Issue #4 October 25th - 31st 2002
The first ink polaroid and the reason why
School Days (Part2)
A theoretical band, built over a light architecture of dreams...
This is an ink polaroid of me and Rachel, taken a bit before the idea came to us. It was a grey and idle afternoon in a London suburb, and, despite being on a holiday, we were staying in to save on underground passes. We had already gone to the super-market, cooked, and listened to all the records we had brought with us, and by that time we were lying, idle, sort of sleepy, listening to Sodastream.
The room is tidy - a sure sign it doesn't belong to either of us. Rachel is frowning - a sure sign she's thinking. I'm looking dreamily out of the window, at the tree and the grey sky and the suburban London houses underneath it, still overwhelmed by how different it all is to where I come from.
Meanwhile, the idea has left its home in the sky and it was travelling fast through the atmosphere of the planet. I like to think it landed on the tree, looked around and bounced through the window. Then it landed again, this time on the bed, among us, the empty cups of tea and the Lucksmiths, Sodastream and Magnetic Fields records.
And then she said - 'we should have a magazine'.
It seemed totally out of the blue and quite a crazy thing to say, but that's hardly surprising with her. I waited a while before thinking of it.
"It's important that you can imagine what you want, even if you can't yet imagine how you can get it." I nodded to the voice in my head, and asked
'Do you think so?
'Yes - we should write about what other people don't'
I thought other people write about everything already? No, wait; that's the wrong way of thinking.
I'm often dreaming about World War Two bombers. I don't know why, I mean, war games are for kids, but I dream I see the bombers flying low overhead, in the present, over the school fields, and Jock Kennedy is making us play cricket, but we just stop and look up and pretend we can see the whites of the pilot's eyes, and I give them a sneer to show them I'm not afraid of them or anyone.
I remember these dreams because they seem more real to me. I don't remember dreams about walking on water or being a hundred feet tall or something, but I remember the bombers.
Then again, I'm wondering how real these bombers were in the first place because when me, Cooney, Tommy, and my cousin Stewart went to an old World War Two air raid shelter, all we found was a pile of old porno mags. We thought we'd find guns or something, or the remains of a German pilot, but there were just these magazines, and not a gun or a ghost in sight. Still, all was not lost because we were sure that one of the women in one of the porno's was Tommy's mum, so we had fun with that, although Tommy wasn't smiling, it has to be said.
We decided to make the old air raid shelter our den for a while. At the same time, my dreams became even more vivid, so I could be walking down the street, or kicking a ball about in the garden, and all I would have to do is close my eyes and I would hear the familiar whirr of the bomber's engine, as they circled the rooftops, and the me inside myself would give the pilots that sneer that told them to go ahead, do their worse, but they would never get rid of me, I'm not going anywhere, and there was always one pilot who looked more evil than the others, and he'd twist his face into a deathly grin, as if he held all the cards, but I would stand there, clench my fists, stick my chest out and smile to show him that there was nothing he could do to me, nothing I hadn't done already, and I think that my own fearlessness made him look inside himself or something and, against all the odds, he began to doubt what his guns could do in the face of such courage and valour, like he felt that he would achieve nothing, that killing me would never destroy me, if you know what I mean, that no amount of guns or bombs could kill ideas, yeah, that's it, ideas and beliefs, they would remain long after the last trigger on the last gun was pulled.
It was just a dream, but it was a good one, and it was better than the reality, the actual reality, of that disused air raid shelter, especially when we turned up one day to find that the porno mags were gone. Of course, we all blamed each other, but it was my cousin Stewart who protested longest and loudest, who seemed the most distraught, and I thought no-one can really be that distraught about a few old jizz mags. It was like he was just a little too distraught if you know what I mean, and I told my sister and she said something about a lady who doth protest too much, and gave off a little high-pitched, theatrical laugh, but I don't know what the hell she's talking about, because Stewart's no lady and what the hell kind of language is 'doth'? She gets worse. I resolve never to ask her about her dreams because I have a feeling that walking on water and being a hundred feet tall would only be the beginning of her problems...
A theoretical band, built over a light architecture of dreams...
"My Dear Killer has been for a long time a theoretical band, built over alight architecture of dreams, wonders, assumption and hypothesis. But a bright light came unexpected." S.S.
"My Dear Killer"is theoretical no more. The band which started as a one-man-band now recieves contribution from a few people, including Lorenzo Tubiana (Guitar, bass and tapes), Marco Guizzi (Pedal Steel, Tapes, Noises) and Luca Galuppini, aka ONQ (Drumset, Saw, Sinth) other than the original lone member Stefano Santabarbara. They have released their first EP "clinical shyness" on the under my bed record label, published in the Advance Demo Edition in October 2001, and are looking forward to full length released, with the same title, by the American label Turn Records, next February.
Stefano wished to prove his reality further and agreed to this interview for "Friends Of The Heroes".
How would you describe yourself and your music?
This is quite a delicate and complicated question. In general it is a bit difficult to describe any kind of music, but even more complicated to describe you own, as your opinions can be seriously biased. If I really need to give a definition I would say that it is mainly sinister, oblique and mellow.
When did you first decide to write music?
I can't actually say, honestly. I remember that I quite enjoyed playing the flute at lower middle School, during the music class courses, and that was definitely my first contact with an instrument. When my friend Lorenzo came back from Ceckoslovakia with a cheap electric guitar, incidentaly it was the Jolana model I still play at present, and asked me if I want to start playing the bass with him, I suddenly agreed. None of us could even manage to play proper plain chords on the guitar and tuning was still kind of a mysterious thing. We discovered, that with the valuable help of the drum machine and of the keyboards, we could produce quite happily our own tunes. The band was called Lista Zero and I think it was, absolutely the one the band I have had the most fun playing , ever.
What was your dream when you started to make music?
I can't remember anything in particular. I think the most we wished - I say we, as me and Lorenzo, almost started as a band, even if I don't know if he had completely the same feelings as me - was mainly to play some live gigs and eventually record some stuff. Actually this recording attitude emerged quite soon. We bought a simple four track mixer and a cheap microphone and we started to record some things on tapes, mainly to have a laugh it at the end of the day. That is, possibly, the main reason my my latin is so poor. I have to say I've never dreamt of being a rockstar or anything like that.
In general what do you think about dreaming?
Life would be meaningless without dreaming. I usually like to distinguish between dreaming and wishing, which might not necessarily be the same thing. Actually while in wishing one has the perception that one can get whatever it one is aiming for, dreaming is world on its own, in which everything is possible and everything is also impossible, but there. I wish I can dream a little bit more.
How did your band come about?
It mainly begun by playing acoustic tunes discarded by the other band I was playing at the moment, the frozen fracture. I was thinking at the time about the inclusion of more things like home built synth modules, keyboards plagued to guitar stomp boxes, SW radio noises and stuff like that, something similar to what I used to do in 'The Dutch courage'. Things evolved and I start thinking about My Dear Killer as a separate independent entity and start developing more 'traditional' songs, with that came the need to actually write lyrics. That was the most difficult bit as I have played in instrumental bands, or in band, where I didn't have to sing, or to write the lyrics for quite along while before MDK. It turned out to be the opposite of a previous project 'the teacup session'; there are actually no instrumental songs at all in clinical shyness.
How did you decide upon a name?
I'd been thinking for a while about the name to give to this band, as I turned out to be the only person involved in it for a while it was kind of a struggle, then I came up with the idea of 'My Dear Killer'.... more recently I've discovered there is also an Italian movie of the seventies which is called like that, but I've never seen it.
What was the hardest part of taking the idea and making it into a reality?
There was not really difficult because mainly reality turned the idea into a feasible project when I found to sort out the original idea involving rubbish synthesizers together with acoustic guitar. I simply stayed with the guitar alone and then added lyrics. Writing some, at least, acceptable lyrics has been the main complication as unexpectedly I start enjoying singing more and more. It was something I haven't been doing since ages, when I still wanted to be a punk-rocker.
Describe the place that one or more than one of the songs was written.
I've composed most of the songs in a room I used to share with my brother, in my parents house, in the northern-Italian country side, close to the point where river Ticino reachs the lake Maggiore. A region we like to call the lakes' land. Indeed there are a number of little lakes around and the weather is rather rainy, especially during the autumn and winter. My room is actually pretty small and hasn't changed much since I was a five years old, for the exception of the accumilation of stuff making it increasingly unlivable. Apart from that it is fine. Out of the window I can look at some pines tops, which shield the motorway from the view.
I wrote the lyrics of 'the teacup song', in the kitchen of a student dormitory where I spent some time while working at a host University. From the window I could see a narrow brick/rock surfaced street and the internal of an abandoned child school court. I would have liked to have lived there for longer. But if that had happened I would have possibly missed the humidity and the riding by the river side after a little while.
What are your plans for the future?
For the very near future, we are still working quite hard to complete all the things which needed to release the definitive long playing edition of Clinical Shyness. We actually have not managed to complete all the graphic design yet, there will also be some extra surprises on that, including a story a very special person wrote for it... but it is still a well kept secret!.... hopefully the record is going to be released next February, in Italy, by Under My Bed, but we are looking for partnership in the united states with Turn records.
Do you think a person should look to the future or live for the present?
I think a person might think about the future, but it could be better living by in the present. The present is worries, the future is troubles.
What single thing influenced you the most in your music? Who do you most admire?
I can't actually say what single thing influenced me more. I think as in general for the human beings it is the bunch of experience that you accumulate in your life which are overall influence you. And it is also difficult to say who I most admire. If you mean under a musical point of view, I would definitely say, my favourite ever is Nick Drake.
What was the first piece of music to affect you?
I think one of the first records I bought was pink floyd's 'a saucerfulof secrets'. I think that has made a strong impression on me for quite a long time. Especially since I was mainly a bass player. On the other hand I had plenty of my mum's 45s from the sixties which I use to listen to when I was a lot younger. I think those might have played quite a role, even if I can't say which of those in particular
What is your most recent discovery musically?
I would say it is a re-discovery, and is, partially, the dark, new-wave things I hadn't listened to for a while. I'm quite enjoying at the moment stuff like "Warsaw", "Joy Division", "Sister of Mercy" that.
The move to London:
Why did you come to live in the UK?
Coming to London was a kind of dream. You can imagine, for someone grow up in a place where, apart for industrial plant and the a few remaining woods and crops, is almost in the middle of nowhere, it is a dream to move to a place where finally you'll have something to do. So when I had the chance to come over, and work here, it was an opportunity I wouldn't let go... actually my work involves moving a lot, but I would like to stay in London for a bit longer, if it is gonna be possible.
What has been the hardest thing to comes to terms with about living in a different country?
I don't think there has been anything terribly complicated in coming over and living in England. I indeed enjoyed most of my time here.
What is the strangest thing about London, England, or the UK in general?
The fact that people still use the train despite the need for a mortgage to buy a ticket. And some of them are also happy being on the train! Yes, that's bizarre. I think ladies not wearing socks in the middle of December and with temperature near 0 centigrades is also something you won't see very often in the place I come from.
Is there another question you would like to answer?
Not really. But there is one I would like to make: What are exactly the rules of the Cricket??
NOT IN MY NAME!
"Have you seen the photographs of our boys did on the road to Baghdad? Our heroes and their cluster bombs just like shooting people in the back. And this is what it looks like south of the border. This is what it looks like, the new order."
(Robb Johnson" (1991-Not in my name)
11 years since Robb Johnsson wrote "not in my name" 250 000 people (or perhaps closer to 400 000 depending upon who you listen to) found themselves in central London voicing opposition to the call for military action against Iraq.
On a sunny day at the end of September protestors young and old, from a wide range of ethnic groups marched peacefully blocking the busiest roads in central London. The atmosphere was optimistic, and with the botched sense of community between the thousands of smiling at strangers, you could believe that life could be so much simpler and that perhaps there was a chance for peace. So what had united such a wide cross section in society?
While the attack on Iraq in 1991 may have not had support from 100% of the population, the motives for the offensive were clear. Britain was just one of the countries in the UN whose troops were deployed to aid the liberation of Kuwait from the invasion by Iraq. Rightly or wrongly the lives lost in the war could be justified by the lives taken.
This time though there is no imminent threat to human life and although there is evidence that Iraq has stockpiled chemical and biological weapons and is in the process of making long range nuclear missiles there is no evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussain has plans to use them. Iraq's possession of nuclear does leave an uneasy feeling in the stomach, but is that enough reason to go to war? And should Britain be condemning a country when it is itself guilty of the same crime? Many people are unconvinced that the possession of nuclear weapons is the real reason for the threatened military action, instead believing that it will be a war to win oil rights.
It seems to me there are any number of reasons why are Britain shouldn't be going to war with Iraq. And very few, if any, reasons why they should. Perhaps it was this that united people, families pushing babies in prams, old men with walking sticks, hardened protestors, with people who just happened to be in London on that day. Whatever it was, the anti-war feeling was high.
I'm lucky to have lived in a country, which for my whole life, has never been under attack. I can't imagine what it would be like to go to bed not knowing whether the town where I live will have been attacked by the morning. I don't have to wonder every minute of the day, whether my family are safe. My life hasn't been turned upside down by bombs destroying places I know I love, or infinitely worse friends and family.
I can't imagine ever wanting this horror to be inflicted on others:
"Not in my name!
For more information regarding the anti war campaign visit www.stopwar.org
Becoming Charles Bukowski
there are worse things than
(Charles Bukowski- 'Oh Yes')
I have been familiar with the works of Charles Bukowski for a long time now. Ten, maybe twelve years. Well, maybe "familiar" is the wrong word. Maybe love is the right word, but, I suspect the word I am really looking for is 'connectedness'. Yes, that's it. Every single word he has ever written, that I have ever read, have somehow made me leap out of my seat or stutter to a stop or, to paraphrase Bukowski, catch my heart in my hands. Some more than others, granted, but all have had that inexplicable, undefinable 'effect'on me.You know what I'm on about. You've probably had that 'moment' yourself. It need not necessarily be with Bukowski, it need not necessarily even be with words, but there are moments in life that grab you, shake you up out of your daily nine-to-five slumber. Bukowski delivers these moments for me again and again.
This makes it difficult for me to write about him. I can't convey what Bukowski means to me, nor can I approach the subject of his work in any objectifiable manner. So, when I was asked to write a piece on Bukowski, I wasn't entirely sure of the best way to go about it.
Then I had an idea.
I would do Bukowski. Not in the sexual sense (he's been dead since 1994, so it's not really an option), nor in the violent Cockney gangster sense (ditto); what I mean is that I would take a scene from one of his books and do it, I mean, actually perform the scene in as accurate a way as is physically possible. Bukowski's stories are littered with sorry tales of delapidated bars, lonely whores, and drunken, incoherent men. I was onto a winner here...
I chose a scene from Bukowski's autobiographical tale of growing up, 'Ham on Rye'. It involved a lot of drinking and, erm, a lot of drinking. Nonetheless, I was determined to carry out this arduous task in the name of 'The Friends of the Heroes'. I will suffer for my art...
So to set the scene: Henry Chinaski (Bukowski's alter-ego in all of his stories) goes to visit his friend, Becker, who suggests that they have a drinking contest. Chinaski is full of optimism- "There was no way I could lose. I could drink for days, I had never had enough to drink." Whether I was full of the same kind of optimism as I rattled the door of my friend Bob's house, I wasn't sure. Still, armed with two bottles of whiskey (it has to be whiskey, "a dark yellow whiskey" according to the story), I was kind of philosophical about the whole thing. I knew I would wake up tomorrow morning feeling closer to death than the day before, making nonsensical resolutions never to touch a drop of alcohol again and the like, but I figured if I just resigned myself to these facts, then tonight I could get on with the serious business of inebriated entertainment.
Bob was all for the idea from the start, especially when I said I would get the whiskey. Again the story stipulates that the whiskey has been stolen some time before. Not wanting to give the obese security guard at Asda a heart attack as he chased me through the customer car park, I did the next best thing- I 'borrowed' a bottle from my parents. Look, they don't even like the stuff, ok? The last (and only) time my dad had it, he ended up naked at the bottom of the stairs. I digress. Bob and his wife, Dawn, were given crystal cut shot glasses as a wedding present from some old second cousin removed or other. They had never been used, said Bob.
Bob filled the glasses. Chinaksi says, before his first shot, "Such beauty. My mouth, my throat, couldn't wait."
"You sure those are shot glasses?" I said, somewhat dubiously.They looked more the size of those disposable cups you get out of coffee machines.
"Yeah" he said "look, it says so on the box."
Indeed it did. "Oh well" I sighed "down the hatch..."
To Be Continued...
When Stars Come Out To Play
Once upon a time, in the month of September, a mix cd was given to me. It was made with bands whose names started with B. I think it was track 9; The Band Of Holy Joy, it read. Fishwives. Strange, charming words that meant next to nothing to me at the time. Lost among another 20 or so songs I'd never heard before, the music didn't mean much either.
Then, there was this grey February morning. I was already dressed and ready to go, and, having nothing better to do, I sat on his bed and looked at what he was doing. He was for whatever reason scanning a vinyl record cover. It was dark blue and there was a photo of a dark, wet, shiny street. There were lampposts on both its sides and the lights appeared like suns, or stars, the way they do if you almost close your eyes, or if you're crying. They reflected on the wet pavements and the street, forming rivers of light.
A strange, charming world; sort of like the ones I imagined as a child. I always fall for things like that.
I wanted to ask more about it but I never did. I just took a closer look at the sleeve while he was in the bathroom. There was another photo on the back; a lot of people were standing on and in front of a stage and I could make out some sort of scene - there was a silver moon hanging in the middle - and they appeared to be playing a lot of unusual instruments. It seemed mad, childish, yet even more charming.
Above it, it read:
And below it, there was some more:
I was already making worlds in my head where all these things made sense and these worlds where already magical as I turned to look at the inner sleeve where there was a - long - list of names. Some appeared to be normal names, some were just the first names of people and some others just looked like nicknames. 'How mad do people have to be to do that - how gloriously mad, how different - and how they should have faith in what they're doing. And in each other'.
Now maybe I have an overactive imagination, but honestly, that's what I thought. The list and the photo were talking about a world I hadn't yet known, but longed to visit. I suspected I had just stumbled upon something magical and still, I didn't ask him anything about them.
It wasn't until the merry month of May, when I took the mix cd out of its place in the pile and played it a lot, that it all started to mean a bit more. The song (Fishwives) was as crazy as the words and pictures on the sleeve would have me hoping, maybe even more. There were melodies coming and going - a drum machine, some keyboards, trumpets, a violin, though I could very easily be wrong - and on top of that someone was shouting what, to me at least, seemed like a fight between a couple. "He threw me out in the rain", it started. "Of course you came back again!"
And there was something in that - in the fact that she came back again, as well as in the fact that they repeat "I love you, I hate you" over and over again until we don't know who's saying what, or why - something that talked about how love sometimes goes on even where there is hate, even when you've reached the point where you're swearing at someone. For that, and for the childlike innocence with which I thought the song was sang despite all the swearing and the insults, I found it uplifting.
From then on it went the way it usually goes when you fall in love with a band. There were more songs and they were played a lot of times in a lot of places. They were sad songs, almost desperate, but they were saved by some childlike faith in magic, and their own honesty. The Band Of Holy Joy could be singing about mothers killing their babies and sounding innocent. Sounding like you'd want to be feeling when everything in your world went wrong: sad, but brave, honest, and always inspired. The tunes behind all these sounded more like, I don't know, something you'd expect from a music box in a dream, or maybe a carousel in a seaside town you suspect is haunted by ghosts you'd quite like to meet, rather than a pop band in England in the 1980's. Back at those times the Band of Holy Joy shunned guitars and filled their songs with sounds made by instruments they picked up at junk shops. Strange, charming sounds.
Years passed. The songs were played a lot of times in a lot of places. We played them in the mornings, as we started to do things around the house (I span around instead of tidying). We used to think they put us in the right mood to face the world and reach the other end of the day a winner - insane but optimistic. We put them in mixtapes and listened to them as we walked down the street; or on bus journeys out of the city. We played them in late spring evenings when the promise of summer was in the air like magic and they made us dream. There were nights when we made love to them and others when we just drifted off to sleep. And there were days when we were scared and the songs with all their sadness, madness and hope became our home.
And that's how the Band Of Holy Joy became one of my favourite bands in the world; and as the years went by and my love only grew bigger, the 'bloke from Holy Joy', whoever he was, became one of my heroes. He stood next to Morrissey, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian and Henk Hofstede of the Nits in my head (rather uneasily, I suspect) and took care to keep me honest, brave and inspired.