I am not a nostalgic person, but that night at the Hope and Anchor in Islington really makes me want to move back to London and spend my evenings in dark venues up to four times a week, just as I did when I was writing for music magazines. Nowadays, I no longer get in for free and have to add the train and tube fares to my budget – and I am so busy with my own projects that I wouldn’t find the time to write as many music articles as I did back then!
Therefore, I choose the events I attend very carefully. And tonight, I congratulate myself on my choice.
There are quite a few familiar faces on stage and in the audience, people we have seen on stage numerous times. These are people who have had the courage to keep their creative flames alive despite all the obstacles and setbacks faced by musicians nowadays. In a society that is reversing to the relative comfort of conservative attitudes and is embracing a sinister brand of global blandness and trend-led consumerism, it is reassuring and genuinely heartwarming to find yourself in the company of people who create such thrilling work. Because yes, it was a thrilling evening indeed, full of fantastic and innovative music. Every single one of the bands tonight deserve a bigger audience and a larger venue!
The photos are not as good as I'd want them to be, unfortunately (light was too low for the camera...).
One of Geeta’s songs is called Goose bumps (featured in the teaser video below). How very fitting for such a fascinating performance that mixes vocal prowess, keyboards and electronic sounds! Hailing from Montreal, Geeta is an experienced multi-instrumentalist, singer, artist and producer who has worked extensively on the international art scene. Tonight, she is performing in the poorly lit basement of a pub, and she still manages to capture our imagination and bewitch our senses with her otherworldly songs that pierce the gloom to bring enlightenment to our ears. A natural heir to pioneer Björk – producing electronic music that sounds incredibly organic and close to nature and the universe – Geeta throws herself into her performance with a raw intensity. A real gem.
Will Crewdson is a busy man, and has been for years. I first knew him as the guitarist for fabulous glam-rockers Rachel Stamp, but he has played with so many people that the list is too long to type here (if you’re interested, go to his bio on the Scant Regard website); not surprising though: he’s probably one of the best guitarists around at the moment and looks effortlessly cool at any one time. He is currently very active with the fledgling new wave/electro band he has formed with Shaheena Dax (also ex-Rachel Stamp), She Made Me Do It.
Scant Regard is Will's solo instrumental project in which he is free to experiment with electronics and samples as well as show off his guitar skills. It’s really original, catchy, experimental and cinematic. I love the video for the addictive Sneaking into Godforsaken Territory (see below!), full of vintage footage of vintage fashion and pin-ups which remind me of the books I sell on my stall!
One could describe Prude as a supergroup, the cauldron in which is brewed an explosive musical potion of rock’n’roll and industrial: fronted by an unbelievably charismatic Jared Louche (ex-Chemlab, artist, storyteller, performance artist and educationalist), Prude consists of Louche, Matt Fanale (Caustic), Marc “Plastic” Olivier (Plastic Heroes), Phil DiSiena (Infocollapse, Cyanotic), Howie Beno and Christophe Deschamps, all experienced individuals who have been involved in music for years. They have just released their terrific first album, The Dark Age of Consent, a thrilling vortex of abrasive electronics, rock’n’roll histrionics, groovy melodies and wordy, sharp lyrics – we get a glimpse of Mr Louche the poet. I love musicians who mess up with your head and create a surprise with each and every track. With their eclectic sound and their tendency to revel in the darkest recesses of human nature and the sleaziness that comes with it, Prude remind me of other industrial/rock supergroups Pigface and Revolting Cocks, which can only be a positive thing!
Tonight, Mr Deschamps is on drums, guitarist extraordinaire Marc Plastic provides the grooves and Jared Louche gives a pretty flamboyant performance. The rock is turned up and the electronics down, but this doesn’t prevent us from appreciating the terrific tracks. As I watch Prude play in the tiny space, with the heat and the music building up like inside a pressure cooker, I cannot help thinking that if they carry on at this pace, the Hope and Anchor will end up imploding! Prude’s ambition deserves a bigger venue.
See you in the front row!
I have been looking forward to seeing Black Volition play live, and they are even better than I was expecting.
After the swaggering confidence of Prude, the tone of the evening changes as the atmosphere thickens like the darkest of full-bodied Bourbons. The core members of BV are Will Crewdson and Reza Udhin (founding member of Inertia and keyboardist for the iconic Killing Joke since 2005). Live, they are joined by Roi from North London-based electro band Mechanical Cabaret, accompanied by Spike T Smith (The Damned, Morrissey) on drums and Gary Day (Morrissey, The Gazmen) on double bass (a fantastic vintage-looking specimen!).
It was thrilling to listen to and fascinating to watch: the band members really gel together and there is an unmistakable chemistry between them as they play their beautiful songs. Black Volition describe their sound as taking “a trip through the sleepy towns, lonesome woods and dark cabaret of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Then transport yourself to the back streets and gloomy swamps of a vampire-ridden Louisiana in True Blood via a desert valley of spaghetti westerns”, and I couldn’t put it any better myself. It’s haunting (Underground Cities) and utterly, utterly seductive. This is what a walk around the deserted set of Hollywood’s latest Film Noir would have felt like in the Golden Days of cinema, with a pervading menace just vaguely perceptible underneath the surface (Hands on You). On debut single Rivers (video below), Will’s guitar is full of western-tinged flights of fancy and it’s impossibly catchy. The Rain, featuring performance poet Danni Antagonist, is a thundering, brooding gem of a track that stays with you a long time after it has been performed. Gripping stuff!
This is subtle, multi-layered and nuanced music. The cinematic quality is undeniable, and if the Peaky Blinders editors still needed a few tracks to add to the series, then they should really have a word or two with Black Volition. For my part, I am waiting for the first album with impatience and hope to see BV live again very, very soon.
I read in a newspaper recently that if you are an actor, London is now the place to be. Your career is made by soaking up the furious flashes of the assembled international press and having a selfie taken with a tearful member of your adoring audience whilst standing on the red carpet of a Leicester Square première. Move over, Hollywood!
The film industry has also apparently partially relocated to the British capital due to the wealth of creative talent concentrated in a decidedly resourceful metropolis which is always ready to reinvent itself without entirely letting go of its past.
There will of course be a red carpet at the 58th BFI London Film Festival which takes place this year over 12 days (8-19 October).
The figures first: 247 fiction and documentary features, including 17 World Premieres, 9 International Premieres, 38 European Premieres and 19 Archive films including 2 Restoration World Premieres, and
148 live action and animated shorts!
Some of the best industry professionals will attend, including of course the stars, which will bring their very own aura of glamour to the proceedings.
The programme of the festival is simply mind-blowing - and features a Sonic Gala showing Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton’s concert film Björk: Biophilia Live. I mean, BJÖRK!!!
Watch the trailer HERE.
The opening gala will be the European Premiere of The Imitation Game, with British stars Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch in attendance. This movie about computer pioneer Alan Turing promises to be fantastic – I have watched THE TRAILER! What a cast! – with an outstanding performance by Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing.
The closing gala will be the European premiere of Fury, starring American star Brad Pitt as a sergeant commanding a Sherman tank on a mission behind enemy lines.
Watch the trailer HERE.
I will add another movie I cannot wait to see: Mr Turner, for which the excellent Timothy Spall was crowned Best Actor at this year's Cannes Film Festival...
Watch the trailer HERE.
Cinema has always found inspiration from the world of literature, and that particular trend seems to be growing every year. This year’s BFI London Film Festival has a strong group of literary adaptations covering a variety of genres, subjects and periods including WW1 drama, murder mystery, soul searching biopic, urban crime drama, female-centric comedy drama and depression-era melodrama.
This year’s Centrepiece gala on Thursday 14th October is Testament of Youth by James Kent with Dominic West and Emily Watson supporting rising stars Kit Harrington and Colin Morgan. This is an adaptation of Vera Brittain’s WW1 memoir.
Watch the trailer HERE.
There will also be Wild by Jean-Marc Vallé. Writer Nick Hornby and actress Reese Witherspoon will attend the screening on Monday 13th October. The film is an adaptation of the bestselling 2012 memoir by Cheryl Strayed about her 1,100-mile hike across the Pacific Crest Trail.
Watch the trailer HERE.
Another anticipated adaptation is Serena, with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. Ron Rash’s 2008 novel is set in depression-era North Carolina.
Watch the trailer HERE.
The Drop, a crime drama with James Gandolfini and Tom Hardy, was written by Dennis Lehane who has adapted his own 2009 short-story Animal Rescue.
Watch the trailer HERE.
The Blue Room is the adaptation of a 1964 mystery novel written by Belgian author Georges Simenon. It is directed by acclaimed director and actor Mathieu Amalric. It is part thriller, love story and tragedy.
Watch the trailer HERE.
Not a literary adaptation per se, Robert Altman's Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean is the 1982 adaptation of Ed Graczyk’s play about a 1975 reunion in honour of the 20th anniversary of James Dean’s death and features a group of women who were members of the James Dean fan club. This has an all-female cast including Cher, Kathy Bates, Karen Black and Sandy Dennis.
Watch the (non-official!) trailer HERE.
X+Y is the only movie adapted from a documentary (BAFTA winner Beautiful Young Minds) at the festival. It follows Nathan, a teenage maths genius with autism.
Watch the trailer HERE.
Find everything you need to know about the programme, dates and times and buying tickets HERE.
Now, as a novelist myself, I would lie if I said that I do not dream sometimes of having my books adapted for cinema. I am a very visual writer anyway, and I use pictures of actual places, buildings, objects and landscapes as inspiration. I have an intimate relationship with what every scene looks like – I have some kind of storyboard in my head!
My characters all have physical traits taken from actual people: actors, musicians, individuals I have briefly met or seen in the street or a venue. In I Am a Muse, Constance is a red-haired Dita Von Teese lookalike; in The Book of Thoth, I have written Adam Tuckfield with actor Cillian Murphy in mind, whereas flapper and jazz journalist Maeve is an effervescent mix of Louise Brooks, Clara Bow and Helena Bonham Carter (don’t ask!).
I am pretty sure every fiction writer secretly hankers for their books to be adapted for the cinema – although by a director who would “get them” and be sympathetic to their little idiosyncrasies!
All photos on this blog courtesy of the official press site for the LFF!
Blog 1 will be a report from the basement of the Hope and anchor in Islington, London, where we had a fantastic night yesterday evening. Some truly captivating, thrilling stuff was played... I still have to download the pictures, so bear with me!
Blog 2 will be a preview for a famous cinema festival about to kick off soon in the capital. Of course, it will be related to literature.
I will start work on these tomorrow and hope to post the articles online over the weekend.
So come back in a few days to check this very blog!
I have been preparing the Arcane Publishing stock ahead of the next event I'll be attending: So Vintage London at Old Spitalfields market on 2nd August. I have added Tommy, the movie, by The Who (1975, French import). More details about this item HERE.
My first novel, I Am a Muse, features a dead painter and his muse. I will most certainly go and see Mike Leigh's Mr Turner when it is released in the UK in October, it looks fabulous. (lovely review HERE - I loved Topsy-Turvy, the Gilbert and Sullivan film mentioned in the article!).
See the trailer below!
There is a review of I Am a Muse in issue 2 of V&OAK magazine, a new glossy independently put together in Colchester by a team of talented and hard-working people. V&OAK stands for "vintage and one of a kind".
I am very happy with the review, and it was a surprise to find out that the article took a whole page in the "Culture" section. The review does highlight the main topics in the book. It didn't start well, though, and I have a slight issue with the following sentence: [talking about Constance] "An elite events planner, her story begins along a similar vein to your typical chick-lit narrative of an independent woman stuck in a love triangle with two different yet disposable men."
WHAAAAT? "CHICK-LIT"? *Hits head on wall*.
Believe me, this is absolutely NOT chick-lit. I most certainly do not write for women but for everyone who loves reading. I do not tackle "women's issues", and at no point in my book do I say that the men are disposable! Constance is a single, working individual in London who has affairs, shares a house when she'd prefer not to, and tries to keep her head above water.
Constance is not an "elite events planner", but the manager of an arts and media centre inspired by the iconic Tea Building in Shoreditch where artists and start-ups hire space and units. She also runs a monthly club night inspired by the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens.
But I "forgive" the reviewer, because the rest of the article is beautifully written and rather spot on (and she corrects herself about the chick-lit tag too in some way!).
OK, and seeing my picture rather big on there was a bit of a shock... You can see you're no longer in the fashion section!
My partner in crime Matt ArtPix also had a little feature in the magazine about his design work.
And both Arcane Publishing and Matt ArtPix advertised in the mag!
This weekend, we went back to lovely Whitstable to attend an event at the first WhitLit, the Whitstable Literary Festival. It is a shame that we couldn't stay over for the whole weekend, as there were quite a few interesting events. Then on the day we decided to attend, we had to choose between two events that fatefully took place at the same time in two different places in town.
So I opted for the talk on British Gothic (one of my fave subjects) with one of my favourite contemporary writers, Christopher Fowler, over the one about two of my favourite classic authors (namely Charles Dickens and most of all Wilkie Collins, whose work has inspired my second novel, The Book of Thoth).
I have written about Whitstable before on this blog, HERE and HERE. My partner Matt ArtPix also posted a lovely blog about the place two years ago, you can read it HERE.
We adore the architecture around the town, and there definitely is an atmosphere...
So yes, we are big fans and we will most certainly go back. Yesterday, there seemed to be even more interesting shops than the last time we were there. This is what a high street should look like: all the shops (or very nearly) taken up, mostly by independent businesses which have kept the uniqueness of the interior of the buildings they now occupy.
We spent a while in the fabulous Oxford Street Books, a treasure trove that had me virtually drooling. Whilst in the basement, a young couple wandered in. I didn't pay attention to them at all until the girl said - with a very bored tone of voice "Why don't you just get your books off the Internet?" (i.e Amazon); I almost SCREAMED. She did look bored. They left. The poor guy didn't even have time to browse properly! Their loss. We on the other end took our time.
In the shop, there was a signed copy of the first and only edition of The Bois Saga written by local VIP resident Peter Cushing. It was £195.00, of course... and no, I didn't buy it! There is an ebay listing for it HERE with a lovely and rather poignant write-up.
We also paid a visit to Harbour Books, the local independent bookstore and associate of the WhitLit festival. I bought a Dorothy Parker poster in there... oops.
As part of the WhitLit festival, a second-hand books event had been organised at All Saint's Church Hall. You just have to say "second-hand books" for me to come running. And there was a tea room as well, which was perfect after so much walking around! I was amazed: people literally bought PILES of books! It was so wonderful to see!
I got my hands on a wonderful little book called Gobbolino, The Witch's Cat by Ursula Moray Williams (written in 1942, this edition 1966). It's cute, and I am going to read it, because, hey, it's got witches and cats in it!
I also rescued the lady above from a charity shop. Isn't she just handsome? I can feel a book coming with her as the heroine.
In the evening, we attended a talk about British Gothic at the Horsebridge centre as part of the WhitLit festival.
The two speakers were Christopher Fowler, a favourite of mine - I encourage you to read his very entertaining and above all informative blog, which he updates daily. I try and read all his posts as I always learn so much about cinema and books! Chris was also one of the speakers at the week-long "Culture Lab: on Writing Fiction" I attended in Southend in October 2012. I have been reading his books since the late 90s, but I really struggle to catch up as he is so incredibly prolific (I am genuinely in awe of this, as I am such a slow writer...)
The second speaker was the very knowledgeable Barry Forshaw, writer and journalist and Vice Chair of the Crime Writers' association, who has a brand new book out about British Gothic cinema.
The discussion - introduced by David Sutton, editor of Fortean Times - was simply fascinating, and one hour wasn't long enough. We could have sat there until midnight without getting bored. The two entertaining speakers swapped ideas, opinions and anecdotes about Gothic cinema, literature and characters. It really was a delight to listen to these two experts describing encounters with the greats of British Gothic cinema (Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee), taking us on a journey from the beginning of the genre to the special effects-saturated movies of current times and Hammer's resurrection. At random, a few things that got mentioned: Dracula, Frankenstein, MR James, Mary Shelley, Ingrid Pitt, lesbians, The Innocents, Hammer Films, Bela Lugosi, sets being reused again and again for different films, Carry On Screaming, Mr Fowler's Bryant and May series... and so many other things!
We then had a few things signed... Of course, I had to get the latest in the Bryant and May series, I can't wait to start reading it!
Afterwards, we decided to hang around in the cafeteria for a bit with some nice hot drinks, whilst the venue was getting readied for the next talk of the evening.
Sitting by the floor to ceiling glass doors leading onto the terrace and looking down at the town outside, we admitted that we didn't really want to go home and that yes, we could see ourselves live in Whitstable...
I know, I know...
I am still working on the editing of Book number two, I have written only one chapter of Book number three and I haven't really done any work at all on Book number four...
And then up pops the idea for Book number five!
After an animated conversation in the car with Matt ArtPix - those pesky creative couples, always bouncing ideas off each other all the time! - whilst on our way back from Devon, here's what I have come up with: a Hound of The Baskervilles-inspired vintage mystery set on moody Exmoor, with a rural detective named Barton Stacey - it is the name of a parish in Hampshire. When my partner saw it on the map, he decided here and there that it was the perfect name for a detective! I have no idea whatsoever whether I can pull it off or not. I want it to be a bit outrageous, a bit humorous (can I do humour?) and we'll have a cover inspired by vintage classic detective novels...
I have my work schedule sorted for the next ten years, I think!
I came back from Devon two days ago with three new books - they will not be for sale via Arcane Publishing as they are for my own private collection, but I am so excited about them that I wanted to share them with you!
The first one is "The Mammoth Book of Thrillers, Ghosts and Mysteries" by Odhams Press, 1936 edition. The cover has a lovely embossed bat on it, there are great black and white illustrations and mini author biographies for each featured writer. It's a real treat, featuring people such as Joseph Conrad, Guy de Maupassant, M.R. James, D.H Lawrence, H.G Wells, J.B Priestley and many other very famous and less famous writers. I cannot wait to start reading these stories!
Then I got my hands on a wonderful School Girl's Annual from 1930, full of exciting adventures and lovely illustrations of bob-haired girls that I will use to illustrate some blog posts in the future.
And now, my favourite find of them all... A very rare copy of a fabulous book called Dorothy and Lillian Gish, written by Lillian Gish herself and published in 1973 (Lillian Gish still had two full decades ahead of her when she wrote the book!), and absolutely packed-full of incredible pictures - family, movies, theatre sets, etc. most of them from the sisters's personal collection.
I am a great admirer of Lillian Gish - she inspired my pen name! - she was an incredible person, actress, scholar, cinema expert. She had a fabulously luminous, ethereal beauty, and you can perceive her incredible intelligence in those determined eyes... A real star and captivating individual.
The sisters's lives and careers together spanned seven decades! I am absolutely thrilled to bits to own a copy of this amazing book; it is a true treasure!
I love it when I find a newspaper cutting in a second-hand or vintage book. This one contained a cutting of Lillian Gish's obituary in The Daily Mail...
A few examples of the incredible pages of the book...
WARNING: VERY LONG BLOG!
Well, this was a hell of a week! After a relatively quiet winter, things have picked up on the culture front.
Last Tuesday, we were off to the lovely Theatre Royal Stratford East to see the new version of Oh! What a Lovely War. I do hate musicals with a passion and would have to be dragged to one kicking and screaming, but I knew that this one would be different.
Highly satirical and poignant, it highlights the absurdity of the "war game(s)" and that of the military - not forgetting how naive the civilian population can sometimes be. The play has been visually freshened up and you have to admire the cast's energy and hard work. Note to Michael Gove: maybe you should have shut up before you criticised the play as you now appear at the beginning of it paired up with a donkey... Just sayin'...
For a more comprehensive review of the show, go to my partner's Matt ArtPix's BLOG - he has been studying WW1 for years and is better placed than me to give his opinion about the show.
On Wednesday, we were off to a venue we had never been to, Village Underground in Shoreditch, to see the infamous Laibach - whom we have seen before on numerous occasions! The Slovakian "avant-garde" art collective - whose main body of work concentrates on the links and interaction between ideology and culture - keep reinventing themselves with each project; their latest one, Spectre, is a brilliant, addictive collection of multi-layered tracks sung in English - a bit less industrial, a little bit more electro, with "quasi-pop" moments...
Laibach have always been exceptional live and tonight's sold out gig didn't disappoint: the background visuals were striking; the live drums added impact to each and every track; Milan's presence was as impressive and authoritative as ever, his deep-seated, sonorous voice counter-balanced by the mysterious and charismatic Mina Spiler's clear, pitch-perfect vocals. Mina's place within the band has really grown; she now fully shares vocal duties with Milan (she is also given writing credits in Spectre) and exudes the confidence and attitude necessary for such a performance (she fronts her own band, Melodrom).
The first 45 minutes saw the band play the whole of Spectre, revealing the genius of the new songs to their attentive audience. Then after a 15 mn interval, we got something completely different: a few tracks from their Iron Sky soundtrack with the movie's stunning visuals playing on the screens behind; we were also treated to everyone's favourite, "Tanz Mit Laibach", and of course to a few deconstructed covers, including Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" and Serge Gainsbourg's "Love On The Beat". As someone who absolutely loathe both individuals and their work, I was first taken aback by the choice of songs, but then I remembered that this is what Laibach do: they take the most absurd popular songs and give them the Laibach treatment: they redefine them entirely by reshaping and remodelling them through the industrial filter, injecting them with the harshness and the edge they never had and pumping a little bit of life into them. Fabulous.
Saturday, we were in London for the Classic car boot sale at Southbank, organised by Vintage By Hemingway. The weather was glorious and the place was packed with loads of cool and happy people, wonderful cars and jam-packed stalls; the atmosphere was lovely and the location iconic... What else is there to say?
Here are a few pictures!
We made a detour via The British Museum to get tickets for The Vikings exhibition... Yesss!
Then we ended up at The Barbican cinema to see Under The Skin...
I have been waiting to see this movie for MONTHS.
Michel Faber is my favourite author, and I really wondered how on earth his unforgettable novel could be turned into a movie.
I am still thinking about it; as my partner said when the lights went back up after the film: "I didn't want it to end".
And I felt the same: it is truly mesmerising and gripping. It's bleak and unforgiving. There is very little dialogue; the music is brooding, distorted, haunting, basically: perfect... (soundtrack by Mica Levi). Scarlett Johansson, whom I have always thought of as being interesting as well as stunning, is deeply touching; a naturally fatale femme... (I have always been interested in the Femme Fatale concept; they are always the most interesting ones, remember Louise Brooks's Lulu?).
Director Jonathan Glazer has removed a lot of the original story and changed quite a few things around; he has - dare I say it in the context of the novel? - removed the meat and kept only the skeleton of the story - but said skeleton is what keeps the body upright, isn't it? - Same here. Spared down to the minimum - namely, the alien and her reaction to the world around her, with a setting transported from the rural A9 road in the book to the decaying urban landscape of Glasgow.
I was fascinated by the sequences in which the alien observes the strange behaviour of the humans around her - how many times have I found myself in the streets, in a venue, or simply in the same room as other people and thought that I didn't belong to the same world or species? My strong misanthropic streak made me feel completely at ease watching Under The Skin. It looked like the landscape in my head...
I couldn't say whether Under The Skin is technically a good movie; I go for gut instinct, and I loved it.
Tonight, I'm off to see the bonkers The Grand Budapest Hotel. This should be a fun evening!
Pictures by Carya Gish and Matt ArtPix.
I think therefore I write.
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