Issue #22 :: March 14th - 20th 2003
Guess How Much I Love You (part two)
Hope & love & confidence & an interview with Ballboy
Why, Why, Why?
I was asked to write this 'about us' page at the very last minute. Initially, I was panic-stricken. What would I say? I was tired, it was a Thursday night, and the week, for various reasons, had pulled me to a standstill. I arched my neck towards the wardrobe-cum-bookshelf behind me, scratching at the pages for some saggy hope and inspiration. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. No ephemeral and inspired rhetoric, just a hellish silence.
The Loneliness of Sister Janice
Sister Janice is our new agony aunt. She used to be a nun, but after becoming involved in an accident at her convent involving a papal emissary; the mother superior; the convent dog and a bottle of 'citrus fresh' bleach, she decided it was time to find herself a new career. These days she travels through the galaxies in a converted garden shed.
Write to Sister Janice Slejj care of Friends of the Heroes. She will answer your problems and questions with the insight unique to a disco-loving alternative-gardening defrocked clergy member and cosmic adventurer.
Another week, my little constellations of possibility..
Another long week.. A week full of emptiness.
Yeah, full of emptiness. You don't think it makes sense? I'll explain.
Living in a shed really wasn't part of my life plan. Not even a shed that could travel through the cosmos.
I remember when I built this thing, it was an escape, a temporary trip away from reality.
But you can't escape reality, you just trade an old one for a new one.
Life had become so...complicated. I needed to
To begin with, I resented such interruptions. Now, the salespeople don't call any more. Not since I invited the last one round for a smoke, and showed him my collection of battery-operated items..
People are often odd like that: when they know you want to talk to them, they don't want to listen.
So I'm left alone.
There are days when the emptiness fills me, when I can feel nothing but the echoing of eternity as it flows through me. I suppose I feel close to some sort of God. No, none of that 'Jesus-is-our-Lord' hokey that they spouted at the Sisterhood of Perpetual Bullshit. I don't feel like anyone is my Lord. I am my own Lord, and Lady. I am the universe, and everything within it and, at the same time, I am nothing.
No, I haven't been smoking too much.
When you face emptiness head on, when you let it rush through you, you begin to feel part of something Eternal.
Other days, I feel the other emptiness, the sort known as loneliness. And there are no distractions. I swear that last night I heard the void howling. Perhaps eternity knows loneliness too. Perhaps that is why it longs to be filled.
I never planned to be here. In space. In a shed.
I never planned to look for God. The experience of living with the Sisterhood of Inescapable Drabness was enough divinity for one life.
But it happened. I found something.. a connection, if you like, something bigger than myself, away from the smallness of that previous life. And it felt good. It felt liberating, for a moment.
And then it fell away, and I was on my own again.
Nobody wrote this week. They don't know they need my help. But perhaps I need help too. I need to talk to someone. I need to find myself amongst other people again. I now regret not building this space-ship with better controls.
Its time to attempt a crash-landing. On Earth.
I'm going travelling, my little hosts of potentiality, and I could be visiting you.
Guess how much I love you (part 2)
(To all the boys that have ever loved me)
That was a year and three months ago and it's amazing what a year and three months can do to your life... It can make your forget what life was like, before. It can make you wonder how you got by without her, indie records played in the morning, laundry arranged according to a pattern you will never know... and fights over everything.
Because it can make you sit in a cafe thinking your heart will burst of happiness, just as well as it can make you make a fool out of yourself by arguing in front of everyone else in the carriage about whether it is reasonable to sulk when the train breaks down or not.
- But you have nowhere to go anyway! You're on holiday, who cares if you get there later!!
Hazel seemed to try to decide whether to laugh or not. This only made him sulk more.
- Do you have to be miserable?
That's when she looked like she would start crying.
One year and three months ago, this would only have made him even more angry; now it only made him stop. Because after a year and three months of indie records played in the morning, laundry arranged according to a pattern he would never know and fights over everything he knew she was crying because they were hurting each other and not to say he was horrible.
And he wanted to cry too.
He sighed and looked and his shoes and tried to say he was sorry, and he knew that she knew and that she was sorry too.
Thomas suddenly realised that Hazel had lifted her head from the book and was staring at him. She looked as if she had wanted to quote something -her finger was still marking her page and she was still holding the deep breath she had taker- but she had stopped halfway and now she was looking into his eyes, and it was too late to fake fascination by the coffee cup. Getting away from her was not something he was good and she never made it any easier, either.
'What were you thinking of?' she said just as he said 'What were you about to say?' Oh god, just how do you say 'just how much I love you'?
There's only one way, really.
'Umm... Our fight in the train...'
She gave him a half-puzzled, half-amused look - Thomas realised it was a strange combination of things to think of- then she looked a bit hurt, and a bit sorry at the memory of the fight... finally she looked like she wanted to giggle.
In his mind, Thomas smiled to himself at the thought of how she would look in a moment or two.
'And just how much I love you'.
He had to look down at his cup again, and he had to hide his smile, because this sort of thing gets harder to say the more you mean it, but there: he had said it.
Now he wasn't the only one who didn't know what to do.
So they both did nothing for a while until he asked her again what she had been about to say. She read out loud:
"She breaks the silence by saying that it's not healthy to live life as a succession of isolated cool moments.'Either our lives become stores or there is no way to get through them'. I agree. Dag Agrees. We know that this is why the three of us left our lives behind us and came to the desert - to tell stories and to make our lives worthwhile tales in the process."
I don't know if Thomas knew, and I don't know if you do, either. But I do, even though I forget too much too easily, and I have to remember everything every so often.
By giving you words like 'before', 'a year and three months' and even 'our fight in the train' a love story makes the stories you tell make sense. It doesn't matter if you only tell them to yourself, but you need to tell them and you need them to make sense...
Love and Hope and Confidence and an Interview With Ballboy
It was late afternoon on a Sunday in December, not long before Christmas. I stood in my kitchen alone whilst friends occupied the other rooms. It was one of those days where you did not have to be together to feel together. From the next room I heard the words:
I took in a breath. I stood still. Stopped washing up, and with hands in the warm soapy water, strained to hear the rest of the CD.
Sometime later I discovered that this CD was by a band from Edinburgh called Ballboy. They had released various eps and have a website which can be found here. This wasn't enough! I wanted to know more.
Even more time later, somewhere near Penrith, on a train heading south, I decided that it was my duty, as a faithful friends of the heroes editor, to interview Gordon McIntyre, lead singer and songwriter for the band Ballboy. Luckily he agreed to answer some of my questions.
What is the first thing that a person who hasn't already heard of you should know?
That our live show is well worth seeing (we pride ourselves on it!)
When did you first decide that you wanted to be in band?
As soon as I learned to play the guitar I decided to start a band. I loved playing and experimenting far more than learning other people's songs. Also, once you get in a band it is fantastic and you don't want to give it up.
When, how, and why did you start learn to play the guitar?
I started to learn when my flatmate at the time was learning so I came to guitar playing very late compared to most people (which is my excuse for most people being better than me).
How was the band formed?
Ballboy are 3 boys and a girl. The girl is Katie who plays keyboards and the boys are myself (Gordon) who sings and plays guitar, Nick who plays bass and Gary who plays the drums. Nick and I formed the band and then stole Katie from a drunken party. Then we found Gary and his drums hiding in Nick's flat and we have been together ever since (4 years I think).
How, if at all, has the band changed in the last 4 years?
The band itself has not changed much, but we all work a lot harder now because we do more. We record more, travel more, play more gigs. For me, personally I don't do much apart from work, band things and occasionally sleep.
What plans does the band have for the future?
The immediate future is something like this:
What is the most important thing to you about being in a band?
Lots of things. If it wasn't for the songs I don't know how I would function sometimes. The ability to say things I want to say in a way that I can't in everyday life means the world to me. The ability to play music and to play it to people is an amazing thing to me. Maybe because I came to it so late. (I can get quite hippy dippy about this if pushed so I'm going to stop now). My favourite thing about being in the band is being on stage, chatting, singing and surrounded by sound. There is nothing like it at all.
The lyrics of a Ballboy song are one of their strongest features in my opinion. Do you ever write things other than lyrics to songs?
No. I only write songs or notes/ideas for songs. I wrote a tour diary of our U.S. tour, but nothing else. I would, I would happily, but I have no time. Someday, maybe I will write a novel. I would like to, but I think it would be pretty shit.
Describe one place where you have written a song
The most memorable place was probably my hotel room in New Orleans. I had a semi- hangover and it was a roasting hot day and I was inside for some shade so I guess that was pretty atmospheric. The hotel room was old style New-Orleans, things creaked/didn't work, one wall was bright floral wallpaper, the doors were wooden with little brass spy holes and the corridor looked like the one in Barton Fink.
What about a place that you have been to, that for whatever reason, you will never forget?
Brighton Beach maybe. Or perhaps the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Or perhaps Hill o' Beath, near Cowdenbeath.
When you have a good idea what is the hardest part of making it a reality?
I guess, time and effort. Everything takes time and sometimes there is no time, or not enough, but again, you can always make some time - sleep less, hide away more. It's not always good for you, but you can do it. And if the idea turns out to be a good one then it will all be worth it. I'll remember the songs I really like. I'll forget the missed sleep that stopped them from just being ideas.
What would life be like without dreams?
Waking life? Useless and pointless. You need dreams and you need hope.
Some of your songs talk about a desire to become a millionaire. The reasons that you give for wanting this are slightly unusual (to be able to go dumper truck racing for example). Which is more important to you: the ability to do what you like with your life, or the money. Or do you think that the two things go hand in hand?
The song in question came about from a daft conversation Nick and I had about the first things we'd do if we suddenly became rich. Money will never mean anything to me other than as fuel to do what you want, but a lack of money needn't hold you back - an acoustic guitar, good ideas and a will to get out and play to people will carry you a long, long way.
Who inspires you? Who do you admire?
I admire and am inspired by people who say what they think without diluting it so that they will advance their careers/keep everyone happy - Billy Connolly, Brian Clough, Tony Benn.
Other people/bands who have influenced me personally and band-wise (in random order and an incomplete list) - Galaxie 500, Stereolab, Jesus and Mary Chain, Velvet Underground, Mazzy Star, Damon Runyan, Michail Bulgakov, Kurt Vonnegut, Emily Dickinson, Edna St. Vincent Millay (big sigh:
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
Charles Bukowski, Frank Sauzee, etc etc etc .
Do you believe you can achieve anything if you try or are there some things which should remain eternal dreams?
There is nothing you cannot achieve. But you need commitment, you need to work really hard, and above all you need to be brave enough to give up what you need to, to take the opportunity when it is there before you. What is hard to do, is to achieve lots of things at the same time. There are too few hours in the day - even if you don't go to sleep.
And finally is there another question you would like to answer?
No offence, but that's my least favourite question! Not your fault, but it makes my mind go completely blank and I try to think of funny answers. But I never do.
You were the one who squirmed into place then sat up waiting at the hangman's gate, and told us everything would be ok. We believed you when you implored us to buy, buy, buy. You. Have you been here lately? Did you see the dilapidated shacks, the disintegrating buildings and the tumbling of dreams?
The rot, the rot, the rot.
Was it my brother and his sunken, drunken half-carcass you closed your eyes to when he had nothing, and the junk hangs on, hangs heavy around here, and I've seen kids half my age, pallid spectres of youth, up against the wall you built, or in the car you drive, drained dry, and day turns into night turns into the perpetual fix; there's always junk at the end of the rainbow.
Did you ever love us? Did you? There was a time that I thought you did. There was a day. Late spring, and as the day blossomed, so did we, and as the sun grew braver, then so did we, and in the arms of Morpheus that night I saw you. I saw you.
Did you see me the next day? I was hidden by the veil but out of the corner of my eye I watched you leave. Everyone else was sleeping. It was still too early, but don't think I didn't see you because I did, and your bag was full of things that belonged to us, there was decency and trust, packed in tight next to hope, and you had somehow conspired to bury our truth in there too, and I saw you skulk in dead of dawn and dump the bag behind the poverty that you promised to destroy. I saw you do all this, you fucker.
Who were those men? Who were they? Why did you give to them what you wouldn't give to us, and then take from us any vestibule of light? Why did you do this, and I swear I saw you smirk when we turned upon ourselves, and you sat smug and at a distance as we watched our estates burn.
You. You were really they and don't think we don't remember what they did, because how can we forget the buried bones of industry, our father's pummelled to a standstill, the torture, the contempt because we were us not they. And as if to prove that you were really they, you stopped listening and, worse than that, you stopped us from being heard, and don't tell me that quaffing free chardonnay and colluding in closed dialogue in an ornamental outhouse is in any way close to walking through the fire, don't even begin to tell me that, just…don't.
What is it? Is it the way we dress? The way we act? The way we think?
I saw you and him together, and it broke my fucking heart. And those men were there too, prowling in the shadows, an anticipatory drool at the feast that you had promised. I was there, you know, but you had your back towards me, and I screamed and hollered and rattled on the door, thrashed against the windows like there would be a no tomorrow, and I could see it there, as clear as day, dark as night, you and him and them: you had blood on your hands.
Soon you will know that you are sane
A rough and selective guide to out-of-the-ordinary music you might want to come across... or avoid!
Have you ever had doubts about the state of your mental health? If, like me, you don’t falter to answer ‘yes’, then maybe finding out that the music world is abundant in more or less odd people could be some consolation... Or maybe it will just an interesting read... Or maybe neither of the above.
First off I’d like you to meet Mum and Dad. They come from Manchester, their cosy home is Twisted Nerve (a record label founded by Badly Drawn Boy and Andy Votel), and there’s actually three of them. Their eponymous debut album was released last year, along with a message that said: "DESTROY BLANDNESS & CONFORMITY WITH YOUR SONIC WEAPONRY! BRING BACK MAGIC, MYSTERY & MADNESS, SO THE YOUTH OF TODAY CAN DREAM ONCE MORE!” Indeed, even at first listen it is easy to conclude Mum & Dad’s music is everything but mundane or conformist. Quirky electronica backed with similarly quirky lyrics form an exceedingly disturbing mélange, which at the same time is really quite amusing.
‘So, how do I begin
sings Claire Pearson, Mum & Dad’s vocalist, in ‘Castle Heights’; and if you listen close enough, you will also hear a spooky whisper in the background: ‘Lucifer.’ Mmm, scary! Which is precisely Mum & Dad’s objective. They want to appear sinister and mysterious. So much! Hence the use of words like ‘ritual’, ‘evil’, ‘torture’ et al, songs entitled ‘Dawn Rider’ or ‘Children With Psychic Powers’, and sounds reminiscent of an approaching swamp monster. Not that I know how an approaching swamp monster sounds, mind, but... oh, I digress, and Mum & Dad even have a song telling a story of Claire being murdered by her jealous ex-boyfriend! They are a truly fascinating listen, trust me.
We are now leaving the UK for a brief visit to Germany, to get to know 3 Canadian people recording for the Kitty-Yo label: Peaches, Chilly Gonzales and Taylor Savvy. They’re all good friends, they have all settled in Berlin, they’re all mad and they’re all making exciting danceable electronic music.
Gonzales is perhaps the most renowned of the three, as he already has 3 albums under his belt. A self-confident artist (he wouldn’t have called his first album ‘Gonzales Über Alles’ otherwise!), he is exuberant and very skilful with words. His lyrics are often pure drivel, but drivel expressed in the form of crafty rhymes such as:
‘No, I don’t wanna make you bounce,
Read it loud! The rhythm is perfect! Eminem, sling your hook!
Taylor Savvy on the other hand doesn’t put as much effort into constructing his lyrics - the vast majority of them are just one-sentence long. However, they do provide valuable information about the artist: he and his dad share the same dream of still being at school, he’s still looking for his baby and ladies are all that he thinks about. Hmmm.
He and Gonzales share a passion for odd clothes. Chilly is constantly ‘in pursuit of a hot pink suit,’ while Taylor can start his performance wearing nothing but underwear and a fur coat, and during the course of the gig substitute it for a sleek bottle-green suit, a 70’s-style tie and shades that cover half of his face.
Peaches also likes to turn each of her gigs into a show... This skinny dark-haired woman is a volcano of energy onstage, and is able to extend this energy onto the audience. Sometimes she only uses a CD player and a guitar to accompany herself, and she likes to call her music ‘virtual rock’n’roll,’ because it uses so few instruments.
Other people like to call her music obscene electropunk or porno disco, as basically all her lyrics are centred around sex. ‘I’m only double A but I’m thinking triple X,’ she sings on her album, but claims that contrary to the common view her actions do not revolve around sex only. In her opinion, art simply has to be provocative to remain art, and she is just looking for the purest form of expression and energy.
What Peaches, Gonzales and Taylor Savvy have all got in common is their attitude towards music itself. They treat it as entertainment, pure and simple, and their goal is to have as much fun making it as possible, and to ensure that people listening to their songs are having fun too. And from my point of view, it works quite well...