Against Nature – The June Edition
The first Against Nature took place without any deaths. The acts were all splendid, and it was lovely to see so many friends, many of whom I’d not seen for a while.
My main obstacle was simply getting a decent crowd to turn up. There were 35 paying people, which looked a bit sparse in a room with a capacity of 200, but then that was 35 more than I’d expected. It had, after all, only been booked with ten days to go.
The deal with the venue was that, on top of them taking the money from the bar, I had to also give them a flat fee of £50 from the door takings. In return, I got the room (a 200-year-old former horse hospital), with its own staffed bar and toilets and a fairly good-sounding PA with mics (though one or two of the cables were faulty and had to be replaced on the night), CD decks and a DJ mixer, a DVD player & screen, a dressing room, extra tables and chairs specially laid out, a security guard, a cashbox and float, and their PR services. They could also provide a sound engineer and door person, but I’d have to pay them extra. So I found ones who would do it for next to nothing. Or, as it turned out, for nothing.
The rest of the door takings I divided up among the acts and guest DJ. It was awkward to have to pay The Rude Mechanicals (who had to bring in all their amps and drums), Moonfish Rhumba, DJ Ally Moss and Barry & Stuart rather less than they usually get – B&S present their own TV shows on Channel 4, after all. But I hope they understood.
Thankfully Tricity Vogue did her set for free, as a belated (or early) birthday present for me. Ms Del Des Anges did sound tech duties gratis as a favour (and we both had to butch up and set up the PA from scratch, which was a shock), and Sarah Heenan took money on the door – in the cold outside – purely out of the goodness of her divine heart. I’m utterly grateful to them all.
I took no cash for myself. In fact, I lost money; through buying drinks for acts (the venue only provides free non-alcoholic drinks), buying a few props (silk petals, scented candles), and investing in my own DI box for the PA. Unless it becomes a sell-out night, Against Nature is going to be a pay-to-promote affair.
So, why am I bothering?
Because I get the chance to put on my favourite acts, sharing them with the world. Because coming up in July is a bill featuring a drag king singer and a ‘boy-lesque’ performance artist, alongside an eccentric indie band and a camp Eddie Izzard-esque comedian. I am confident there is nowhere else in the known universe with such a bill. If creativity is about Adding Unique Content, club promotion too can be a creative act.
And I’m doing it because I like the idea of carving out a little corner of Camden Town that is Dickon-shaped, for one night a month till September, if not forever.
And because, all the fiddly bits aside, it is Fun. I like Fun. I don’t know about you (I must stop saying this).
I shall definitely do it until September 1st. After that, either the venue will kick me out for not being fabulous enough, or I’ll find it too expensive or stressful or time-consuming to keep doing. Only one way to find out.
The experience has left me with a newfound respect for promoters and PR people at every level. It’s hard enough to persuade friends to come along to your event, let alone strangers.
In many ways, I am just the sort of person ill-suited to club promotion: I’m aloof, passive, stand-offish, lazy, and do not regard myself as a normal member of the human race. I believe the best way to persuade people to do things is to leave them alone and just… live in hope.
Perversely, I believe this is exactly why I should have a go at club promotion.
But Kevin Costner lied to me. If you book it, they will not necessarily come. You have to tell people. And tell them, and tell them, and tell them. It’s such a leap of faith.
I have also learned that the Facebook Events utility can be misleading. The FB event page for the May 5th night said 139 people had ‘Confirmed’ they were attending. Foolishly, I believed this would actually would be the case on the night. But then, more than a few of those who’d ‘Confirmed’ appeared to be near-naked young men and women, with model looks, perfect bodies and addresses in the Philippines. Looking further, their own list of FB friends seemed to be suspiciously meagre. I have learned that it you book it, there will be spam.
This time I’ve managed to inform about 20 different listings organisations, and have had posters and flyers printed. They look like this:
(Designed by Jo Bevan, image found by Maud Young: more favours from friends)
If you know of somewhere in London which would display a poster or provide a space for a small pile of flyers, please do get in touch.
Finally, here’s the listing for the next Against Nature, on June 2nd. Please pass it on. The live acts are superb and unique, and they really, really deserve an audience.
Weds June 2nd, 8pm to 1am.
Proud Camden (South Gallery),
The Horse Hospital, Stables Market,
Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AH.
Tel: 020 7482 3867.
Dickon Edwards (Beautiful & Damned, Latitude) curates a twisted speakeasy for dressed-up dandies and vintage vamps. Dance to a decadent mix of easy listening, showtunes, pastiche pop, and all that deviant jazz. Plus a suitably eclectic yet aesthetic gaggle of live acts. Every first Weds of the month in Proud Camden’s South Gallery.
LIVE ON WEDS JUNE 2ND:
THE MYSTERY FAX MACHINE ORCHESTRA
Singer-songwriter Martin White’s 20-piece ensemble, as featured on BBC4’s ‘Nerdstock’. “Wonderfully eccentric” – Time Out London.
THE VICHY GOVERNMENT
Polemic spoken-word synthpop, purveyors of such albums as ‘Carrion Camping’.
Burlesque performer of questionable sanity, fresh from her appearance as a guest star judge in this year’s Tournament of Tease.
MySpace: Crimson Skye
JINGO & BUTTERFIELD’S TALES OF THE EMPIRE
Victorian-themed improvised comedy, courtesy Fat Kitten Improv’s James Ross and Daniel Barker. Ripping yarns and tales of derring-do from the four corners of the globe.
Facebook: Fat Kitten Improv
Guest DJ: SOPHIA WYETH
Plus resident DJ & host DICKON EDWARDS
Live acts 9.30pm-11.45pm.
Dancing to 1am.
I’ve put up a batch of even cheaper tickets at WeGotTickets.com
Door charge: £5 before 10pm. £7 after.
NB: Latecomers may have to wait until an intermission between live acts.
DRESS CODE (optional but preferred): Vintage & dandy-esque.
Facebook Event page
Tags: against nature
Sequined Vodka Tales
A Fosca London gig announcement. Oh yes!
It’s the much-threatened Fosca Farewell show. Saturday December 13th at Feeling Gloomy, Bar Academy, Islington. Stage times to come.
The line-up will a five-piece, three-guitar and two synths (plus laptop) assault: Rachel S, Kate D, Tom E, Charley S and myself.
Two DJ gigs of mine, at somewhat shorter notice.
I’m DJ-ing on Sat Sept 20th, at a plush dress-up event called The Magic Theatre. This takes place in an Art Deco ballroom in Bloomsbury. Here’s what their website says about the dress code:
“Ladies: The perfect place for all you Cinderellas and Style Queens, Pink Princesses and Leggy Latex Babes… Audrey Hepburns and Barbarellas, TV’s, Saucy Secretaries and Rock Chicks…Whether you’re a Goth Girl, Dowager, French Maid or Precocious Teen Queen, Marie Antoinette, or Marilyn Monroe, the Magic Theatre is YOUR stage. Gentlemen: Retro Glamour, Uniforms, Lounge Lizards, Gentlemen of the Cloth, Fauns, B-Movie Stars, Prince Charmings, Pirates and Dandies of all kinds…Arise, Sir Galahad, kneel before Zod, come out, come out you Peter Pans, Dick Turpins and Darcys…”
I’ll be doing two DJ sets between 8.30pm and 11.30pm. Ticket details at www.magic-theatre.co.uk.
I’m also putting in a brief DJ appearance at The Beautiful & Damned on Thursday 18th, at The Boogaloo (near Highgate Tube). Martin White & The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra will also be playing. The B&D isn’t ‘my’ club any more, as I’m forever correcting people, but it’s still going strong under the auspices of Miss Red and The Boogaloo team. They’ve reinvented it into a kind of cabaret / club night / music hall booth affair. It’s great to see unwitting Highgate pub goers wander in off the street, and wonder just what weird, time-hopping universe they’ve stepped into. Part Red Room in ‘Twin Peaks’, part Sapphire & Steel…
Back to the diary.
Wednesday evening: to Trash Palace in Wardour Street, for a club night called ‘Polari’. It includes Jamie McLeod’s exhibition of modern dandies, which in turn includes me. Always nice to swan into a club to see a large framed photograph of oneself on the wall. The club also supplies free quiche.
On this occasion, special guest Sebastian Horsley takes the mic, and prowls and provokes and reads from his book, to a packed and appreciative crowd. Including his mother. He’s in his red sequined suit and brandishes a matching sequined bottle of vodka. Well, a sequined bottle cosy.
I say hello to David Benson, Anne Pigalle, Jason Atomic and Ms Ruta, and meet Clayton Littlewood, author of the ‘Soho Stories’ column in the London Paper. The window by his writing desk (or rather, laptop perch) looked out from the clothes shop he worked at, Dirty White Boy in Old Compton Street. A particularly good spot in London to watch people and gather (or imagine) stories: Soho media types, the famous, the homeless, the vicious queens, the prostitutes, the tourists, the tramps, the old survivors, the new blood. He’s put together a book version: ‘Dirty White Boy: Tales Of Soho’, which I’m rather looking foward to.
More details at his MySpace page, with excerpts, readings and so on: www.myspace.com/dwbsoho
After Polari, Mr Benson takes myself, Mr H, Mr L and his friend Ms Lois for dinner at one of the Chinese restaurants in Gerrard Street. Sebastian invites me to an orgy on Friday. I politely decline. I’ll be busy playing indiepop songs in Madrid. Many of which are about, well, not going to orgies.
Tags: Anne Pigalle
, Beautiful & Damned
, Clayton Littlewood
, David Benson
, DJ gigs
, Fosca gigs
, Fosca play Madrid
, Martin White
, Sebastian Horsley
Fosca are playing their first ever Spanish gig next month. My first time in Spain, apart from travelling along the southern coast to get to, or from, Tangier.
Date: Fri Sept 12th
Time: Doors 10pm, Fosca onstage 11pm.
Venue: La Pequeña Bety, c/Reina 4, Madrid 28004, Spain. Tel: 91 522 0796
Here’s the flyer:
Here’s an interview I don’t think I’ve mentioned. It’s in Zero Mag. In Swedish:
fosca_zeromag (PDF file)
We’re rehearsing for the Madrid show as a three piece (me, Rachel, Charley Stone).
After that, there’s the new single we recorded on the Swedish tour, which But Is It Art Records will be putting out.
And then… Well, I’m not sure. Maybe nothing more, maybe something else. I think it’s wrong to force oneself to write and record purely for the sake of it, if you’re not actually keen on doing it any more, and it’s not even paying the bills. But it’d also be wrong to say that’s it for my life with music, only to find a new album popping into my head, demanding to be made. We shall see. Best keep an open mind (or else).
Fosca Tour Manager Sought
Something of a classified advert. Fosca seek a London-based Tour Manager for their proposed gig in Madrid this September. And possibly other gigs too.
One thing I’ve learned from the Swedish tour – and ten years of foreign gigs – is that there are bands who can do the whole DIY, self-management thing when playing abroad. And there are bands that can’t, or at least would really rather they didn’t. We’re in the latter category.
Though we’ve never quite dipped into the realm of proper touring horror stories – thank goodness – Fosca have still had a certain amount of ill fortune when playing live. We’ve had illness, loss of property, tears, incapacitating tiredness, or all of the above. I’m starting to worry about what will happen in Madrid. A goring from a bull? A civil war? Melting clocks?
So I’m thinking we should really hire a third party Tour Manager for this jaunt, preferably one with a dab of sound engineering experience. Someone to take care of the nuts and bolts, and to stop the nuts from bolting.
They’d need to round up Fosca members who wander astray, help carry the heavy cases when one of us feels they are about to actually pass out, liase with the promoter and ensure that the venue can accommodate our set-up in advance (as opposed to finding out at the soundcheck that there’s not enough channels… sigh), and generally take the organisational pressure off us.
Even though it’s for one gig and less than 48 hours out of our lives, I think it would make all the difference.
The successful applicant would be paid. Really. Enquiries to the usual email address (or use the Contact Page). Please pass this on to anyone you think could help. Thank you.
DJ appearance at HDIF
I’m Dj-ing this Saturday at the club How Does It Feel To Be Loved, which specialises in mixing 60s soul & pop with 80s indie. After all the showtunes and easy listening with which my DJ persona is usually associated, it’s nice to be able to air the likes of ‘Crush The Flowers’ by The Wake or ‘You Wind Me Up’ by Bad Dream Fancy Dress and not feel like I’m in the wrong room.
Actually, were Cherry Red / El Records to put out 1989’s ‘You Wind Me Up’ as a single now, one wonders if it would be accused of ripping off Lily Allen. Judge for yourself, Dear Reader:
Were I better connected with the current pop world, I’d be nagging Ms Allen to cover it. Or better still, Ms Nash. Or Mr Ronson. Or Misses Girls Aloud. Or any new pop group with a chart-potential marketing budget and youth on their side, but no decent songs.
‘Isn’t that a shameless Lily Allen rip-off?’ the people would cry.
‘Oho!’ you’d say. ‘It’s actually a cover of an obscure 80s indie track. The band was called Bad Dream Fancy Dress, and the song was written by Keith West, of ‘Grocer Jack (Excerpt from A Teenage Opera)’ 60s hit fame. You’d know all this if you read Mr Edwards’s diary.’
‘Oh, him. Why doesn’t he just get a job?’
I digress. Here’s the details of my DJ slot:
Date: Saturday March 15th
Venue: The Phoenix, 37 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PP, three minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube station.
Time: 9pm-3am, with my set 10.30pm-midnight.
Entry: £4 members, £6 non members. Membership is available free from www.howdoesitfeel.co.uk
An email arrives from Zagreb, asking if I could be interviewed (re Fosca) for the Croatian magazine Terapija. Though I’ve never been to Croatia physically, it’s nice to know I’ve been there musically.
So what am I doing at the moment?
First thing to announce is the release of the Fosca live album, available via pre-order only, for a limited period.
The new Fosca album proper, The Painted Side Of The Rocket, will be released by But Is It Art? Records of Sweden. It’ll be a CD with lyrics and liner notes and so on, plus a digital release on iTunes. Release date and further info to come. Hopefully, Fosca will play a few gigs when it comes out.
I’m appearing in Stockholm tomorrow, Friday 19th October, as a guest vocalist of the band Friday Bridge. I’m also DJ-ing at the venue before the band go on, and will be doing a few interviews. Then back to London the next evening and straight from Heathrow to my friends Lea & Gemma’s wedding party before going home.
My other major booking is DJ-ing at White Mischief on Nov 10th. This is a big event at the Scala in King’s Cross, and features the band British Sea Power amid all manner of steampunk-inspired goings-on. For a limited time, you can buy tickets with 25% off at TicketWeb, if you enter the promotion code FRIENDS upon checkout.
On the writing front, I’m still reviewing a few albums and films for the magazine Plan B.
Other than that, I’m busy with the aforementioned sleeve artwork, lyrics and liner notes, sorting out new photos for publicity and generally tidying up the remaining mountains of clutter in my room, before pressing on with new work.
A reminder of this Fosca gig next week:
Spiral Scratch Presents
Fosca + The Besties + A Smile & A Ribbon + The Parallelograms
Wednesday 1 August 2007
The Windmill, 22 Blenheim Gardens, Brixton, London SW2 5BZ. 020 8671 0700.
Doors 8pm. Fosca onstage 10.20pm.
Tickets £4 advance, on sale now. Go to: www.wegottickets.com/event/19272
It’s Fosca’s first London gig for over a year, and our first headliner in our own home city (well, for me and Rachel) for much longer. Please buy a ticket and come. We don’t play live very often. And I’m not sure when we’ll play another one, to be honest. There’s too much heavy lifting.
B&D At Latitude
Last night – mixed the Fosca song ‘Don’t Be A DJ’. It’s not strictly anti-DJ-ing, more about people who fall into non-creative jobs around the creative works of others, where they can keep their head down, immune from any criticism. Fear of tall poppy syndrome. PRs who should be stars, working for dull stars who should be PRs (or anything else). Music journalists who are more attractive and have more to say then the dull bands they have to write about. How even the finest piece of music criticism only benefits the subject not the writer. A beautiful essay on Scott Walker only benefits Scott Walker. Whereas if Scott Walker recorded a beautiful song about the journalist… it would STILL only benefit Scott Walker. Thus with DJs. The need to rely on the works of others adds a level of compromise that irks me.
And this is one reason why I’ve turned down any hints of a career in either field myself. I feel the need to get on with writing an original song, story, or even just something in this diary. I’d feel a fraud if I did DJ-ing or reviewing seriously. It’d feel like an alibi. An excuse for not doing what I’m meant to be doing.
Had a discussion about this with producer Alex M, and we agreed that even the lowliest creative act, the record no one buys, the song no one hears, is still more noble than the finest book on pop music. Because creating is always greater than spectating. Then we thought about oh, Coldplay or someone we don’t care for. Are we really saying that Coldplay have more worth than great critics like Paul Morley or Simon Reynolds?
We solved this one by deciding that what Coldplay did wasn’t at all creative… Ah, a cheap jibe I know. I’m sure they feel the sting in their glittering mansions. Sorry, Coldplay.
It’s not like the art of literary biography, writers on writers: if a book on the Sex Pistols survived their music, it’d be worthless. The best thing a book on pop can do is make you go and listen to the records. They can never really stand alone, by their own nature. Writing about music will always be popular, because of the need to make sense of the abstract. But it still needs to come from, and go back to, the music. I leaf through a magazine and read some great pieces on bands I’ve never heard, and it’s all pointless unless I can get hold of the music too. It can’t stand alone in its own right. Just as DJ-ing can’t happen without records, but you can make records without being a DJ.
Dear Lord, let me not die a Fan.
Still, the occasional and unusual bout of DJ-ing here and there is fine, I decide. So I have turned down all offers of summer DJ work except one – the Latitude Festival in Suffolk.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to be booked or not, but today I find out for sure. Yes, it’s on. I’m booked. With Miss Red too, as The Beautiful & Damned. DJ-ing every evening in the Cabaret Arena, while silent movies and strange tableaux abound. And I will be shunning loitering within tent in favour of staying with my parents, in the cottage they rent every year by the Southwold lighthouse. Once again Latitude coincides neatly with their week’s holiday nearby. I like festivals which seem to be arranged entirely around my mother’s holiday plans.
I’ll bring a change of suit this time: last year, I had some unkind comments from passers-by when I walked around Southwold after three days, still in the same white ensemble. It wasn’t very white by that point.
Let’s see who else is there. CSS, Bat For Lashes, Arcade Fire, Jarvis Cocker, Patrick Wolf, Camera Obscura, Charlotte Hatherley, I’m From Barcelona, Final Fantasy, Stewart Lee, Bill Bailey, Dylan Moran, Josie Long, Mark Steel, Jeremy Hardy, Marcus Brigstocke, Roger McGough, The Puppini Sisters, Robin Ince and his Book Club (which I hope includes Martin White), Simon Munnery, Esther Freud. But I should also do the festival serendipity bit: wander into a tent and see if something I’ve not heard of delights the heart.
In my bone fide creative life, Fosca have been asked to play London on Weds August 1st. The Windmill in Brixton. Headlining, for the first time in… well, it must be years. So we said yes. Please come. Bring everyone else. Because, oh, because we’re worth it.
Some of Fosca are single. Well, all right, just me.
When choosing which bands to go and see, at any time, you should be told which band members are in relationships and which one’s aren’t. It should be in the listings. Never mind “Rock” and “Jazz” and “Blues”. There should only be two categories:
“Bands With Single Members Who Are Looking, Actually.
White Marabou Shrug
Lynsey De Paul’s white marabou shrug. Me. The same paragraph.
(more on the provenance of this clipping tomorrow)
P.S. The next Beautiful & Damned is May 24th.
Saving Gay’s The Word
From time to time I pop into the veteran independent bookshop Gay’s The Word in Marchmont Street, which has a unique and often exclusive selection of new and used books on gay topics. My rare copy of Mr Hoare’s Stephen Tennant biography was found there. There’s also a good stock of homo-themed graphic novels and comic books.
It’s been going since 1979, right through the Thatcher years and Clause 28, and is now struggling to hold its own against the escalating rents of 2007 London. With the demise of Compendium Books in Camden and Sister Moon of Charing Cross, I think many people of my age and older are surprised to learn that it’s still going. Well, just about still going. This story in the Times is fascinating.
Plenty of authors voice their concern at its possible closure, and the shop is offering a chance for supporters to ‘Sponsor a Shelf’ at £100 a go. I’d cough up myself if I could afford it.
Incredibly, though, Jeanette Winterson thinks the shop has had its day:
“Bookshops have made real progress by including specifically lesbian and gay books on their shelves, both generally and in special sections. The very fact that it is thinking of closing may mean that its work is done.”
But there’s more to GTW than providing a real-world, specialist shopping experience. I’m shocked at the use of the word ‘only’ in this part of the same news story:
Today, the only homophobia the shop suffers is “a brick through the window once a year and twice a week people spit on the windows,”.
Work not quite done there, I feel.