal memo for an $11m movie in four fucking hours. Fucking unbelievable today. Plus everything is done with computers now.

Have you worked much with modern technology?
With who?

You know, computers and stuff.
Not really. There was a 70’s film festival in New York not long ago and they showed Stone Killer which got great reviews at the time. In a film like that if a car came out of a seventh story window there would be a man in it and after you yelled “cut!” everyone would rush over to see if he was alive. Or at least how badly hurt he was.

You did a run of movies throughout the 70s with Charles Bronson. How did you two first meet?
One of the great loves of my life was Jill Ireland. She told me she wanted to get married at 21 but I told her I couldn’t marry her as I was penniless so she went of and married David McCallum. She then got together with Charlie (Bronson) and when I first went to meet him before Chatto’s Land at the George V Hotel she was there and as I turned up shouted to Charlie: “Charles, it’s my old friend Michael from London” before turning to me and saying: “I’ve told Charlie all about us”. “Fuck me” I thought, “this isn’t good” but we ended up getting on very well. Much later Jill told me that she had told him that we were friends but not what had really been going on and that I mustn’t tell him. “Tell him?” I said, “the only question if he found out would be who he killed first, you or me”.

Wowsers, I wouldn’t want Charles Bronson coming after me. How did Death Wish end up coming together?
Death Wish started life as a novella by Brian Garfield that had sold about three copies to the writers family. That film is now lectured on in American universities. It was the first film in the history of the world where a civilian was the hero of the movie and killed other civilians. There have been 700 of them since. The most copied film of all time. Nobody wanted to make it and they thought I was mad, “you can’t make a film where the hero kills other people” they’d say. Well, the people he kills are nasty people, you shouldn’t like them. Anyway, I had it for about two years and they finally gave me a free ride on it. They said that of they got their money back on the script I could produce and direct it. I remember proposing it to Charlie after we’d shot Stone Killer in the back of a limousine at LAX. Charlie said to me: “Michael what shall we make next?” I said “well, the best script I have is Death Wish, it’s about a man whose wife and daughter get mugged so he goes out and gets revenge by shooting the muggers”. He turned to me and said: “I would like to do that”, to which I replied “make Death Wish? Great!” and he just said: “No. I would like to shoot muggers”.

Compared to the Daily Mail whining that you’re early British films had suffered Death Wish faced something like full-blown outrage.
They kept calling it a vicarious pleasure and I can tell you this: whenever Charlie killed anyone the whole theatre would burst into applause. London didn’t even have mugging then in the way it does now! Eleven years later someone shot a mugger in a subway in New York and it was blamed on Death Wish. If he learned that from Death Wish he was a fucking slow learner. When we made Death Wish most of the muggings in New York were committed by blacks and Hispanics because at that point they were the deprived people. The studio were nervous about how we were going to portray these muggers and they told us that we had to very careful with how we cast them. So we had mugging auditions. We bought boys in in groups of five to rape a chair and believe me: you learned something. How loose people could be, how inventive they could be, they were very interesting auditions. The chief mugger ended up being a jew and being a jew myself I knew that the jews would never complain. It turned out that this unknown jewish mugger was Jeff Goldblum. No one had a clue who he was then but he was great and he ended up doing my next film The Sentinel which also had Christopher Walken in it.

There’s big talk of a re-make of the original Death Wish, who would you like to see picking up Charlie’s Magnum?
Leo di Caprio could do it. Daniel Day-Lewis would be great at it if he shut up for five minutes.

Out of all of your movies I reckon your re-make of The Big Sleep was the most underrated. Who did that nuts soundtrack?
Jerry Fielding. He was a fucking genius. He was an American composer who did a lot of work with Clint Eastwood and even did the soundtrack to The Wild Bunch. He used to say to me: “the trouble with you Michael is that you know fuck all about dubbing sound in movies, you know nothing about it, one day I’ll teach you about dubbing”, but he was so lovely that you didn’t care. He did about five of my movies but sadly he died young because he was savaged by the Un-American Activities Committee. They decided he was a communist and he ended up conducting a pit orchestra in Las Vegas and somehow they found out about that too, picketed the hotel and he was fired from that as well. It damaged the immune systems of a lot of people that persecution and took them young. Look at Lee J. Cobb.

Having worked with some of the biggest names in modern Hollywood history is there anyone that you didn’t get the chance to work with who you feel you missed out on?
I’d have loved to have worked with Edward G Robinson. Of the newer people of course Hoffman, De Niro and Pacino. I also think that Renee Zewelleger is a wonderful actress. Very versatile. I also managed to turned down King Kong, James Bond, The French Connection and The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. Four of my many errors in life but it goes on.

You’ve directed everything from horror to crime to westerns and romances. Is there anything you’d say holds that all over the place body of work together?
Nearly all the films are about somebody who wants to make a statement or do something different. I don’t know if that reflects something in me but it seems to resonate with most people. Bronson’s character in Death Wish wanted to do something so he shot muggers. Ollie Reed’s character in The Jokers wanted to do something so he robbed the crown jewels. They are about people who want to get outside of society and make a statement regardless. They want to be seen and they want to know that they made a mark even if it’s not a gentle mark.

Having left a pretty big mark yourself why did you decline your OBE in 2006?
First of all, I did not create the Police Memorial Trust get a Knighthood so it seemed a load of bollocks. I worked for twenty years on it with my own money and managed to get up the first memorial on The Mall in over 100 years. I couldn’t give a shit about a CBE or a Knighthood so I just thought stuff it. If you look at the people who have turned down honours it makes for a wonderful list. I now put on my notepaper “Michael Winner, MA CAM OBE (but rejected)”. Fuck ‘em.

What are the chances of seeing “Michael Winner” on the credits of a film again and not on an E-Sure ad?
The truth is very simple, It applies to me as it does to everyone else. They are not lining up to employ directors in their 70’s. I get calls from John Boorman and Nicholas Roeg and none of them can get anything going. That is the nature of life and the spotlight of showbusiness. It shines upon you and then moves on to somebody else. Luckily I’ve managed to somehow become this half assed food critic who knows nothing about food and I have a few TV projects on the go so at least I’ve got that. Some of the greats of that period have got nothing.

Vice Feature: Play For Today

This probably the single article that I am happiest with having written. It made me feel like a real journalist kind of. It was for Vice v7n9, The Film Issue.

Break Down The Walls!

How Play for Today Changed British Screens For Ever And Ever

TV movies suck, right? Well, if you were watching TV in Britain in the 1960s the opposite couldn’t have been more true. Play for Today was a series of one-off dramas that dragged television kicking and screaming into uncharted cinematic territory via the emerging use of 16mm on-location filming and a rejection of the limits of a studio system that remained mainstream television’s status quo.

The series acted as a blooding ground for a generation of British directors who went on to define English cinema. Mike Leigh, Alan Clarke, Stephen Frears, Ken Loach, Stephen Poliakoff, they all cut their teeth on Play for Today.

However, it was not just the quality of production or standard of direction that the series is best remembered for. The Wednesday Play as it began and Play for Today as it became consistently dealt with controversial contemporary issues with an unprecedented degree of social realism. A degree that was occasionally too much for Auntie.

Alan Clarke’s Scum and Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle were mired in controversy before being banned prior to transmission for their hyper-real depiction of the brutality of the borstal system, and, er, showing the devil raping a disabled, comatose girl back to consciousness, respectively. The show constantly fought a running battle between reflecting the social freedom and reality of the 1960’s tempered by the occasionally reactionary nature of the institution they were operating within.

The social and cultural concerns and tone of the series were defined by its great producers; Tony Garnett, Kenith Trodd and Margaret Matheson hold unassailable places in the pantheon of British screen greatness. It was their determination and uncompromising output that saw Play for Today regularly average audiences of 12 to 13 million viewers, i.e. a quarter of the UK population. When Ken Loach’s brutally moving Cathy Come Home was beamed into that many homes in 1969, it immediately caused debate on public housing in the House of Commons, and the housing charity Shelter was founded days later. It is hard to imagine Snakes on a Plane causing a public outcry for serpent traps to be installed as standard on 747s.

Play for Today revolutionised the possibilities of drama and how it could exist in the spaces between stage, cinema and television, as well as establishing a legacy of talent and crusading spirit that lives on in flashes even in today’s climate of vapid, apathetic cinematic consumption. Tony Garnett, ever the rebel, recently accidentally/on purpose leaked an email that attacked the current state of the BBC and offered reformative measures that you would do well to read. It found its way onto the Guardian’s website so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.
While many of those involved in the series have sadly passed away, we managed to catch up with a few of the men and women who created Play for Today’s lasting blow to the senses.

Ray Winstone

Ray Winstone was 19 when he played Carlin in Scum, one of only two episodes of Play For Today to actually be banned by the BBC. Scum was directed by Alan Clarke, written by Roy Minton and dealt with the brutality and systematic abuse of young inmates within the British borstal system during the 1970’s. The film takes in male rape, countless brawls, gay relations between the all male borstal population and a couple of suicides for good measure. The film had public morality serial soapboxer Mary Whitehouse crapping chickens and the borstal system itself was reformed not long after its release. Ray went on to work with Scorcese, Speilberg, Leonardo di Caprio and Jack Nicholson. Not bad for a kid from Paistow who got kicked out of drama school huh?

Vice: Had you done much acting prior to your role as Carlin in the Play for Today version of Scum?
Ray Winstone: No, not really. I’d done one or two things the year before—an episode of The Sweeny and a few other bits—but Scum was my breakthrough. The movie industry in Britain at the time was just collapsing in on itself. They were totally failing to build a box office but what they were doing at the BBC then was good stuff and feel lucky to have been a part of it.

Carlin maintains a strong sense of what’s fair and what’s not that ends up getting him in trouble. That sounds a little like the tale of what you went through at drama school. Is there truth behind the story of you getting kicked out?
Yeah. I wasn’t invited to the Christmas party and I got the hump. I was always thought of as a bit of a threat to the other kids. Not physically but in the way that I spoke. In that profession at that time they still weren’t used to working class kids and I think the powers that be thought they might all start talking like me. I guess I was the black sheep of the school all the way through, then I didn’t get invited to this stupid party so I sabotaged the wheels on the gaffer’s car. It was a stupid thing to do but I thought I wasn’t being treated right, and then someone grassed me up and that was it. I was gone.

How was going from being thrown out of drama school to working with Alan Clarke?
That was my teaching right there. I learnt a hell of a lot from Alan. I didn’t realise it at the time—it takes until you’re older for you to begin to work out what you can use from what you learned back then. He was great. He just showed me around the place and introduced me to the other actors. He placed a lot of faith in me and I appreciated it. I’m sure there are other people like him around, but I feel lucky to have worked with him. He was something special.

While you were shooting Scum did you feel like you were making something that would be banned, have Mary Whitehouse up in arms, see the country drawing up sides and, finally, cause serious questioning of the borstal system?
I didn’t really have a clue what we’d done, to be honest. I think the first time that it really dawned on me was when I came back from my honeymoon and came straight to the premiere of the film version in Leicester Square, at the Prince Charles Theatre. The original had been banned and never shown so despite all the chatter about it, it was only then that it all hit home. I thought it was a bit of a fucking liberty that the original got banned. At the time we were doing Scum the BBC was also making Law and Order. They were both about institutions, and in their way critical of the government. It felt like they couldn’t throw both of them out, so they tossed Scum out and Law and Order went through. It just goes to show that the government did have a certain amount of control over the BBC and over the media.

Did you have any actual run-ins with Whitehouse yourself?
I tell you what, she done me a right favour because, by banning the TV version, people wanted to see it and so when we made the film it was a smash. Really that was down to Mary Whitehouse, I’ve got to hand it all to her.

Do you feel like there is anything being made today that compares to Play for Today in terms of portraying that level of social realism they achieved in films like Scum?
That was when the BBC was still teaching people, you know? There were just great writers, directors, producers and technicians working on that stuff. Plus, it was a time when the lower classes came out into that world. You’re talking about people like Mike Leigh, [Tony] Garnett, Dennis Potter, who could talk about that stuff genuinely and you were always working and always learning from people like that. I’m not sure that’s there now.

Carlin kind of set the mould for a lot of characters that you’ve ended up playing since. Do you ever get bored of plying the hard nut with a heart?
Well I’ve played all sorts, I really enjoyed playing Henry VIII but I guess he’s the biggest gangster of all eh? I’m not gonna sit here and moan. I’ve had some pretty alright opportunities.

Did you ever imagine when you were playing Carlin that you’d end up working with Scorsese, Spielberg, Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford?
Of course not. It was terrific working on all that stuff. You had to pinch yourself every morning, you know? I think what makes Scorsese a great director, is that he makes you feel like you’re making the film with him, instead of making a film for him. Everyone gets a chance to bring something to the table so you feel like you’re in the process of making a film, and everyone’s part of that process. I think that’s the way it should be. It’s nothing new, but there are a lot of directors out there who make a film their way, and you end up feeling like you don’t even want to fucking be there. Jack was a bit of a weird one at the start. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot but we didn’t really get on at the beginning then after spending a lot of time working together we began to hit it off and now we’re ok. It’s not like I go out for a drink with the guy but he ain’t and arsehole either. I got a lot of respect for him. Harrison though, he’s a geezer through and through.

What about the English actors that you came up with? People like Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. Did you ever feel like you were a little gang who came out of the Play For Today era drama to take on Hollywood?
I guess we were all working at that same time but I didn’t know Gary until I worked with him on Nil By Mouth. I’d met him at Alan Clark’s funeral, but I didn’t know him properly until we worked together. The same with Tim. I didn’t know him until I worked with on The War Zone. Sometimes I think I end up nestled in the palm of that arty farty film thing that they are quite at home in. I’m an actor, but some people probably think that’s a rather flattering term for what I do. Gary and Tim though, and I’m great mates with both of them now so I can say this, have probably always wanted to be a part of that from the start. They’ve always surrounded themselves with those kind of people. We’re mates now, but I suppose I never thought that we would be.

What else are you working on now? How about an Eddie Murphy style flick where you play all of your psychotic past roles trapped in some alternate dimension and have to battle for survival?
At the moment, actually, I’m doing a lot to raise awareness for the Sam Hallam case. Sam was from Hoxton, which is an area my family have always had ties to. I heard about it through my nephew, who knew Sam. Then Sam’s family approached me about getting involved. Every ex-con or ex-villain you meet will tell you that they’re innocent. Everyone’s got a story, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this so I kind of got hooked on it. I’ve seen the evidence, spoken to people in the area, spoken to people who were there that night, looked at the CCTV monitors and everything points to the fact that he wasn’t there. He was a kid who’d never been in trouble in his life. The report of the girlfriend of the young man who was murdered was blatantly just pointing the finger, and has been retracted since, and there’s still a boy doing life in prison. So two families end up suffering here—the family of the kid who was murdered, as the right kid hasn’t been charged, and the family of Sam Hallam. It’s incredible that the police seem to know that he’s not guilty, and yet they followed it through. The law knows he’s not guilty, and yet the boy is still in prison and nothing seems to be being done about it, you know?

Tony Garnett

Caption: Here are Sean King as Sean, Ray Brooks as Reg, Stephen King as Stephen and Carol White as Cathy in the landmark production of Cathy Come Home, which was broadcast in 1969.

Tony Garnett redefined the margins between drama, television and cinema with his use of 16mm on location shooting and unswerving adherence to capturing the everyday realistically through his work on Play For Today and his partenrship with Ken Loach. His 1969 Play For Today drama Cathy Come Home achieved what few other things that came out of a TV screen ever have: making people sit up, put down the remote and act.

Vice: You came to producing from an acting background, but weren’t you also studying psychology at UCL while treading the boards?
Tony Garnett: Well, that’s a grand word for what I was up to. After school, I ran away and acted in the theatre for a couple of years, and got turned down for national service because I had a weak right eye. I won a state scholarship which was worth over £300 a year, which in 1957 was a fortune. However, I realised that unless I went to university I wouldn’t be able to pick it up. So I decided to come to London, where all the action was, and applied to the psychology department at UCL so that I could pick up my grant. I wasn’t really in the college much, as I was acting. On one of my rare visits to the psychology department, my tutor stopped me and said, “I saw you on television last night. It’d be so nice to see you in a seminar occasionally.”

How did you make the transition from prancing around in front of the camera to making decisions behind it?
I grew bored of the passivity of acting. Only a handful of actors can ever decide what gets made and I was never going to be one of them. I was asked by Roger Smith to join him on what was to become The Wednesday Play. Fuck knows what they saw in me but I threw myself into the work, initially as a script editor, and one thing led to another. We spent a year developing the shows, and then put out 35 original, full-length features in a year.

That is some work rate.
It was exhilarating but extremely hard work, particularly because Roger and I were also finding new writers. Our policy was to look for people who had something to say, and then help them say it. We’d just go anywhere and do anything, talk to anybody and cast our nets around for the material. We wanted people who would write about what they cared and knew about.

With a background in theatre, what was it that made you so adamant to escape the confines of the studio and become so puritanical about ensuring the filmic nature of Play for Today?
At that point, TV drama was an abortion, it was ridiculous, it had one parent in the cinema, another parent in the theatre, and all the disadvantages of both. My first aim in working in television drama was to abolish it. We wanted to be out in the world, both for aesthetic and political reasons. The 16mm camera was coming into use, which meant that we could get out there, shoot very effectively and quickly, and represent things as they were, rather than mess about in a studio making a load of phoney drama. I didn’t like television drama. I wanted to get rid of it.

That ability to reflect contemporary reality so vividly was probably Play for Today’s most resonant suit. Was it something you were conscious of at the time?
I, and I don’t think any of us, thought of the future. We were living in the present and making the work for the moment, hoping to have an impact on the consciousness of people at that time. What I wanted to do was be a part of making things that reflected life around me. Also, we actually wanted to work on television. We had none of that cinema snobbery. It was almost impossible to get films made consistently in the UK at that time and most working people were sat in front of the television, so that’s where we wanted to be. It was very exciting to produce a drama and have 12 or 13 million people watch it all on the same occasion and then talk about it the next day. We were also determined that working class people should be represented on the screen in a realistic and dignified way, which they had not been up until then. They had been acted in a patronising way by middle-class actors and written from the point of view of the posh. We were going to do something about it. And I think we did for some time. With the arrogance of youth, I thought I could make a film and change the world.

If not the world, then Cathy Come Home certainly had an effect on the public consciousness in England.
It didn’t change much of the reality though, did it? Look around you. You see more people with housing problems now than there were then. The only positive result was that the people who made it have very nice places to live now. Really, all the films do is resonate and affect people’s way of looking at things. They don’t change anything directly, that’s not their function. It reflected who we were at the time, but I think Ken and I would say now that it’s a bit soft and liberal. If we made it again with the politics we have now, it would be much tougher.

Is it true there was a degree of improvisation on Cathy Come Home?
Some, but it was just well scripted and well acted. What Ken and I hated was what we called writing-writing and acting-acting. Writing that sounds written and acting that you can tell is being acted. With some actors you see the cogs turning and other actors you can’t, they are in the moment. You’re not watching the actor, you’re watching the person. The same goes for the writing. That’s the difference and that is what we were after.

Was it inevitable that you and Loach ended up making a film like Kes together?
Ken and I were working together throughout the Play for Today period and he was directing a lot of those shows. We became mates and it became quite clear that our thinking was very close. The overlap just evolved, I had an ally and together we fought the battle. Kes was just the most wonderful demonstration of what was going on in the country at the time. Just systematically throwing away a good proportion of each generation. It came from a wonderful story by Barry Hines and strangely Ken wasn’t originally going to direct it. When he stepped in though it all fell together.

What moved you to publicly criticise the current state of BBC drama?
I felt bad for all the generations coming through, and angry at the BBC—which lives off creativity—organising itself in a way that stymies it. The traffic of the energy needs to be coming up from the writer, through everyone including the organisation, rather than down through the swamp of management. Back when we were working on Play For Today you had an organisition thin on numbers and high on creativity. Now you have system fat on numbers and very thin on creative output. The BBC has to make a decision. Does it want the safety of creative death or whether it wants to be alive and vital.

Kenith Trodd

Caption: This is Michelle Newell playing Patricia Bates in Dennis Potter’s Brimstone and Treacle from 1976. After being left comatose in a hit-and-run accident, Newell’s character remains this way until she is raped by the devil, played by Michael Kitchen, and then miraculously regains consciousness. The original transmission was banned and not shown until 1987. Sting played the devil character in the 1982 remake. True story.

Kenith Trodd is one of the few British producers that people who know more about cinema than you mention in the same breath as the great directors and screenwriters of the last four decades. The son of a crane driver, he graduated from Oxford and went on to define British drama as part of the original team behind Play For Today and through his ongoing relationship with the gifted but troubled Denis Potter.

Vice: How did you find yourself entering the world of making films of plays on television?
Kenith Trodd: Through a back door. After Oxford, I started an academic career initially in West Africa and was about to take a junior lectureship at Sussex University when Roger Smith, who was gearing up The Wednesday Play slot at the BBC, asked me to join him. “I can’t stand the fuckers I’m working with,” he told me. The big Oxford literary honcho who was endorsing me for the job at Sussex said I’d embarrass him if I turned it down but boats are sometimes for the burning and I went off to a small office cell at TV Centre.

What was the climate like at the BBC when you began work at The Wednesday Play?
There was a real feeling almost immediately that the likes of myself, Smith and Garnett were the young Turks who were, in a way, taking over the place, and I’m sure being obnoxious to those around us. However, the climate was one of such expansiveness and freedom that you did whatever you could when you could. The head of drama was Sydney Newman, a Canadian who looked like Stalin and his mission was to sweep away the fustiness of the output and swing it lustily into the 60s. The television service was only a couple of decades old and there was a sense of openness, almost as if we’d been handed a box of matches and we could start a fire if we wanted to. Providing we did not burn the whole building down, we could then do it again. But, not to be too nostalgic, it also felt embattled and not completely unfettered.

In what sense?
On my very first week on The Wednesday Play, we were told on the very day of transmission that they were banning Potter’s Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton. Myself, Garnett, Roger Smith and Potter were ushered into Newman’s huge office. He knew that potentially, and particularly in Potter’s case, he had a situation on his hands and that we could become a liability. So he resolved to keep us talking and basically get us drunk. The scotch came out and, after an hour or so of him reassuring us that it was not always going to be like this and that he would fight for us, Dennis managed to lure the two of us up to my office where he called every newspaper he could so as to get his version of events out there first. When I eventually returned to Sydney’s office he was winding up his comforting schmooze with a sharp hint of a real dialectic: “ everything will be fine but whatever you do fellas don’t trust me.” So it was a rather complex environment. There were certainly limits and we were trying constantly to push them. The limits were sometimes sexual, and sometimes arbitrary, but mostly they were political.

How about the other cases of censorship? Brimstone and Treacle springs to mind.
At times it was ridiculous and focused on language. I remember that they made us alter a line in Leeds United from: “You can’t ride two horses with one arse” to “You can’t ride two horses with one nose,” which doesn’t even make sense out of a fairly innocuous line. I remember bartering for how many “bloodys” I could have but with Brimstone and Treacle the attack was wholesale. The tale involved a disabled girl, looked after by her devoted parents, who had been left a vegetable after an accident being raped back to life by the devil, who cons his way into the family home. I thought Brimstone and Treacle was a brilliant multi-edged moral comedy. It was innocuous compared to Double Dare, another Potter we did at the same time, but Brimstone and Treacle hit the unfunny bone of the director of television, Alasdair Milne, who was a fairly straight-laced Scot and who told me that he found the piece “diabolical”. How he did not see the verbal connection there I don’t know.

Play for Today’s consistent ability to reflect, comment and influence contemporary society certainly seems retrospectively pretty remarkable.
We did tend to focus on stuff that was radical in tone and there certainly was quite a lot of that motivation in some of the things we did, and, looking back, a lot of the work that stands out is from that tradition. There is no doubt that there was certainly a coupled drive towards portraying issues we felt were important as opposed to “anyone for tennis?” dramas, and doing so on film with cinematic rather than verbal priorities. It still remained well into the 80s a writer’s medium and I worked regularly with many who were not ideologues and who embraced television as their utterly preferred medium—Simon Gray, Stephen Poliakoff, Colin Welland, G.F. Newman and William Trevor among them. The better directors, of course, longed to be big screen filmmakers, and Pat O’Connor, Roland Joffe, Ken Loach, Roy Battersby and Jon Amiel graduated to high-profile movie careers. But in the 80s especially, when there were bleak times for “real” British films, we were able to have it both ways and thrive on our smug aphorism: “The British film industry is alive and well and living in television”.

How would you compare the British TV climate as it was when the Play for Today brand thrived and how it feels now?
Then, expansive and confident. Now, retracting and desperate. Then, the producer was key and king. Now, producers are minor functionaries way down the power and decision-making chain. Then, the press was already prurient and mischievous, but basically supportive. Now, it’s more of a bitch engendered out of its own uncertainties and an enemy of creative promise. Then, television was a duopolistic consensus and TV institutions were actually more secure than their political masters. Now, the politicians would probably have to intervene either to prop up the old institutions legislatively or allow them to cripple. Then, four channels. Now, the number is uncountable. Then, Whitehouse. Now, Murdoch. Then, Dennis Potter. Now, profit. Then, the audience. Now, the consumer. Then, the VHS was the only alternative platform. Now, there is the internet. Once we had to satisfy at least one of three juries: the management floor at the BBC, the viewer, and the press. These were hardly strenuous commercial criteria but meeting one of them usually allowed you to try again, as the competition between channels became more intense the climate grew more commercially preoccupied. In the early 80s I remember Potter saying to me, “Everything is now for sale.” In the early 90s he was calling his cancer Rupert.

Margaret Matheson

Caption: Here are Joolia Cappleman, Sam Kelly, and Richard Kane in Mike Leigh’s Who’s Who from 1979. The play satirised contemporary class attitudes and snobbery. All fair game for Play for Today.

Margaret Matheson’s brief but highly regarded period as producer on Play For Today not only saw her defining a role that few women had previously tussled with but serving up perhaps the most controversial work of the entire series in Scum.

Vice: You were a victim of censorship, particularly with Scum. Did it feel during the later period that you were involved with Play For Today that things were less free?
Margaret Matheson: There was a checks and balances arrangement whereby the heads of department would know what you were up to and stop it if they didn’t like it so you weren’t given total freedom, but it was very close to that. The overall head of drama at that point was a naval chap called Shaun Sutton who was baffled by the whole Scum ordeal. I remember bumping into him in a corridor after we’d shown it to the press and he was under the impression that Alan [Clarke] and Roy [Minton] had somehow managed to make it behind my back. He couldn’t conceive that a girl would have had any part in it.

Did you face opposition being a woman in what was, essentially, a big old boys’ club?
There had been women ahead of me, particularly Irene Shubik, who had co-produced The Wednesday Play and the early period of Play for Today. She was a very strong, powerful woman getting her work done. If anything, being a female producer worked to my advantage in the sense that I could get away with more. During my stint, Stephen Gilbert was sacked for work relating to Solid Geometry and there was never any possibility of me getting sacked over Scum.

How did Scum not get called up at any point in the checks and balances process?
The trouble did not begin until we’d finished. Everything had gone flying through. Alan came into my office on my first day and I think it was the first script I read as a producer on Play for Today. He was very keen to make it. We didn’t just want to do it to cause trouble, it was a great script and if you are working on Play for Today you want to be making something that is relevant and something that is going to be striking. We are talking about an era where TV was watched and had an effect on the cultural climate. I certainly aspired to influence public in opinion in the way Tony had with Cathy Come Home. That seemed to be me to be a very just pursuit.

So when did the trouble start?
Back then they had very long deadlines for The Radio Times, and it was in the listings when the channel controller, and ultimately the director of television, intervened. I knew that the research had been very thorough before the writing. We knew what we were talking about and as part of the production process there had been a lot of authentication to ensure that we were doing it right. Jimmy Cellan-Jones, who was head of plays, was a great supporter, but once it caught the eye of those at the highest levels that was it.

What was their problem? The suicides? The beatings? The brutality? Ray’s Winstone’s accent?
As well as the feeling that it was unrealistic, that so many things happened in such a short space of time the executives thought that the audience would be confused as to whether it was drama or documentary due to the level of authenticity. We all thought that it was perfectly clear that it was a drama and very much a play for today, in that Ken Loach tradition. With the time pressure on the BBC from having the listing in the Radio Times there was still hope that it would be shown, so we agreed to some edits.

What did you have to cut?
We took out the moment of impact when Carlin swings the sock with the snooker ball, as well as the second suicide. We accepted the cuts because it was more important for us to have it seen than not.

How did you react when you knew that it was beyond saving?
Alasdair Milne, who was the director of programmes, told us that the BBC was categorically not going to show it. So we showed it to the press. I think we wanted to try and get some kind of campaign going. We did it absolutely without the knowledge of the BBC. I took the print to the Coronet Theatre on Wardour Street, which was a preview theatre, and invited along all of the media. In those days, Soho was still seen as a real den of iniquity so the idea of the press seeing a stolen print in a basement on Wardour Street added a bit of colour to the whole saga. On the whole, they loved it and it caused a big stir, if only from the controversial aspect of the BBC having spent whatever amount of money on it and then putting it in the trash can.

It must have been a pretty bitter pill knowing that no one would see what you had worked so hard to create?
Yes. It was an iconic performance by Ray but my memory of him was mainly how young he seemed. They were all just boys but they were very serious about their acting and Alan drilled them so they were very well rehearsed. They became those characters. It was the first film most of them had done and many of them had never even acted. Alan managed to be both a fearsome leader and director, but somehow also endear himself and convince them that he was one of the lads, and in doing so got the most out of them. He was extraordinary. Especially considering that it was very hard work and very depressing. It was such a gruesome story.

Which directors did you most enjoy working with on Play for Today?
They were all different but Alan was certainly unique. He was complex, driven and committed to giving a voice to those who had none. I think his body of work shows that. The wonderful thing about Play for Today was that they didn’t all work but you had the creative freedom to keep trying things. Also, with the sole exception of Garnett, the genius in the tower, we were all located together on the tenth floor of Broadcasting House and it really was quite a melting pot. You had writers, directors and producers all on one floor, and down on the ground floor at any given time at least two large scale dramas being filmed. Even with the independent production companies of today, that atmosphere of camaraderie and cross-fertilisation is impossible to recreate. There was of course the social purpose but we didn’t just want to change the world and be very left-wing. There was also an artistic purpose. If there was some kind of a chord running through the work it might be that they cover aspects of society that the average viewer might not have known about and I would hope that they managed to capture and show the everyday in a new and different way.

What made you leave Play for Today?
Scum had been banned and a couple of other things that I had been working on had been censored so I was starting to think that they were taking the mickey and that I was being watched and would eventually be closed down. I had felt up until then that I could do anything and get away with it. Part of it was daring and part of it was thinking that we weren’t going to stop if they banned us. Eventually that climate changed and it began to feel like things were always going to be interfered with. It had been a fantastic opportunity and I had had an absolute ball so I thought why not take a break, have some twins, go to America where my husband had just got a fellowship, and come back and cause some more trouble later?

You went on to work on Made in Britain, Oi for England and Birth of a Nation. Would you have made those pictures without your background in Play for Today?
I was a head of department by that point so the context was different, but mischief was certainly always very high on my list of things to do. It was just a different kind of mischief.

Vice v7n8 Record Reviews

Rot In Hell/The Process
Split 7”
Feast Of Tentacles

9 How many 7” records have you bought recently that come with a beautifully screened pamphlet reproducing the Marquis De Sade’s Works of Hate complete with contemporaneous woodcuts of ye olde orgies huh? Well if you buy this one you’ll also get two of the most misanthropic sides of Process Church inspired hardcore going for good measure.

Charles Jamson

Southern Lord

9 Who knows what they put in the swamps out in Louisiana but it sure makes for some great doom-drenched sludge metal. If you’re missing Eyehategod then this reissued 2007 set from kindred NOLA spirits Thou courtesy of Southern Lord has come chugging and screaming out of Baton Rouge to batter your ears to a bloody pulp right in the nick of time.

Buzz Aldrin

Feast Of Tentacles

8 Another platter of putrid disgustingness from the good folks at Feast Of Tentacles who really should get some kind of lifetime achievement award for overlooked consistent quality of output or something. Apart from that Kamikaze 7”. What was that all about? This is a double album of psyche infused doom from Leeds that would make a good soundtrack to a huddling naked in the corner of a cold, dark room and weeping yourself to sleep.

Perry Nutkins

Reflect The Filth
Grrman Records

10 Omid who plays the guitar and yells in this two headed thrash monster of an outfit was on the cover of our Obsessions Issue eons ago hanging out in front of his ginormous t-shirt collection. If you want to know what this record sounds like go have a look at the article on Viceland and you will soon get a good idea. Sadly this is the last will and testament of Battletorn as they are splitting soon. William and Omid: your rackets will be missed.

King Cringeson

El Grupo Nuevo De Omar Rodriguez Lopez
Rodriguez Lopez Productions

0 In what alternate reality am I living where normally sane people are actually excited about the one with glasses from The Mars Volta’s solo record? What even gives this guy the right to have a solo record? And then call it “Cryptomnesia” on his own label that he has named after himself? I’m sure he is a lovely guy but, oh wait, Biff Tannen just walked past. Or was it Griff?

Doc Brown

The Fiery Furnaces
I’m Going Away
Thrill Jockey

1 This is everyone’s favourite kooky brother/sister duo’s eighth record. No, you did not just have an eye spasm it really is their eighth album. Who knew you could ride a one trick pony so long? Is she still dating that waxwork model that sings in Franz Ferdinand?

Alexis Petri-dish

Dieter Moebius
Klangbad Records

8 I am not sure where Moebius makes his records but I’d like to imagine him tinkering away in an old potting shed with a few reel to reels and a four track sampling bees in flight and the swish of a dandelion in the breeze then looping it all ad infintum. He remains gloriously out of step and yet forever two paces ahead of the pack.

Perry Nutkins

Necro Deathmort
The Beat Is Necrotronic
Distraction Records

5 I hate to sit on the fence but this one has me foxed. One minute it’s Sunn O))) the next it’s Squarepusher then it’s all a bit like the run out groove of a Philip Jeck record. None of these things are bad individually but I was never a man for raspberry and bacon sandwiches.

The Milky Bar Kid

The Horror
Spoils Of War
Grot Records

8 I am pretty sure that The Horror is basically late period Voorhees without Lecky on vocals. Well, Horror singer Andy has some equally abrasive pipes and it must still be grim up North because this second effort offers 15 songs of total and utter anger and aggression wheeled out in staccato 90 second blasts. More please.

Circle Jams

Sian Alice Group
Troubled, Shaken Etc
The Social Registry

10 Like listening to rain tinkling on broken glass the Sian Alice Group make fragile and gorgeously realized pastoral anthems that make me want to weep tears of joy and beat my breast like one of those crazy Scottish warrior guys in Braveheart and scream at the top of my lungs and run around in a field and generally make me happy about being a breathing thing that wakes up every day.

General Store

Debut Album
Sunday Best

8 All over the place party music that fidgets from dubstep to b-more to synthy electro and back again in the blink of a breakbeat. You remember that house party you were at where you wished you knew who the hell made the crazy racket coming out of the speakers at 6am? Wonder no longer.

Acid Drew


9 Sometimes I want to run around London screaming, “wake up!” Buy this today and realize what America, Europe and just about everywhere woke up to 12 months ago. One of the best bands making a garage punk racket out there are right under your noses.

Jam 69

The Pastels/Tenniscoats
Two Sunsets

8 C86 survivors and serial Scotch collaborators The Pastels have a ram shackle meeting of minds with Japanese minimalists Tenniscoats. What shouldn’t work does and out of the grinder comes one of the most endearing pop records of the year as well as a contender for best track title in “Start Slowly So We Sound Like A Loch”.

Jim O’Fork

What’s Your Rupture?

8 Straddling the mountain of chatter that preceded its release with ease these ten tracks of Richman-like quirk and earnest pop may only last for sixteen minutes but if you don’t hit play again as soon as it ends your ears have become cold, frozen, soulless, stalagmites and will probably drop off fairly soon.

Day Ravies

Pissed Jeans
Kings Of Jeans
Sub Pop

10 The last time that Pissed Jeans played the Old Blue Last I became convinced that they were the best band in the world. Ever. I was sure of it. I told myself that listening to other music was pointless and that Hope For Men could never be bettered. Then I kind of forgot these vows until bam! Now all I am listening to is King Of Jeans. Again and again and again. You should too.

Bruce Grobelar

Vice v7n8 Literary Reviews

Phil Hawkey

This was received accompanied by a letter scrawled in the hand of what looked liked an unhinged six year old in brown crayon on sheets that appeared to have been roughly torn from a school exercise book. I was sold before I’d even opened the ‘zine which turned out to be one of the most deranged series of disturbing illustrations of strange dick-nosed devils, dismembered, tattooed bodies and masturbating Mexican wrestlers with vaginas for assholes that I’ve seen since, well, ever. Please write to again Phil, we want you to draw stuff for us. Look, even his MySpace URL is great!


Mark Oliver and Peter O’Dowd
Dancing Eye Illustration & Small Press

Coming on the heals of Phil Hawkey’s schizoid ‘zine, which you hopefully should have read about up there, and with all hope thoroughly abandoned it was with trepid hand that I picked up Dancing Eye. Fortunately this lovingly put together collection of illustrations was just the right side of slightly weird to pull me out of the fug and come out smiling. A bit like doing just a little bit of ketamine as opposed to that time you did a whopping great line you thought was something else only to spend the rest of the evening eating your shoelaces.


Mark Hodgkinson

Sorry Mark, I am not going to lie, this book spent a while by my toilet looking neglected. Then one day I was having a good session and picked it up. And then I couldn’t put it down. Literally. I even read it walking down the street. I don’t recommend this; you look like you are trying to be a character in a Belle & Sebastian song and tramp straight into bus stops. If you can imagine The Rotters Club, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning and The Commitments being melded as one then you would be vaguely in the right ballpark but if you are the owner of a penis and like music then don’t sleep on this one.


Patrick Hennessy
Allen Lane

If you want to know what it would be like to be a soldier in the British army circa right now then stop reading this and go buy The Junior Officer’s Reading Club. Not only do you get the grit, blood, sweat and horror of what really goes on on the frontlines of Iraq and Helmland but Hennessey also ably describes the boredom, futility and seeming pointlessness of so many aspects of a soldiers day to day life. He almost makes it seem like being in band. Albeit a band that could get killed by SCUD missiles at any given moment.


Gilbert Hernandez
Fantagraphics Books

A hulking great doorstop of Hernandez courtesy of the never less than brilliant Fantagraphics. If you are not familiar with Love & Rockets (aka one of the greatest comic series of all time) which Gilbert made with his brother Jamie (and sometimes their other brother Mario) then I am jealous that you will get to go and discover those books for the first time and you probably should before having a go at this. Luba was one of the main characters in the final Love & Rockets arc Palomar and this phone book sized hard back collects literally everything the hammer wielding ex-mayor got up to after her former home was leveled. I won’t give anything away other than let you know that it is just as good as anything else Los Bros Hernandez have had a hand in. In other words: perfect.



Well-liked independent record label teams up with fusty but well-respected publishing house to have a go at cornering the kind of music writing that Greil Marcus would get excited about. In fact where is Greil? Nick Kent’s here. Nick Cave too actually with a new bit of fiction from his forthcoming novel. The standout is an essay on Spacemen3 by young whippersnapper Richard Millward who you may remember from the Fiction Issue two years ago. Not blowing our own trumpet or anything. Just saying. If you can imagine a version of Granta for people who subscribe to Mojo you’d probably be selling Loops a little short but you wouldn’t be too far wrong.


Vice v7n6 Record Reviews

Thee Oh Sees
In The Red

8 Who knows who John Dwyer was trying to kid when he dropped the first Oh Sees record under the OCS moniker and it was all willowy folk and whimsy. We all knew he couldn’t stay away from the vein-burstin’, neck-throttlin’, mike-chewin’, garage-psyche he practically invented with Pink & Brown, Coachwhips and The Hospitals for long. And he didn’t. Here are all the bits he left off the early Oh Sees records played twice as fast to make up for lost time.

Perry Nutkins

Current 93
Aleph At Hullicinatory Mountain
Coptic Cat

10 How many albums in your record collection feature contributions from a former Adult Video Network ‘Best Three Way Sex Scene’ award winner? While it might seem as relevant as a Highland Caber-toss champion playing the next Dr Who the appearance of Sasha Gray on David Tibet’s latest is made all the more worthwhile by showings from Matt Sweeney, Andrew W.K., the bloke Coil who collectively rattle out eight of the most chillingly perfect songs you are likely to hear all month/year/decade.

Beezer Guttler

The Crocodiles
Summer Of Hate
Fat Possum

9 Once upon a time I saw a screamy hardcore band called The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower at The Victoria Inn in Derby. If you’d tried to tell me then that two of the members of that band would go on to make a shimmering, Jesus & Mary Chain does mid-period Velvets album on a country label I’d have eaten my Orchid t-shirt off my own back and scoffed my Saetia records for dessert. Sometimes the sound of being completely and totally wrong is a wonderful thing.

Jerome’s Dream


9 I am not sure if I should even talk about this one. It was such a terrifying experience listening to the thing that I’m worried it’ll sense I’m discussing it and come hurtling out of the speakers to rape my ears all over again. Vennt make truly disturbing sheets of power electronics roar into waves of crushing doom to devastating effect. I can’t tell you much more about the band other than it really wouldn’t be a surprise if they had nicked their band name from the Von song of the same title.

Ken Angry

The Bastard Noise
Our Earth’s Blood IV
Cathartic Process

10 Five discs and over five hours of singular, bloody-minded brutality, cro-magnon electronics and sonic disintegration. Hardly a month goes by without an emission of bilious carnage from the Bastard Noise camp and we wouldn’t have it any other way. This release is a veritable high summit of international ‘skull-servants’ with Merzbow, Christian Bass and Surrounded all popping up within the confines of this handsomely constructed, die-cut nugget of Bastard history in the making.

Jam Is The Bastard

Magnolia Electric Co.
Secretly Canadian

9 Someone recently told me that Jason Molina now lives on Brick Lane. Can someone please email me at james@viceuk.com to let me know whether this is true or not. I have been hanging out there a hell of a lot lately so that I can casually bump into the guy and gushingly tell him how he possesses the greatest voice of his generation and other embarrassingly over the top grovellings and there are only so many bagels one man can eat.

Pilly Nelson

Second Base
Upset The Rhythm

8 Come on ladies. Your Animal from Sesame St on drums, Geezer Butler bass lines and whole heap of haunted forest clincking and cloncking over the top sure makes for a good listen but a band called breasts going for that album title? I bet they’ve never told their mothers.


That Fucking Tank

8 Being named after a line from Apocalypse Now and with a litany song titles that appear little more than a pubescent excuse for wordplay (“Bruce Springstonehenge”, “Keanu Reef”, “Dave Grolsch”), you’d be forgiven for expecting That Fucking Tank to be mal-nourished, over-excitable sixth formers. The fact that they’ve been playing together over a decade and a half and have honed overdriven, melodic math-rock to within an inch of its life though means that all is forgiven.

Gary Stringer

Beacons Of Ancestorship
Thrill Jockey

5 I had this noodling out of my headphones for almost half an hour before I could be bothered to check what it was. It was a moderately pleasant half an hour. I didn’t feel aurally robbed or anything. But silence would probably have worked just as well.

Dean Dirg

Here We Go Magic
Here We Go Magic
Western Vinyl

5 Apparently everyone at SXSW had a huge hard-on for this. Which is strange as it basically amounts to average singer-songwriter guy Luke Temple’s laptop project. It’s nice enough in its own little meandering loopy way but you can’t ignore the odd whiff of patchouli that makes the whole thing smell a bit like a Devandra offcut that fell off the dreamcatcher head dress and into a Korg.

Cliff Thorburn

Ghostly International

4 Wow, this sounds like the kind of aspirational disco-pop that they’d play in an elevator in Argos to try and stop you from killing yourself when you realized that for some reason you were in an Argos so big that it had elevators.


James Blackshaw
The Glass Bead Game
Young God Records

10 Wowsers, who’d a thunk an ex member of The Lights Alive would end up putting a record out on Micheal Gira’s label? Blackshaw remains one of this countries best kept secrets but you can forget all the Takoma/Tompkins Square and “tnext John Fahey” pigeon-holing that tend to follow him around. This set sees him casually bolster his acoustic roots with orchestrated, strings, piano and voice with consummate ease. Is there anything he can’t do?

Jam 69

Vice Feature: Suiting Up & Crusting Out

Here is a diary that I kept for a week that I spent living as a crusty punk for Vice v7n6.


I’d arranged to stay with some friends who squat a huge abandoned house off the Walworth Road in South London as no true anarchist would stay in a flat where you pay for things like warm water, electricity and council tax to get your rubbish actually taken away.

I managed to successfully steal the bleach that would be required to turn my planned mohawk green from Boots on my way south to the squat but I did spend £2.50 of my only three remaining pounds on some ‘Forest Green’ dye at an Afro-Caribbean hair salon around the corner from the squat where the lady just seemed too nice to thief from.

My friend Karley had decided that she was in charge of Gok Wan-ing me from overweight and underachieving average guy to lean, mean anarcho machine. The only implement for shearing my hair into a mohawk that we could find was a pair of blunt stationary scissors, which did a suitably DIY job of cropping my mop. Health and safety is not a punks main concern so the bleach was applied directly to the remaining tuft of hair with a mangy goalkeepers glove to protect Karley’s hands. While the bleach settled in I learnt a new skill: sewing. No self-respecting crusty guy leaves home without a Los Crudos patch and I made a pretty ok attempt at affixing some patches to an old denim jacket I’d cut the sleeves from.

Washing off the bleach in the freezing shower was a pretty uncomfortable experience but I tried to keep up the give-a-shit pretence right up until the dye was sploged all over my bonce and I realized that my forehead was rapidly turning green. Luckily it didn’t stick to my skin as well as it stuck to my hair and after donning a pair of cherry red Doc Martens I’d borrowed I felt I’d just about pass hanging around outside an Amebix show drinking White Lightning before falling asleep in my own urine having passed out from hurtling abuse at ‘the man’.


Night one in the squat involved surprisingly little debauchery. They even had a TV and watched the News At Ten. Aside from sleeping on the floor and waking up feeling like I’d never be able to walk again it had in fact been a bit of a let down. No all night weed smoking or intense, heated political discussion or even a minor police siege to speak of.

To amend matters I decided to pack up my sleeping bag and worldly possessions and have a drink at The Foundry; a bar, art space and slop house for Spanish cycle couriers with tribal tattoo’s and single dreadlocks. Surely I’d find like-minded souls here? Turns out not. Although I did find an organic ale called ‘Eco Warrior’ that I managed to persuade someone to buy me a bottle of. It tasted of mud and parsnips.

After ‘borrowing’ some cans of K cider from a newsagent I walked across Hackney Downs and went to borrow my friend’s dog Busy who was overly-pleased to have someone with astro-turf for hair to play with and savaged my mobile bed in excitement. Not believing in leads I lassoed Busy with a makeshift belt and headed out wandering. It was pretty fun having people crossing the street with looks of total panic on their faces but the police car trailing me all the way back across the river to South London was not so enjoyable. Turns out Mohawk plus pitbull equals a pretty real deal punk look.


Having now been overturning the system by refusing to engage with it for over 48 hours I felt it was time for a celebration. My squat buddies told me that they would be into partying so I went down to their local off license and discovered how punks can afford to get drunk: three liters of White Ace cost only £3. In a flush of excitement I spent £9 of my new friends money on 9 liters of the stuff and retired to the squat.

Coupled with the occasional bump of ketamine I can now confirm that drinking several liters of White Ace leads to an almost lysergic experience. Particularly when you realize that you haven’t eaten for over two days due to having spent your only money in the world turning your hair green and rotting your guts with cider that most street sleepers turn their noses up at.

Fuzzy headed I collapsed in a corner and woke up intermittently to throw up into a shopping bag that I later realized was riddled with holes and had been leaking vomit all over my t-shirt. When I finally awoke feeling like someone had crushed my head repeatedly with a captive bolt my t-shirt for the week was saturated with a heady White Ace/bile combination and I had unexplained cuts all over my forehead. Much more like it.


While I had decided that washing was off limits for the week whether I became puke saturated or not I realized that I was going to have to eat sooner or later. Having slept for most of the day to avoid hunger and kill time my new squat buddies Lauren and Kerri told me that there were some bins behind the Marks & Spencer’s in Elephant & Castle that were a goldmine for just-out-of-date food

By this point I was completely broke and would happily have eaten left over Fillet O Fish off of McDonalds tables but some Marks & Spencer’s ready meals? That sounded like heaven in a little vacuum-sealed parcels of goodness.

We had to wait until midnight when most of the staff would be gone before setting off. Kerri was pretty optimistic after previous raids had yielded untold gourmet wonders and bought along one of those shopping trolleys that your great aunt Edna might use. All of this positivity had me salivating but all high hopes were dashed as we rounded the back of M&S to find a huge security fence had been erected.

Dampened but not dispirited we pulled the fence apart for Kerri to slip inside. After a thorough root around in the huge dumpsters our worst fears were realized: we had been beaten to the punch by fellow freegans. All that was left were some chocolate éclairs. My stomach was basically eating itself by this point so I ate four and each slightly sweaty, turd shaped dough popsicle tasted better than the last.


After a week of cider and sleeping on floors I decided it was time to get back to nature a little. I’d heard that west-coast powerviolence veterans Capitalist Casualties were playing at crust hangout The Grosvenor in Sockwell so decided to spend some time in the park round the corner from the venue before catching the show to commune with the trees and stuff.

Having sat for a while on a swing I felt decidedly uncomfortable and decided a couple of cans of Special Brew would make everything a little better. As I sank my second I realized that maybe in the same way Rastafarianism legitimizes huge consumption of weed maybe being a crusty punk is just a big excuse to be a functioning alcoholic.

A few pints of artfully appropriated Guinness later and I wasn’t so bothered. My new punk brethren seemed to accept me with open arms and when it was announced that Capitalist Casualties had missed their plane there was a real sense of community and beery commiseration all round.

I might not have slept too well, eaten virtually nothing and drank my bodyweight in cider but at least my new, slightly smelly buddies made for better company than the odious suited hordes that come spilling out of All Bar One every night.