Whilst editing, I am listening to the NO DEAD SEAS: NO RED SEAS VOL II compilation which you can purchase HERE.
Compiled and conceived by musicians Lesley Malone and Caroline Jago, the compilation features artists from eleven countries.
This compilation has been put together in support of the fight against over-fishing and it raises awareness of the urgent need to protect our oceans and their wildlife. This is an incredibly atmospheric, beautiful and inspiring compilation, and its mood is absolutely perfect as a background for the editing of my novel!
I have almost finished Draft 2 of The Book of Thoth. Draft 2 should be finished by the end of this week.
Next step for me is the re-read everything from the first to the last page without making any corrections, to check whether the narrative flows, whether the story is easy to follow and makes sense...
The Book of Thoth is a Gothic novel inspired by Wilkie Collins's work, and therefore it is not meant to be scary, but rather atmospheric and mysterious.
Old Spitalfields Market is a brilliant place to be every day of the week. We were back there specifically to buy a piece of jewellery from Lelong Designs, who create pieces inspired by the 20s and 30s, Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles - my favourites!
I am not usually big on jewellery, but their stall is simply wonderful and I had to try and concentrate on the task at hand: purchase something to add to the back cover of The Book of Thoth - the cover itself is very minimalist, and we thought adding something completely different at the back would work well.
Matt ArtPix, the Arcane Publishing designer, helped me choose between some Egyptian-inspired pieces or some insect jewellery.
In the book, one item in particular plays an important role in the story: a dragonfly pendant. As Egyptian imagery is already well represented throughout the book - on the cover and inside - we decided to go for the wonderful dragonfly brooch above, which looks very, very close to the jewel I had in mind. And it is very, very wearable, isn't it? I had a little chat with the stallholder and was thrilled he agreed to have his work on the back cover of my book... Of course, credit will be given where it's due!
I also HAD to make a detour and buy some tea on the Yumchaa Tea stall. Honestly, they are the best teas around. I knew I was going to a gig in the evening, and yet, I still bought three bags of tea and carried them around the whole day and night. How Rock'n'Roll is that?
OK, I admit it: I can be a terrible snob from time to time, and I refuse to set foot in your average cinema like the Odeon, for example, ever again. People eat, talk, check their phones, fidget; their attention span doesn't exceed two minutes... It just spoils it for me. So we've decided to only go and see films in "civilised" surroundings, like the Curzon cinemas and the Barbican Centre. Below is a picture of Cromwell Tower opposite the cinema at the Barbican, pure Brutalist style!
Talking about Brutalism... There's a great programme on at the moment about Brutalist architecture: Bunkers, Brutalism and Bloodymindedness, presented by the impossibly cool Jonathan Meades. It is absolutely bonkers, with Mr Meades's very, er, original presentation style. I'd love to get the script; it's wonderfully written in a rich, kaleidoscopic vocabulary... And it's very inspiring for me, with visuals close to what I'd like to achieve with my fourth book.
We went to see the not-very-critically-acclaimed The Monuments Men. I've never seen any movie with George Clooney or Matt Damon, so I have now. Clooney has some kind of Cary Grant, twinkle-in-the-eye thing going on, and Matt Damon is... err... a bit bland, perhaps?
I liked the movie because it had a sort of old-fashioned charm you don't really find in modern movies - I have always been a lover of classic cinema me, from the 20s to the late 50s. Also, it is rare in a mainstream movie to have references to art and its importance in our society. True, the movie doesn't go very deep into any of its topics, but I never go to the cinema to see movies making deep and serious social/political points - I leave that to pseudo-intellectuals.
I haven't been to the cinema for ages, and then bang, several films turn up all at the same time! I also want to see Only Lovers Left Alive, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Under The Skin, and they are all out in the forthcoming weeks!
When we stepped into the Lexington on Sunday, we entered a parallel, beautiful, lyrical world.
I have already written a little bit about cellist and "looper" Jo Quail - when she supported Rasputina in November. It was a pleasure to see her play again - and it was even better the second time! Not only is her music truly mesmerising, but watching her play is fascinating. Music inspires me and has always played an important role in my life, but the process of creating music and playing it is a complete mystery to me. To witness the alchemy practised on stage by Jo was simply awesome. And her music is definitely otherworldly.
On Sunday night, we were treated to a brand new, not quite finished piece - temporarily called "DD" - the music note I hasten to add - a "baby" track that still has quite a lot of growing up to do according to its creator, although it sounded pretty grown up to me already!
We continued our journey into a realm of magic and shadowy beings with the excellent Seventh Harmonic (for some reason, my computer refuses to open the website on either Chrome or Explorer, which is a real shame!). Sunday was their new singer Liza Graham's first gig with the band, and if she looked slightly uncomfortable at the beginning, this changed pretty quickly as she literally beamed as the set went on... Jo Quail joined the band for their track "Winter" and added a layer of cords to the already rich ensemble.
Experimental, dark and seductive stuff indeed...
Daemonia Nymphe do know how to put on a show. Costumes, masks, ancient Greek instruments - made especially for them by craftsman Nikolaos Brass, and a dancer. On Sunday, they were presenting their new album, "Psychostasia".
Spyros Giasafakis and Evi Stergiou, the core members of Daemonia Nymphe, have worked for film and theatre (in particular The Theatre Lab Company), and it shows in their taste for the subtly dramatic; they also know how to surround themselves with talented musicians, and joining them on Sunday were among others Tanya Jackson (whom I had seen perform before with the Mediaeval Baebes) and ex-Dead Can Dance member Peter Ulrich - I still remember reviewing his fabulous album "Enter The Mysterium" years ago, so was particularly chuffed to see him there!
Also present was dancer/model/actress Denise Moreno.
Hypnotic, evocative and full of Ancient Greece's rhythms and flavours, Daemonia Nymphe's world is infused with myths and legends and carries the words and stories of Hellenic literature.
This is dark, ritualistic, spellbinding music, plucked from ancient times to speak to the soul of modern audiences.
To conclude, I would just add a word or two about the audience. Everyone should be proud of themselves: attentive and respectful of the silent/quiet bits in the sets, holding their breath at the end of each song before applauding enthusiastically. It was just a pleasure to be there.
I have heard so many negative things recently about acoustic/quiet sets being completely spoilt by drunken idiots, blasé crowds speaking over artists and heckling...
Well done, everyone.
Last Saturday, we spent another great day in London. There was an exhibition we wanted to see and we had a gig in the evening. As usual, we ended up doing a few detours along the way...
We were making our way to GRAD in Little Portland Street when we thought it would be a good idea to go and have a quick look at the BBC Broadcasting House just a few streets away. We got in to have a look at the Art Deco reception and the lovely security guy gave us a flyer for the tours organised there - this is a new attraction that launched in April last year.
Just opposite Broadcasting House, you can find the imposing and rather fabulous Langham Hotel. Quick literary diversion here: the hotel was popular with writers such as Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle - whose Sherlock Holmes stories The Sign of Four and Scandal in Bohemia are partly set there! - and Oscar Wilde...
It was then a short walk to Little Portland Street and GRAD (Gallery for Russian Arts and Design) to see their fabulous little exhibition "Soviet Posters of the Silent Screen". The gallery is not big, but we still managed to stay ages. The exhibition is free and really, you should go! (It's on until 29th March).
My partner Matt ArtPix has written a great little blog about it, so go and have a looksie. Of course, I adored it; the 20s are my favourite era, and I am fascinated by silent movies. We sat down and watched the absolutely wonderful 1925 film "Chess Fever" in its entirety.
And you're lucky: I have just found it on YouTube, so you can watch it too! - Warning: contains cute kittens and a killer actress who rocks the 20s look beautifully!
From Fitzrovia, we walked to Covent Garden via the stunning All Saints Church in Margaret Street.
I am hunting for a perfume, but I loathe the usual fare on offer in mainstream shops, especially as women's perfumes are mostly floral and "fresh". I don't want that rubbish: I like heavy perfumes, with wood, patchouli, spices, neroli, that kind of thing... In Covent Garden, I came across a shop that made JUST what I'd been looking for - with a seriously vintage/heritage twist and marvellous bottles to boot: Penhaligon's. I adored their Elixir one, but there are too many amazing concoctions in their collection!
Have a look at their website, it is fascinating and real treat for the senses... Unfortunately, I simply cannot afford their prices...
I might get tempted by their £3 samples one day!
Talking about heritage, we also spent a bit of time in the very chaptastic shop Thomas Farthing on Museum Street, a stone's throw from the British Museum . Their cloche hats are lurvely and I was tempted to steal all their nice vintage wooden crates for my Arcane Publishing stall!
We made a short visit to the venerable institution that is the British Museum to pick up flyers for the next big exhibition I absolutely have to go to: Vikings: Life and Legend.
Then we were off to the Islington O2 Academy for some choons...
I have written about Red Sun Revival and The Eden House before - read my review of their gig at The Lexington HERE.
We didn't catch RSR this time around but were in for co-headliners And Also The Trees, who play very rarely in this country. Elegant, atmospheric and poetic, their music took us far away from our urban landscape.
The Eden House are one of my favourite bands and their set was as good as ever, albeit a little bit too short for my taste... I always want more of their beautiful music!
The editing of The Book of Thoth is well under way... Today, my work is fuelled by music - I am listening to the fabulous The Eden House ahead of their London gig tomorrow - I absolutely cannot wait! I am also looking forward to seeing And Also The Trees, whom I have never seen live.
I have reviewed The Eden House's concert at The Lexington last year HERE and therefore will not do a full review of the gig this time around, but I will most certainly try and take pictures...
I have also written a review of their new album Half-Life HERE.
Here is some footage from the Lexington gig:
And some more books we've just acquired!
Following up on the topic of theatre actresses, here's Ellen Terry, probably the most famous of them all!
The next one is something quite special.
Letters from Cythera is written by Jaz Coleman, the frontman of cult post-punk band Killing Joke, but also a well-respected classical composer, and thinker. The hefty volume, which delves into the ideas, belief systems and inspiration behind all of Coleman's music, is accompanied by The Island, a CD of music Coleman himself describes as "romantic minimalism" and composed by him. It was recorded in 1996 in New Zealand with the Auckland Philarmonic Orchestra but was lost for over a decade.
Both the book and the music were inspired by and created in the remote South Pacific island Coleman owns - which is rather apt as I am still reading Jordan Reyne's Remembering the Dead, set mostly in a New Zealand forest.
Learn more about the project HERE.
The design on the project was done by Mike Coles, the design genius behind Killing Joke's most iconic visuals.
During yet another fabulous outing in London last weekend, we were able to see some astonishing art on display and listen to some terrific tunes...
First to the imposing Somerset House, where Stanley Spencer's Heaven in a Hell of War is exhibited (free entrance!) as part of The First World War Centenary. All the paintings have made the journey from their permanent home of the Sandham Memorial Chapel - bar the gigantic The Resurrection of The Soldiers, which was displayed as a projection on the wall, as the original was painted on a canvas adhered to the wall of the high altar of the chapel.
Most of the scenes show everyday life during the war at the Beaufort Military Hospital in Bristol - where the injured soldiers shared the building with mental asylum patients - and are fascinating and often humorous vignettes; some others depict scenes from the Macedonian front. There is a lot to see here, loads of little details. I was also very taken with the richness of the colours in some of the scenes and by the lovely, quintessentially English Tea in the Hospital Ward and Bedmaking. The exhibition is on until 26th January 2014.
It was only a short walk to Trafalgar Square - for a little look at the Big Blue Cock there - no, I am not being rude - and I can tell you something: the two manky pigeons perched on the plinth were not impressed - nor was I, to be perfectly honest.
I went to Vienna when I was very, very young, and remember not liking its monumental architecture at all... I do not know a lot about Austrian history and culture, but I am a massive Klimt fan, and therefore was not going to miss this.
The exhibition is rather fascinating and is showing works from the Secession movement - concentrating on their portraits of members of the affluent, international and liberal middle-classes, who were often also their patrons.
The styles vary enormously, with some works genuinely surprising in their boldness and originality - some of them unsettling, even.
And I was so thrilled to see a few original Klimts at last!
I really liked Oskar Kokoschka's work and his unique use of colours, especially in Portrait of Hans and Erica Tietze-Conrat below - the online images and even the prints do not do justice to the original, I'm afraid.
Another favourite of mine: Erich Lederer by Egon Schiele. The young man looks like he is straight out of a silent movie.
Facing the Modern at the National Gallery continues until 12th January 2014.
A quick stop for refreshments in the fast-disappearing Soho, and we were on our way to the Islington O2 Academy to listen to some music!
Industrial band Ventenner were excellent, taking their influences from different genres and injecting a welcome uncompromising, misanthropic energy - think Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails, Atari Teenage Riot among others... I will definitively keep an eye on them!
Die Kur's singer Ays Kura looked thrilled to be playing in front of a sold out Islington Academy and his enthusiasm was infectious, even though their music was slightly too metal for me.
It was good to see Inertia's Reza Udhin wear his Sophie Lancaster Foundation t-shirt and wrist band to play another energetic set from this hard-working electronic band - who were celebrating their 20th anniversary last year!
Time for yet another celebration: The Young Gods' 25th anniversary!
The pioneering post-industrial Swiss band played a fabulous set, with samplers as sharp and biting as ever - original member Cesare Pizzi is back and taking charge of them for this tour. I don't really know what kind of stuff singer Franz Treichler is taking to keep his youthful, dancer-like physique, but I'll have some of it, please. He just doesn't change, and still makes an engaging, charismatic frontman.
As for drummer Bernard Trontin, he was on impressive form...
I have written a small review/introduction for the French webzine La Magicbox of Monster Jaw's first release, the Get a Tattoo EP. You will find the English version below and both English and French versions are now on The Magicbox website. ENGLISH HERE and FRENCH HERE.
Oh, and a quote from the review is now on their latest online promo! :-)
At the risk of sounding like an old cynic, I have to admit that nowadays, I tend to question the motivations behind the emergence of a new band. My years as a music journalist are over now, but during that time, I have encountered countless outfits who, although talented enough, didn’t have the chops to confront the realities of the music business: they wanted to make it NOW and were not ready to wait for fame to come knocking – or make the necessary efforts to achieve it.
I used to know a well-known music producer who founded his own small music label, then signed a few young bands – who were all excellent – on a generous 50/50 deal; he even sold some of his personal possessions to finance the whole venture.
Unfortunately, within a few years, it was over: apathy, impatience and lack of real artistic motivation from the bands killed off the fledging label, and the producer, disgusted, moved to Norway. He carries on producing and creating music because it is his passion. None of the bands are still active.
I can predict that somehow, there is no risk of any of this happening with Monster Jaw – or at least, they’ll have a good go at it.
Formed in February 2013, Monster Jaw hails from the Northern cities of Leeds and Bradford. There’s frontman, guitarist and songwriter Mik Davis, bassist Neil Short – whose tattoo is featured on the EP cover – and drummer John Bradford.
Mik Davis, whose previous work with New York Alcoholic Anxiety Attack and Utopian Love Revival produced brilliant tracks and attracted rather a lot of attention, also produces other artists - read my review of Mik's collaboration with Joolz Denby, The Black Dahlia, which he has also produced, HERE.
This is a band with a real artistic, creative edge and a mind of its own – how could it be any different when you are managed by iconic artist, writer, poet and tattoo artist Joolz Denby, who is also the band’s official artist.
The trio have also been endorsed by clothing label FLY53 and produce DIY, bonkers videos which are miles away from the over-produced, slick mainstream monstrosities in vogue nowadays.
They describe their music as “Garage grunge” and if I tell you that their interviews are peppered with references to people like Iggy And The Stooges, Bush, The Cramps, Jesus and Mary Chains and The Doors, you will have a pretty good idea of their musical influences.
Monster Jaw know that one of the best ways to build up a following is to work on your social media and play, play, play… They have already built up a great live reputation and have been opening for the legendary New Model Army on three dates of their current UK tour.
This three-track EP is a taster of the album to come next year. It was recorded with London-based Belgian engineer/producer Wes Maebe (The Libertines, New Model Army, Roger Walters, Robert Plant among others).
Title track Get a Tattoo is a seductive tribute to the art of tattooing with a heavy, sonorous guitar. Summer Girl is a more playful, bouncy and energetic proposition with a punky, spunky guitar. Perfect to have your head turned.
Then there’s the fast and fierce We Don’t Care About Anything which stands at less than two minutes, enough to mock our brainless consumerism, trend-led society.
The three tracks on this EP are instantly memorable and catchy and show off the band’s musicianship and Mik’s vocal range.
Monster Jaw are ready for you; but are you ready for Monster Jaw?
Head HERE to purchase Get a Tattoo.
Read an interview with Monster Jaw HERE.
More videos HERE.
Someone shared THIS on Facebook, and I just HAD to put it on here. It's so cute, beautiful, intelligent, poetic and dreamy.
Obviously, it is a rather old video and TVs don't look - or work - like this anymore!
But as always, I would sit and listen to Björk for hours. The world is a better place when people like her are around!
Unfortunately, there are very few of them.
Listen to and watch Johnny and The Sea, by one of my favourite artists, the very talented Jordan Reyne.
Jordan has just published a novel, Remembering The Dead, and I hope to be able to post a review of it on this very blog in the New Year latest - I need to read it first, and I am very very busy at the moment...
Watch Jordan talk about the book below!
I think therefore I write.
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