Issue #25 April 4th - 10th, 2003
Sister Janice and the Poet
The Sweetness Lies Within
The Long Lost Diary Of Miss S L Gleaden - part 3
(An interview with) Idaho: Music To Remember Me By
Something Close To It
Sister Janice and The Poet
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...
Sister Janice would like us to inform you that "right now, there are minor problems on the cosmic adventuring front". From what we can tell, these involve a crash-landing in front of the drive-thru window of a burger bar. And a few interfering burger-serving staff who seem to think she shouldn't be there. And a temporary lack of the funds necessary to launch herself into re-orbit.
She would like us to remind you that she's "still a Cosmically Aware Space Saviour and in no way stuck here in this bloody place.
Not at all'.
Good evening fellow slaves to the rythm,
My name is Roger, and I am a Sensitive, Serious, Sagacious Poet. I will be editing the problem page this week due to the temporary non-availability of the reality-recognitionally challenged nun.
I have resided in the urban ruin of this northern town for many years now. I stride through the inescapable iniquity of the existence it offers.. a white knight, intent on my mission of self-redemption, and the awakening of the slumbering souls that surround me.
But enough, for now, of missions. Here is this week's letter.
Dear Roger The Poet,
I do hope you can help me, I hear that you are a Sensitive, Serious, Sagacious Soul.
I am an ex-member of the clergy who, condemned to exile by my past misdeeds, now wanders the galaxies and roams the realms of earthly existence - despondent, directionless, and downcast -
WHAT IN BUGGERY BOLLOCKS IS GOING ON?
Hello my little moonbeams of marvel, Sister Janice here. I'm back, and not a moment too soon... I'm sorry about that, my little cosmic-ray receptors. He promised he'd look after the Space Shed while I ran the first of my classes ('Better Living Through Sound' - so far I'm just reading out of a self-help book and playing them disco records, but they seem to be lapping it up.)
I get back to THIS!
THIS is what you get for trying to save the world. For trying to improve the sorry lives of those who are unversed in the Healing Powers Of Retrospective Dance Music. THIS is what you get for being a giving, generous, kind soul in these galaxies of greed and inanity. God, at ten quid a session, I'm practically GIVING away salvation.
To think, I took pity on the treacherous bugger, because the burger bar sacked him. Something about motivation problems, although none of them look all that motivated to me. The only thing that seems to get them excited is the prospect of me moving The Space Shed away from their bloody restaurant. They're FASCINATED by that. Which is a shame, because I still can't start the engine.
Its not as if I LIKE being here. I don't like waking up and smelling grease-fumes any more than the next Cosmic Adventuring Disco Loving Alternative Gardening Defrocked Clergy Member. However, I am willing to accept that I must deal with the challenges life throws at me. If only the uptight fuckers in the Burger Bar of Boredom were willing to accept these challenges too. Being a drive thru restaurant isn't EVERYTHING. You have to learn to ADAPT, just in case something like this happens. Just incase a shed crash-lands from space in front of your McWindow. Which happens a lot more often than you might think.
Its a difficult job, my little paragons of perfection, saving the universe. Sometimes people just don't appreciate what you're doing for them. I suppose all Saviours suffer betrayal at some point. Goes with the territory. I seem to remember the nuns of the Sisterhood of the Eternal Whinge talking about something similar in that book they loved so much. Personally, I got bored of the New Testament a few pages in, so I'm not altogether sure. You know its the same story four times over? Sack the editor, that's what I say.
Speaking of sad stories, here is this week's letter:
Dear Sister Janice,
Due to an unfortunate industrial accident, and through no fault of my own, I seem to have ended up with a Barbie Doll implanted in my rectum. I've tried relaxation and Vaseline, but it doesn't seem to shift it.
Anyway, that's not my problem, I just wanted to tell you about it. I wanted to know if you think it is advisable to propose to someone you haven't actually met in real life.
Or spoken to.
Or, in fact, had any written contact with.
Or actually come within five miles of
I think it is perfectly reasonable. My
Sure, why the hell not? You have nothing to lose but your dignity, and self-respect, and it doesn't seem like you've got a great deal of either of those to begin with.
I'm looking at the pictures you sent me. Rupert, eh??? He's kinda hot. And he looks familiar, too. I'm surprised there isn't already a Mrs. Everett.
Best of Luck,
Roger The Grumpy Greasy Burger Bar Git is standing behind me, reading over my shoulder. He tutted at this, and said I was encouraging the self-degradation of deluded souls. I told him to fuck off.
Sometimes, my little space-stations of supremacy, its the only response one can give.
Until next week, follow your dreams. Or someone else's, if they pay better.
The Sweetness Lies Within
But I swear it’s not your beauty,
"Andy... Andy... Andy!!"
"Does he have a girlfriend?"
And I wouldn't know anyway, as we only ever talked about records. I don't say that. We're the sort of boys that talk about things through talking about records, and he was pretty great at it. I was just me. I sat and listened and smiled and made a joke every now and then and tried to read between the lines. And I told myself the story of what I read, but I never told anyone else. I never thought he would disappear - I never thought he would stay forever, either. I just didn't think. And I certainly didn't think that in his absence I would have made a best friend, like the one I've always wanted and never had and that, when he reappeared, she would want to fall in love with him.
I look at her, she looks at him and he looks at no one in particular. She's fiddling with her glass, biting the straw a bit but gently. Someone told her it's childish to bite your straws and she's trying to stop doing it.
She looks like she's waiting for something -she always does. She once said she's waiting for the better days; and now she looks like she's waiting for him. It's strange because a week ago she didn't know he existed, but hey, that's what falling in love is, right?
Right.Of all the strangers in the world you pick one and you want to make them yours. She says she's been in love before, but that was before we met. I've never seen her like that.
She actually met him a friend's party, a friend of hers, a party I wasn't invited to and didn't even know of. She didn't meet him through me. Actually, she hasn't met him at all: she just saw him, standing in the garden, she said, leaning against a tree with a drink in his hand, talking to somebody she didn't know, and he looked heavenly. At least that's what he said. I wouldn't say he looks heavenly but what do I know anyway. I'm 25, I like girls and I've never been madly in love. It worries me sometimes.
She says she never got the chance to talk to him at that party. I believe her: I know that she would have gone up to him and said something like "hi, you've got a pretty smile" given half a chance, but in the time she took to decide she wanted to say that he had disappeared. He seems to have got really good at it.
She's biting her lips and making faces, and I think she wants to ask me more about him but I have sworn I don't know anything more -and it's true: I don't know. I'm just guessing. And she sees no point anyway when he's only sitting a few steps away. I want to help her, but I wouldn't know how, so I just watch.
So I watch her as she watches him get up, pay for his drink and make his way towards the door. He has to stand right next to us to open it and she's giving me oh-Andy-please-do-something looks so I contemplate saying hi, but before I get the chance to decide to she stands up in front of him and she smiles and says "Hi. You've got a pretty smile."
The Long Lost Diary Of Miss S L Gleaden
The diary of Miss S L Gleaden was not having a good day. It was not having a good week come to think of it. The storm which had thrown it to the mercy of the ocean once more was just the icing on the cake, but as everyone knows, luck can change at any moment and this was the moment that our diary's fortune changed. The diary's fall to a watery grave was broken by a floating piece of drift wood which was heading for the relatively small island of Lanai. The piece of driftwood dreamed of a peaceful retirement there on a remote beach or perhaps to be crafted and sold for a large profit to a wealthy business man who would place it upon his mantelpiece and admire it day in day out.
The diary, who had previously visited Lanai, managed to persuade the drift wood that it really wasn't much cop and perhaps they should aim for Maui instead. Reluctantly the driftwood agreed and took a sharp right hand turn. When the pair arrived in Maui the driftwood was talent-spotted by a skilled craftsman named Mr D Southwood who transformed it into a handsome looking dolphin.
Mr D Southwood was apparently blind to our poor heroic diary who remained baking in the hot sun for 5 solid days, until a being picked up by small dreamy child. The boy, who had such romantic notions of messages in bottles washing up onto beaches, was exceedingly disappointed to learn that the diary did not contain any treasure maps or promises of rewards.
Days later the boy packaged the diary in a brown paper envelope and posted it through the nearest letter box with the words:
S L Gleaden,
Written carefully on the envelope. Surprisingly enough the diary did not reach its destination by this means but did wash up on the shores of a small town in the long forgotten county of Cumbria some months later. Locals were impressed by the story contained within, not to mention the book's ability to wash up on a landlocked town, and after many hours were able to track down the explorer herself and made sure that the book returned to her. But not before they had read it from cover to cover of course…
The Cumbrian locals, having gasped in disbelief with some frequency when they learned that Miss S L Gleaden had taken the wrong plane and was about to land in Burma, are now rather thirsty so quickly make a cup of tea before turning pages to learn of her fate…
I spent numerous hours in the airport in Rangoon considering what it would be like to live there. Quite honestly I didn't think I would ever escape. The minute I stepped out of the plane I was hit by the heat and the noise and the dust and the humidity and an overwhelming feeling of confusion. I kept my head low and smiled nicely as I handed over my forged passport to a shifty looking customs officer. I did not feel I possessed a sufficient grasp of the Burmese language to explain my predicament, and besides, a government which imprisons writers for writing the wrong things is unlikely to look altogether favourably on young girls who fraudulently visit their country.
I tried to remain calm as they asked me various questions whilst toying absently mindly with the guns strapped to their belts. Eventually, by persuading them that I was a research scientist on a mission to investigate a rare plant found growing in the Northwest forests of Burma, they let me out of the airport. I think they found it hard to disbelieve my story when I showed them my pristine white lab coat complete with 4 sharpened pencils in the top right hand pocket. Come to think of it I had difficult disbelieving my story when I showed them that.
When I eventually emerged from the airport, I was confronted by even more confusion and even more dust and even more heat and humidity. I walked 20 metres feeling slightly dazed. There was no doubt about it: I was in need of a plan. I sat down and thought hard. Perhaps it would help if I knew exactly where I was. I carefully extracted my world-wide atlas which was wedged between the readers digest complete DIY manual and an A-Z of greater Manchester. Burma (or Myanmar) was not even on the same page as Greece. I was not even on the page next to the page which Greece was on. In fact they were separated by 5 whole pages! I decided that knowing where I was not helpful. It just highlighted my mistake somewhat.
I meandered down the street looking at the hazy golden sky. The meandering was strangely therapeutic and I started to feel surprisingly unconcerned. I purchased a few fried grasshoppers and stood looking around. A thin blue and green grass-snake slithered out of ditch at the side of the road and across my path.
"When a snake runs across the path of a person it is a sign of a lengthening trip" An old man who seemed to be almost following the snake said.
"Why? is it a sign that misfortune will befall a person?" I asked
"No, they taste bad" he replied
He winked and left just as I spotted a group of three English speaking tourists. Having flagged down one of the many vintage taxi's they were talking loudly and pointing widely to a patient-looking taxi driver. With my limited Burmese skills I prevented the poor smiling taxi driver from anymore bafflement as I explained that they needed a to get to the railway station. With red faces they asked if I needed a lift anywhere. I smiled very sweetly and told them that the station seemed as good a place as anywhere and would be happy to accompany them."Oh are you taking the night train to Mandalay too?!" asked the shorter of the two men.I reflected upon my current lack of sleeping arrangements for the night for a second before I agreed that I probably was.
And this is where I am now dear Diary. But then of course, seeing as you are here too, you already know.
Idaho: Music To Remember Me By
You may, or may not, have heard of Idaho. The truth is you should, becausefor the last decade they have been playing some of the mostheart-stoppingly, gut-wrenchingly beautiful music around. Their last recordwas voted one of the top 5 records of the year by France's 'Liberation'newspaper, and critics have extolled the virtues of the Idaho sound,bombarding them with platitudes like "astonishing and timeless" and"awe-inspiring". So when the opportunity arose to talk to John Berry (who,along with Jeff Martin, have formed the nucleus of Idaho since theirinception) how could I possible resist...
Given that the webzine is called 'Friends of the Heroes', perhaps the first question I'd better ask is who are your heroes and (perhaps this bit is more difficult) why?
That's really not an easy question. I feel like I'm supposed to say something that shows my ideals are high and name Ghandi or Martin Luther King or something. I guess I'd have to say that I really look up to Brian Eno's career.He's worked in so many capacities and on so many great records that I'd have to call him a hero of mine.
What made you decide to become a musician? Was there a particular catalyst?
I started my first band when I was 14, it was 2 guitars and drums. We played the Hollywood Paladium. It was a charity for Actors and Others for animals .Over the next 3 years I was in 7 different bands. At 17 I started playing in a band with Jeff Martin. We've been playing music on and off since 1981. I don't know what made me want to play music. I'm not that bright and I guess it was just fun at the time.
Is there a pattern in your way of working that you adhere to, or is it just sometimes a case of drawing the shade, grabbing a pen and your guitar, and seeing what happens?
I don't have to draw the shades because I'm nocturnal. Jeff and I used to have a method of working that we used to adhere to early on. For Year after Year, one of us would come in with an idea and we'd record it, usually in a day. Whose ever song it was would play rhythm guitar and the other would play drums. As soon as we had a take we liked we would move on layering things at a very quick pace. Jeff, pretty much works solo on Pro Tools in his studio now. But we did co-write some songs last year, which are really haunting and beautiful. Hopefully they'll make it on the new IDAHO record.
Did you ever have any of the dead end jobs we all have when we are trying to make it? Was there any time when you thought "Fuck it, I'll be a lawyer"?
Oh yeah, of course. I was a barista in a coffee house for a while, but mainly I've worked on and off in film and television production. I've seen all kinds of people trying to "get in the business" while I was trying to get out. I really hated it. Mostly I worked in what is called the Art department. I've worked on all manner of crappy B movie/straight to video/boring award show you can imagine. I really wanted to start an indie label and do music. I was able to convince Jeff Martin to start Idaho Music in 2000 and we've been pulling it off for three years now. In a sense, I said "fuck it, I'm going to do what I really want to do in life" hoping that the money would follow. It's been tough, but I've become an optimist. So far. So good.
I was unfortunate enough to witness a part of the Oscars debacle on TV. The best bit, for me, was Michael Moore's acceptence speech! What's your view on art and politics? Should they mix? Is it inevitable that they do?
I LOVE Michael Moore. I'm so glad he did that! The Oscars pretty much suck. Though I was very happy to see Roman Polanski win for best director. That really shocked me. I was sure the "academy" would not give it to him because of his situation in Los Angeles county and all. I thought Chinatown should have won best picture in 1974.I think art and politics do mix and should mix. Though I haven't mixed them and Jeff Martin doesn't mix them, but that could subtly be changing for the next record. The political situation in America….well, I could almost choke on the bile.
Linked to the above question, what's your view on the current war in Iraq?
Excuse me if I'm less then verbose: It's mind numbingly depressing.I don't support war. I don't support the Bush administration. Most of all, I don't want my country to behave the way it has been.
When can we expect the new record?
2004. We are shooting for a Spring release but it could be later…
Will you be touring Europe and the UK with it?
Europe definitely. The UK I certainly hope so. I would like to spend at least 10 days there, but we need to find a good booking agent or liaison to work with our European agency WEIRDO in Switzerland to make it happen. The UK is tough for us though. It's very expensive to do any promotion there and the high pitch of the music press (and their total unwillingness to cover the band) make it difficult to operate there. Our last show in London was in the midst of a tube strike, so we were concerned that nobody would show up. To our surprise, it was a decent turn out with people coming from all over the country. One fan, Alan Kyle, came from Glasgow. Others came from Hull and Leeds. Still there is much more press interest in France, so it's easier to get shows and make the whole operation work.
I think a lot of people miss the thread of self-deprecatory humour in your work. What was the last thing that made you laugh out load? I remember once when my girlfriend was giving me hell about something or another, but I couldn't stop laughing- are there any times when you laughed when it was rather more appropriate not to?
That's a funny question… I had an unfortunate experience at my best friends mothers funeral. They were Japanese, who culturally, put a high premium on honor and respect.Well, for no particular reason, something struck me silly about the funeral. I don't know what it was but I started laughing, but I was trying to keep quiet. In doing so tears started streaming down my face and I was making this noise like I was choking. Finally, I had to pretend I was grieving loudly, which alarmed some of the Japanese folks sitting in the pews around me. It was horrible. Very awkward.
Your songs have been a part of the fabric of my life for the last decade or so. What songs do you hold to be similarly influential in your own life (apart from your own!)?
Wow, that's a real compliment to the band. Thank you.( But that just tells me you're a very sad and desperate person who should be on a plethora of mood elevators.)There is a lot of music, as well as songs, that have been staples for me over the last decade. I listen to a lot of old Jazz, as does Jeff Martin. We pretty much like the same stuff: Artie Shaw, Ellington, Miles Davis' "Ascenseur pour L'echafaud",Albinoni's Adagio, Brian Eno's The Pearl and On Land. Grandaddy Low, Dirty Three and Blonde Redheadhave been perennials for me also.
What songs do you wish you had written? Are there any you wish you hadn't?
There are a lot of songs I wish I could have written: "Everybody's been burned" by David Crosby (later covered by Sebadoh) "River Man" by Nick Drake, "Stardust" by Hoagy Carmichael, "Pea" by Codiene most of the last Grandaddy record. I should make myself a list someday. Really, I'd love to be able to write music like Arvo Part or Henryk Gorecki. The slower, darker, sadder the better.
Last year you released 'We Were Young and Needed the Money'- a collection of outakes and demos that spanned the last 10 years of the band. Was there a particular reason why you chose to release it last year, and dare I ask if there are any more skeletons hiding in the Idaho closet?!
Well, there might be some skeletons but there aren't any more songs.We released it last year because it was the bands tenth year anniversary. We had talked about it for a few years and decided it was appropriate to do it then. Actually, there might a song or two left, but I doubt they'll make it onto a record.We have all this video and Super 8 footage from the begging of IDAHO and before. On the last tour we brought 2 video cameras and shot our own shows. This material will eventually be made into a DVD but It will take a few years.
I have to ask this, because it's been bugging me since I first heard it- Who's the insane one in 'Social Studies'?
Jeff wrote that song about his last girlfriend, who was known to be difficult…
Finally, the question I always ask at the end is: are there any questions that you want the answers to which I haven't asked?
Yes. What are you wearing?!
And on that bombshell, I think I had better make my excuses and leave.Quickly. Very, very quickly...Ask Idaho what they are wearing at www.idahomusic.com
Something Close To It
Close your eyes, toss your head back, and let it seep into you. Through you.You remember the first time you ever saw him, that first time, and all ofyour life seemed suddenly to be leading to that moment, a tumblingcarthasis, a dilineator of fate, it all led up to him.
Close your eyes.
He was with friends, but later on he tells you that they weren't really hisfriends but only his acquanitances, and when some people say that, you knowthat they don't really mean it, but when he said it, when you knew him inhis twisted, solitary bubble, staggeringly apart from everything else, thatdistance, when he said that the people he knew he didn't really know, thenthere was nothing near to that truth on the face of this earth.
Later on, later on....in bed, his head supported by his arm, and you withyour head on his near-naked chest, the blankets strewn half-heartedly aroundyou both, and the sun coming up now, compelling and coercing its way intothe room, making shadows as you talk, and you remember when it really gotbad you sent him a postcard from the other side of the world and you signedit "Love, Me" and it was only at the last minute, with the concierge at thehotel and his ostentatious sigh hurrying you along, that you added thecommar.
You pull the blankets tight, turn to your side, and remember the days beforethe fall, the months before, the years, the gargantuan slabs of gold youcrafted as day turned into night turned into day again, and for years andyears the first thing you saw as you pulled yourself awake was his face bythe bed to the side of you, up with the larks, two teas in his hand, one foryou, one for him, but he always gave you yours first and somehow, somehow,that was important to you. The simple things. If your feet were cold he'drub them between the palms of his hands to warm them up, or he'd go and geta blanket and wrap you up in it, or when he'd go and put the kettle on tomake a cup of coffee, if you didn't have any biscuits or chocolate in thehouse then he'd run the length of the street to the corner shop in allweathers to get whatever it was you wanted.
You smile at the memories, the good ones, caught in the light like the roomthat day, close your eyes, close your eyes, let them ooze into you, likebike rides to beaches and nights under canvas, daft on cheap vodka and noone can touch you, just you and him, you and him, and fall back into it,don't lose that now, don't lose the moment, the glory of love, the brevityof it all, the nearness to rapture the whole of your life, pull the blanketstighter, close your eyes, close your eyes, it's all ok, it will be fine, I'mhere, I'm here.