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Journal

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The subject matter for the opening journal entry of my revamped website is tinged with sadness. Coming a month after the loss of the Stooges’ Ron Ashecramps_songston, the death of the Cramps’ Lux Interior at the beginning of February was another reminder that our time on this earth is finite. But it is people like them, whose contributions keep rock’n’roll pulsing and morphing. For this reason, their spirits continue to touch generations, even those still unborn. Surely that is the best legacy that anyone who first tries to hold down a chord or beat the living crap out of a drum skin or yells incoherently into a mic can hope to achieve. I recently watched the Buddy Holly Story. Like most biopics, it’s grip on reality can be somewhat strained. “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, claims my dear pal Johnny Green. Fiction can often reveal more than so-called fact, itself a meeting of recollections of what happened distorted by time, moods and desires. The film, though, told an underlying tale of the determination of an artist to do what needs to be done in the face of, what can be, the hostility of friends, family and society at large. It is more often than not a struggle which makes no financial sense. Belief, commitment and passion are what it’s all about. As a grizzled Neil Young, looking increasingly like the ‘Godfather of Grunge’ he is dubbed, said in an intriguing documentary I was catching up with on iplayer – UK only I’m afraid! – “It’s all about the music”. It is. But rock’n’roll is also about attitude and style. Lux had them in abundance and that seems like a perfect epitaph.

Scratchy – 27/02/09

I arrived at myspace by taking the A1 to Hull, a ferry across to Holland, then flying to Bangkok, biking overland to Kiev… and I was only trying to deliver pizza! A private joke that might be, but in not so round about a fashion, one not at all that far from the truth. For years, friends have encouraged me to get on the myspace train. But it just wasn’t my way. I’d look at other people’s profiles and listen to their music. Discovered some terrific sounds out there. It was a mite frustrating not to be able to make direct contact. But generally I was content to keep on steering along an independent path. Until today, that is. To be honest, it’s taken a few weeks to figure out how to edit and design the look of the page. So, in this world of Facebook and Twitter, why now? Just finally made sense. Last year, Paul-Ronney of The Urban Voodoo Machine, in one rash drunken dare, threatened the closure of the Gypsy Hotel if I didn’t sign-up within the week. I didn’t and the club continued. Huh, some pal he is! Oren of Gogol Bordello offered to help me set one up when I was on the road with them. My old sparring partner in Khmer Rouge, Phil Shoenfelt, has been banging on at me for years about it. It’s not that I’m computer illiterate. Quite the opposite. I spend way too many hours tapping on the keyboard and squinting at the monitor. Pretty much my entire world is at my fingertips. I was the same with mobile phones though. It’s trying to find the balance between the ‘I-want-it-on-my-desk-by-yesterday’ approach to life and not being accesible 24-7. For ages I refused to get a mobile and then, one day, I amazed my friend Claudia, contacting her on my ‘new’ portable handset. Smelling salts were in order. I’d found the ‘brick’ a year before in a park. It took me that long to buy a replacement battery for it. I’ve changed the phone once in the half-dozen years or so since I went mobile. Nothing fancy, the one I currently own is still regarded by many as a museum piece. No camera on it. No mp3 player. A phone’s for making phone calls and I’ve also embraced the text message. But I listen to music and take pictures on equipment designed specifically for that purpose, not some all singin’, squeakin’ and snappin’ implement. For all these Luddite tendencies, I’m not hostile to the advances in technology. It’s a tall order to hope to ever be totally free of ‘the man’ and the ability to co-operate with relatively like-minded spirits is a skill not to be dismissed. But, in amongst the indulgent shit, so much more creative control is possible these days courtesy of the internet and personal computer. I’ve come to myspace when I felt good and ready. Hope to see you out there.

Scratchy – 9/07/09

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I set this journal page up for matters not necessarily music-related, though usually not a million miles away from that subject. On this occasion, I actually travelled thousands of miles with the aim of a much needed break from it all, though almost inevitably it lead me to a treasure trove of music. But that was only part of a journey that was, at times, challenging but ultimately uplifting and, the word I find myself frequently using to describe the trip, enchanting. In the close to one month I was there, Cambodia got right under my skin. I am slowly working my way through the thousands of images I shot. Thankfully, SD cards, like most things, are a lot cheaper in Cambodia than London and the stall where I bought the lion share of the CDs I brought back, also did a good trade in cards off me. A number of people have expressed a desire to see the photos and I’ve decided to put them out as slide-shows with music. There you go, I never can totally escape the music, though for some reason I’ve not figured out, you might have to click the loudspeaker icon that appears if you hover just below the slides.
Here’s the first in the series. I spent a couple of nights in Bangkok either side of the rest of the month in Cambodia. I arrived in the Khaosan Road at around ten at night. My guest house was around the corner, just far enough away from the crowds, noise and banging beats. The various ‘Chinatowns’ I have visited and Thai and Vietnamese meals I have consumed, do not really prepare you for Asia. They are cultural stepping stones. But to be immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of a first night in Asia, were a giant leap from anything I’d previously known. And yet, if I’d had any doubts in the couple of weeks prior to departure about what I was doing – I’d only made the decision to go a few weeks before – the adventure and excitement of being out on the road and the privilege of the opportunity to experience something different, came flooding back.
If the Khaosan Road struck me as what I’d hate about Ibiza, (I’ve never been or wanted to), it had its compensations. That first night I ate a spring roll for 10 Baht (20p) and pushed the boat out for a fabulous banana pancake at an ‘extravagant’ 30 Baht from stalls there, before retiring. After a long sleep, following my flight which required a change of planes in Abu Dhabi, I woke the next morning, mercifully mosquito-bite free. The mosquito net I’d endeavoured to put up fell down whilst I’d been eating. Rather that than having it collapse with me inside it. It never came out of the backpack again. Relatively refreshed, I was now ready to start exploring.

Scratchy – 26/03/09

Sometimes we try things and they don’t quite work out. Shit happens! I’ve decided that the slide show – see previous entry – doesn’t really cut it. To make it uploadable and streamable, the size was too small for some of the detail in the pics. Should I stick with what I seem to know best, i.e. music? Should I ‘eck! In the period that I took some time out from the world of rock’n’roll, I studied film and photography and toyed with the notion of remaining a photographer. With the new millenium, I found myself swept up on a new wave of passion for making Scratchy Sounds and my interest in the photographic image may have been pushed onto the back burner. It had not diminished though. The trip to SE Asia certainly brought it back to the fore. Point is, I know that it takes more to make an attention-maintaining visual piece for eight minutes, than simply slapping a bunch of images into i-photo, all set to the same dissolve and viewable for the same length of time, however appropriate the musical selection may have been. OK, I took some care over it and I don’t think it was a completely pointless exercise nor an abject failure. But it was far from the year-long pain-staking effort that went into my graduation personal travelogue ‘Wrestling With Time’, itself constructed mainly with stills. If I applied the similar approach to dj’ing that I’d given the slide show of Bangkok, I’d kick myself off the stage. Though I have yet to succumb to playing off laptops or, lawd forbid, i-pods, I also know that whilst audio quality is a prime consideration, good artistry is not about the equipment. The skill of the DJ, film-maker, photographer or any damn artist, is in the putting across of the message. The medium should not the message. It is the means of its conveyance. But for now and for all that, I leave the slide show playing away in the background.

Scratchy – 6/04/09