Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A quick chat with DJ Vadim

DJ Vadim's playing the Jazz Cafe on Thursday and he's bringing it large. Having battled with health problems over the last few years, he released a joyous new album to acclaim, featuring turns from favourites and newbies such as Yarah Bravo and the brilliant SabiraJade. We caught up with Vadim quickly to run through the setlist for Thursday, his dream band and why there might not be a new Onself album anytime soon!

1) New album, new live set, new and improved Vadim: what can we expect at Jazz Cafe?

Well its an evolution of sound. Soul tronica perhaps. Organic hip hop soul reggae vibes... live keys, percusion, me on the MPCs, 2 vocalists, backing vocalist..

2) What would be in your ultimate dream live band?

Umm The Roots. they are about as good as u can get. Erykah Badu's band is dope, so is Raphael Saadiq, Fat Freddys Drop, Jill Scott...

3) The album is very joyous and full of life and energy. What mindstate were you in making it?

Well I came out of having cancer in September 2008. and I survived cancer so I felt joyous in that. Relieved and inspired to live... that's partly why the album is upbeat...

4) What is the best album you've heard all year and why?

Well there are a few. I love the latest album from Fat Freddys Drop - Dr Boondiggae, Jake One - White Van Music, Homecut, Mos Def, Donaeo, Robin Thicke.. a lot of different stuff. I like the new Ghostface Killa album also...

5) Describe your sound to the novice/Vadim beginner?

It's a mix of hip hop, soul and electronica. Rapping and Singing. Some instrumental. bass heavy with dope intricate drums, lush orchestration and defiently something different and quirky about it.

6) When can we expect a new Oneself record?

Ahh I wish... one day it may happen again!!! But don't hold ya breath. Yarah and Blu aren't exactly talking!!!!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Dave Simpson - The Fallen (Canongate 2009)

So many positive reviews of this book served to make me want to take a different tack in writing about it. Despite this, I warmed quickly to the way Simpson set about inviting the reader to join him on his quest to not only account for, but to archive the stories of every member of The Fall that ever there was.

Simpson’s reverence of the band’s music and the aura that surrounds the band oozes from the pages, occasionally getting carried away to the extent that tenuous links are forged to a psychic force wielded by singer Mark E Smith and odd coincidences offered as being somewhat more than that. This doesn’t detract from the story, with Simpson’s own role in it never being overblown or taking over from his obsessive focus of eking out lost band members and hearing their tales of what it was like to be found by The Fall, to work with the band, and to leave it. Simpson is a fan, and he weaves his story around what the band meant to him when growing up and throughout his life since then, through periods of not listening much to The Fall, but returning, always returning, over a period spanning more than 30 years.

The only constant in The Fall is Smith. It might not seem odd that a singer should be the one around which the band is shaped, but what makes The Fall so very different is the way the band’s music shapes itself, and the way that a particular sound, “always different, always the same” (John Peel), identifies itself to the listener as being The Fall without the listener having to hear the vocals, no matter who is in the band at the time, no matter what era the song is from. Smith doesn’t write the music or play any instruments, either. He often doesn’t turn up at rehearsals. Somehow, a band consisting of over 40 different individuals can make over 30 albums in as many years, all of them recognisably The Fall, but all ploughing their own furrow.

The geographical source of the music is explored, the tough landscapes surrounding Manchester, with the village/small town of Prestwich at its epicentre. Smith recruited a fair few members of his band through more-or-less literally approaching them on the street to somehow pressgang them into service.

Violent on-stage dissolutions of line-ups are explored, also off-stage formations of strong allegiances which appear to go against Smith’s philosophies of the tensions which provide the fertile ground for musical creativity, and which, it appears, Smith did his utmost to break down.

The story of The Fall is one of probably the last truly working class Northern rock band. Perhaps the last rock band of any significance. Over 40 members ex-members of the group were tracked down and talked to. Tales of extreme weirdness abound, but the sense of pride is palpable from all those people, and that nearly all of them would work again with The Fall, no matter the circumstances of their final departure from the band, is testament to the special nature of the music that the band has consistently produced since 1976.

by Pete Sottrel

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

new Foreign Beggars video

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Peter Bagge - Everybody is Stupid Except for Me

Peter Bagge is an interesting proposition, a political satirist for Reason magazine for many years, railing against wars and oppression and corruption and at the same time railing against the railers, the protestors, the anti-oppressors, the anti-war, the anti-corruption and these uneasy cartoons floating in the murky middle ground between righteously right wing and liberally left-wing are collected in the amusingly titled ‘Everybody is Stupid Except Me.’ His style is frenetic, usually using a representation of him, the sweaty nervous nervous, as the crux of all his points. The stories are like pictoral articles, investigating scenes and issues and presenting both sides of the argument, sometimes through vox pop or illustrations of a diagrammatic nature to bolster the reportage. It’s impressive stuff and he certainly knows his bones when talking about the homeless crisis in San Francisco or the hypocrisies behind the abstinence movement. His drawings are busy and curt, always cutting and always railing against most forms of authority. It’s in his work that we find ourselves questioning our liberal attitudes. Are we right? Are we patronisingly right? Are we peacenik commies? Unfortunately, Bagge himself comes across as ambivalent about some areas himself and leaves us guessing as to his political sentiments. Is this good journalism? Is it the direct confusion of a man unable to place himself on one side of the fence? Or is it just liberal-baiting hectoring from a man who ‘mostly’ disagreed with the Bush government. It’s probably a mixture of all three. These are good comics, fun to read and definitely funny, definitely searing and when he hits a target he gets it right. Also there’s something to be said for the journalist tone of the writing and the structure of the strips would translate well into a proper newspaper, were he so inclined. Is everyone stupid except for Peter Bagge? Well, we’ll never quite be sure. But then, neither will he.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sathnam Sanghera - The Boy with the Topknot (Penguin 2009)

Sathnam Sanghera’s debut book, The Boy with the Topknot (published in hardback as If You Don’t Know Me By Now) is a worthy piece of work despite it revealing him to have a clawingly bad taste in pop music. It’s bittersweet and funny but over-archingly triumphant in the face of adversity. It seeks to debunk the misery memoir myth by being self-referential and unreliant on tugging our heartstrings unnecessarily, instead using memory and a nice narrative juxtaposition of past and present to reveal its inner depths. Despite all the references to George Michael obsessions and some chapter titles taken from some of my worst enemy pop songs, it’s a beautiful piece of work.

When successful journalist and materialist Sathnam Sanghera, living the high life of Prada and loft flats, dinner parties and celebrity interviews, was 24 he discovered for the first time his father and sister were both suffering from a severe mental illness he hadn’t been aware of. As he researched their conditions and how they had come to be hidden (through a lack of understanding of schizophrenia and through family guilty secrets) he moved to Wolverhampton and started to piece together his family history and the history of his parents. Each member of his family is a character, from his silent father obsessed with BBC Parliament despite his illiteracy and lack of English; his mother, neurotic and obsessed with tradition, with finding him a wife of equal caste and culture holding the family together; his brother with his growing obsessions with fashion icons of the times and his two sisters, funny and nasty in equal measure. Sathnam was the baby and through the flit between past and present reveals how he learnt English on the fly at his school, became obsessed with being a good boy (a symptom of a schizophrenia family member) and went from his mum’s favourite to her biggest disappointment as he sought to escape Wolverhampton and her over-bearing clutches, all for the sake of dalliances with girls. The book closes with a letter he writes to his mother, emotionally explaining the choices he has made in his life and the secret life of dating white girls he leads and the amount of panic and depression it causes him, bordering on inflicting a mental illness of its own on his neuroses. The book isn’t all misery and family repression though. It’s warm about his family at times and funny at others, especially on a chapter dedicated to cutting his hair for the first time, a big Sikh no-no. The book, torn between his present feelings of ineptitude, helplessness and confusion as well as the process of trying to write the book while being scared of scratching too far under the surface and warm/bitter feelings about Wolverhampton, moves along quickly, never boring, always interesting, always painting an interesting picture of a family dealing with mental illness and a family dealing with the cultural differences of old and new, East and West. While this is a worn out subject, Sanghera’s literal, funny and unearnest take on his Asian identity makes for hilarious scenes when he goes out to meet potential brides at meetings set up with his sister, when he describes his family set up in Wolverhampton. However, it does go into horrific detail about domestic violence in the Sikh community and the pain and suffering his mum went through before his dad was finally diagnosed with a mental illness.

As a misery memoir, it fails, because it never plays with your emotions. Sathnam breaks the fourth wall, describing the process of writing the book, always in his head but dealing with enough factoids and studies and quotes to keep his feelings on the side of reality and recognised research. It’s warm and funny but bitter and painful and the final denouement with his mother and the letter is a poignant finale to a life-affirming book.

Simon Armitage - Gig: The Life and Times of a Rock Fantasist (Penguin 2009)

Gig is the second memoir from indie enthusiast, writer, rock journalist and would-be poet laureate Simon Armitage. Told in a charmingly self-effacing way and full of bright and sparky anecdotes about the life of a jobbing poet who makes more than adequate time in his busy schedule to attend as many gigs as possible, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, breezy and poignant. Running through Armitage’s experiences in interviewing Feltham young offenders and sex workers for films ‘Feltham Sings’ and ‘Pornography: the musical’ respectively (don’t mix those two up), he reveals the behind the scenes process of writing all the lyrics for these films as well as anecdotes on the research process and subsequent careers and lives of the subjects. He writes about his time up North, getting into the New Romantics while his dad, a stoic manly man, took every opportunity to mock his girly hair and foppish demeanour. There’s a hilarious story about his time studying home economics and having to live a flat on school premises for a week and cook his teachers’ lunches. Only in the North, only in the seventies. There’s also the music. Armitage uses every other chapter to visit a gig in the last 3 years and have it spiral off into memories of getting into the artists in his teens (Morrissey, the Fall, Stiff Little Fingers), how they have related to parts of his life, stories about the bands and artists themselves and an overriding sense that he wishes it was him up on stage, rocking socks off. Alas, he’s confined to the role of bard, travelling the world reading his work and enthusing about British rock history. Every chapter is peppered with memory, charm and hilarity and the book ends with Armitage setting up his band The Scaremongers, and their fraught attempt to lay down some tracks in the studio, despite both being in their mid forties. A charming book that makes you want to go and seek out his poetry. Also, be sure to read Armitage’s £33.33 column in the Observer Music Magazine, where he spends said amount in charity shops each month and recounts his experiences of the albums he finds.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Riz MC - Sour Times video

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Alan Moore and Kevin o'Neill - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Century 1910 (Knockabout 2009)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen volume 3 is upon us, and with it, Alan Moore’s propensity for Victorian filth and mind-expanding concepts. This time, The League is more ambitious, and dare I say it, purposely a fuck you to anyone who might consider trying to film it, after all film versions of his work have ended up ruining or only hinting at the genius in the original source material. Volume 3 of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is called Century officially and... spans... a century. Expansive. Gone are most of the characters we refamiliarised ourselves with (the original two volumes concerned literary characters from Victorian novels reimagined as a type of antequated MI5) and instead we are faced with brutal serial killers, songs and the occult. So prevalent are songs and rhymes in this first volume (with parts two and three due next year and the year after) that if it were filmed, it would take the place of a grotesque carnival musical, with filthy shanties and bawdy limericks pricking the surfaces of naked tortured skin. We catch up with Wilhemina Murray, the vampiric bride of Dracula, immortal and having outlived most of her original League, now with generation 2, comprising of Thomas Carnacki, a ghost detective, Quartermain’s son and Orlando a mysterious figure in possession of Excalibur. Carnacki’s visions lead him to murderous Armageddon in the East End and the occult who are trying to birth a moonchild. Meanwhile, Captain Nemo of the Nautilus dies, leaving his beloved submarine to his estranged daughter, absconded to England to work in a bordello by the docks. The book is self-contained and while it takes a while to get going, promises an interesting take on this century. Themes abound in volume 1 of the power of vice and how do-gooders trying to quell human desire for vice and virtueless violence are undoing nature’s own commands, and evil will out. Moore seems to be predicting the death of the century and along with it, the death of the human race. The violence is grotesque and bloody, the pirates that crew the Nautilus are ruthless and cunning. And the new League is still trying to find its feet. Volume 2 takes place in 1969 and concerns the hippy movement and volume 3 will bring us up to date in 2009, promising appearances from Jack Bauer, characters from the West Wing, and bizarrely, Armando Iannucci’s surreal retro-future comedy show, Time Trumpet. Definitely unfilmable then. But then after the disaster of the last attempt to commit The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a sombre and disgusting mediation on the human condition as told by literary figures in Victorian times, into cartoonish celluloid, I doubt anyone’ll be coming near this 100year spanning tome with hardly any ‘stars’ or recurring characters through each volume. Whatever happens, Moore has ensured he won’t be cursing any more film versions of his babies anytime soon. In the meantime, this is essential for any comic book reader and for any literary types who want to succumb to the filth and fury of 1910, as told by modern times’ most famous magus of wit and invention, Alan Moore.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Shappi Khorsandi - A Beginner's Guide to Acting English (Ebury 2009)

Look ma, a celebrity autobiography worth reading? Shock-a-rama... except this breakout memoir by comedienne Shappi Khorsandi has been what’s tipped her over the edge into the public eye, eyeing up appearances on Jonathan Ross and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. Instead of gracing the mirthless bowels of Radio 4 comedy, Shappi Khorsandi will now hopefully be commanding more high profile gigs based on this book. The memoir, documenting her arrival and early to teen years in the UK trying to fit in, shows she can write too. More poignant than laugh-out-loud funny, more tragic and beautiful than punchline-punchline-punchline, the book approaches the immigrant experience with a fresh yet familiar take, using a backdrop of England and classic Englishisms to tell a story about inherently Irani protagonists. Khorsandi discusses her first years at an English primary school, speaking not a word of the language, using her brother and other silent immigrants as emotional crutches, while occupying a fantasyland of make-believe and imagination at home, hero-worshipping her father and trying to teach her mother more English things. She talks about how English slowly crept up on her, through rhymes and stories before becoming her normal vernacular, how she went from being frightened of the English to scolding her mum for not being able to make her jam sandwiches. The centre of her attention is her father and his political leanings. While Iran undergoes some major changes, her father, a satirist and journalist and poet- hero-worshipped by the Irani community of London, meaning endless social engagements, debates and performances in front rooms- documents the changes, the fall of the Shah, the rise of the Ayatollah, the revolution and its divisive nature, as middle and upper class London-dwelling Iranis put their tuppence in. Meanwhile Khorsandi’s family in Iran feel the effects and impacts the changes in power structures have on their well-being. ‘Persepolis’ dealt with similar topics and told them from the same spiky brutally honest angle; here, the crucial difference is the journey that Khorsandi and her brother make towards accepting their present surroundings and how it impacts on their cultural identity, something easily identifiable for a generation of Diaspora immigrants in this country. This most tense and interesting section of the book, where men are dispatched by the new government to assassinate Khorsandi’s father. This section arrives in the second half of the book and is by far its most exciting bit. The writing teams with compassion and warmth, the humour in the situations and characters is sweetly scathing, the differences between Irani and English customs played out to great comic effect, and the sincerity in the prose, the unflowery honest writing makes it a strong memoir with its lightness of touch and comic timing.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Rutu Modan - Jamilti and other stories (Jonathan Cape 2009)

How much do we know about the people of Israel? We know the politics, have picked our sides to support and happily go on through our lives reducing countries to polemic and political policy. So thank god for the medium of graphic novels and for Rutu Modan, whose short pieces of pictoral fiction comprise a sturdy offering from the Jonathan Cape stable of thinking liter-ista’s funny books. This is a far cry from the spandex and superheroism of Marvel. This is a subtle intense funny set of short stories, all with their own brand of ultra-violence. In the titular ‘Jamilti’ we meet a bride-to-be, one of Israel’s bleeding heart liberals marrying an oafish pig of a far right man. Her quiet acceptance of her position and his boarish conversational gambits about terrorism and Palestine converge in a tense engagement where much is left unsaid. When she finds herself in the debris of a terrorist bombing, she finds herself face-to-face with a mutilated dying man who makes her feel appreciated and beautiful. That moment of pure vulnerability and synergy makes the closing pay-off all the more smarter. The characters in Modan’s book all lead quiet lives that are torn apart by violence, whether it be political or personal or emotional. ‘The Panty Killer’ follows the police investigation into The Panty Killer, a violent serial killer who leaves his victims with a pair of Y-fronts over their head. In ‘Homecoming’ a small community mourn the death of one of their boys gone off to war in different ways, unable to move on from the fact that he may have died at war, when a plane appears overhead and they reach fever pitch excitement wondering if he has now in fact returned. Each story is funny with a black heart stricken with the cancer of grief and bereavement, with the whisping underbelly of politics trying to muscle its way into the lives of these Israelis. The artwork is beautiful and sombre with a lot of strange yellows and pencil-coloured hair and backgrounds, each panel oozing with the mix between adult- and child-eye view of the scenes depicted, reminiscent of Tin-Tin. The precise nature of their expression and observation mean that the dialogue-light panels are effective at evoking deep emotions. With other stories ranging from parental discoveries to women with healing hands, the range of lives in Israel, macabre and twisted as they may sound are funny and sombre and dripping with a gallows humour only befitting a country with such a war-filled past.