My review of the Daphne is up on the BFI’s ‘feminism in film’ website, TTIN. Click here:
You can watch in cinemas now or on BFI player.
My review of the amazing exhibition at The Last Tuesday Society of Austin Osman Spare’s (one of Alan Moore’s favourite artists) work for Creators — you can sit and have a tea or alchy drink and look some of the creepiest and most beautiful artwork on the planet. They’ll charge you £20 to go see Hockney or Picasso down the road, balls to that. This guy was compared to Michelangelo Buonarroti and Dürer and it’s free x x x
William Poyer has just returned from a three-year stint in Mexico. He’s returned with a new album (and a girlfriend), two new music videos and one in the making.
At the time when we Skype-meet, I have none of these things – and am triple checking I’m recording …
I interviewed this conductor at the Royal Albert Hall and we did an hour and a half long interview and it was all incredibly complex. When we finished I realised I hadn’t been recording any of it and I was so horrified I couldn’t tell him, it still haunts me, but we’re recording so everything’s fine …
Well, I’m not as complex …
Still I wouldn’t want to blag your answers. So, you’re from Swansea originally, why Mexico? And had you planned on staying that long?
No. It was a whim leaving. I’d been living in London for 8 years, working in the film industry for some pretty intense people and doing jobs I never intended on doing. I’d always wanted to make movies but I was just helping other people make movies. Music had been on the back-burner for a long time and I just thought, ‘Right, screw it. I’m leaving.’ I had no money, bought myself a one-way ticket on my credit card. Then thought, ‘How can you travel with no money?’
I knew I wanted to go to Latin America I knew I wanted to learn Spanish; and there were just a few more things about Mexico I was interested in … I just knew, culturally, it had a bit more weight – and it was cheapest place to do the English course. That’s about as much thought as went into it.
I think that’s about as much thought as needs to go in to it. I once went to Mozambique because Bob Dylan wrote a song called Mozambique. I was later informed he never went there, but, I had a nice time … Where were you in Mexico?
Went to Guadalajara and the idea was to go to end up at the beach. Then I got a girlfriend in Guadalajara and she got a job in Mexico City so we moved there -which I never had any intention of doing.
Cool place …
I thought it was going to be a monster of a city but its beautiful. Amazing pockets of wonderfulness, so we stayed there.
Having spent 3 years there how did you know it was time to come back?
I’d been wanting to come back quite a while. I always knew I would come back, initially, it was probably the sense that, I was going away to come back. With time and the development of songs every 6 months, I’d be like “Yeah, think I have an albums worth of material”, but then something would significantly change; I’d find a significant progression and the old songs just kicked away. That happened a few times, then, I knew I was ready to record something – but I didn’t know how to do it. I’m not a producer, I don’t have any rich mates, I hadn’t done a gig; I’d just locked myself in a room for 2 years to study writing, so there was no one championing me. Then someone told me about crowd funding …
How did that work?
I offered $16 to get a free album, $20 get a thank you or whatever, I think it was $500 get name tattoo, this Brazilian producer – I’ve got his named tattooed, he gave me $500.
(It’s actually a very elegant tattoo and I start wondering how much I can get people to pay me to tattoo their names on my extremities ….)
You left to hone your sound – what was your sound like before you left?
I did an E.P with a band, I’d always had this obsession with cowboy music – Americana, and country ideas and ideologies, but the E.P didn’t really feel like me. Then I went down the very soft route, with lots of finger picking like José Gonzales, but I kind of lost a bit of the identity of what I was doing before; and I just knew there was a marriage of sounds I hadn’t found yet. I just knew I wasn’t good enough. I knew I could write songs, but wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
Didn’t Find Luck – definitely has both of those elements, the guitar reminded me of early Neil Young and then you have the fun Spanish guitar at the end …
You knew it’s a funny one, that song gets the least attention out of the whole album …
I really like that one, it was my favourite.
I love it that song, it sort of came to me in a dream; which is weird because I’m always very conscious of them [the songs]. A mate had been like, “How’s Mexico influenced you?” and I was like, fuck, I don’t think it has. I think Time has influenced me but not Mexico; and I was feeling really guilty about it, thinking maybe I should have some Mexican songs. I fell asleep that night and had this dream about a Mexican guy walking through the desert. I didn’t know what he was looking for, and he was sweating and it was really intense, and it goes on for ages, probably about 20 minutes or something; and then I realised at the end, he was looking for luck; he was trying to find luck, he was trying to obtain this like, Holy Grail of luck.
Like Don Quixote, sort of …
Yeah! And I’ve been thinking about the concept of luck for a while; and had been thinking its better to be born luck than it is to be born rich, or anything really … and yeah that’s where that came from. And he never found it.
But he shouldn’t though. That’s what makes the story good. And life, frustrating.
You mention one came in a dream, but how do songs normally come to you, do you have an idea, a verse a word, a melody? Is there a pattern?
It’s always rhythm. I’ll usually have a groove on the guitar and there’ll be a change, a chord, and it’ll usually come from the rhythm.
(He starts ‘chuck chucking’ the rhythm …)
Then I’ll add a syllable to it …
(He does, it sounds like this …)
Bubudbabda BA da da ….
… So it’ll come from rhythm and syllables and then I’ll just start jotting down gibberish. And then an expression usually, something that could be poetic, a saying, will link with the syllables and the rhythm then once you’ve got that ….
You’re rolling. …
Yeah, then start writing shit for pages. I start in pencil, if I’m sure something’s good I’ll fill it in in pen and then it can be very quick.
Video for Fell the Truth was shot out in Mexico, right?
Yeah, done on two hangovers with a boy I met at Sofar Sounds in Mexico, and he was like, “You’re the Welsh Ray LaMontagne!” I was like, great, that’s nice … but I don’t think so.
He came to a couple of gigs he was like, “I want to do something with you.” So he went and listened to the song, and he really listened to it. He came back with ‘knock down, door fell truth’ – that was his favorite line, and said, “I want to put you in front of a load of different doors.” I was told him to crack on so he put me in front of a load of different doors, down by Frida Kahlo’s house. Which is a beautiful part of the city. And yeah just tried to walk about lip-synching to my iPod in my back pocket, feeling like a bit of a plonker.
You did it well …
Yeah walking past people miming, looking very odd.
You have to remove yourself from all that. Stay true to the ‘Art’ …
Yeah it’s been very humbling many experiences, whether crowd funding and asking for help or miming in the street …
“Help me be vulnerable to the world!”
You do you just have to let go.
In the video for 2 days later, you got kidnapped and blinded by tequila. What’s your next video? Are you just doing things you want to do?
Next video The Liar The Bitches The Crooks & The Thieves – Mexican/British joint production, we’re shooting on May 5th. The same director in Mexico is out shooting scenery so mountains desert, then I think we’ll do it as a double exposure, of there, and me here. The song’s a riff I pulled back from years ago and it was a song I wrote about the day before coming to a studio, so there’s sort of a sense of way back when.
Also watched Laid Bare Live thing at The Ritzy with Gabriel …
Oh my god it was amazing, I loved it so much.
My mum watched that the other day and was like “Oh Will, I love that bit at the beginning where you were doing the poem”.
It was great. Was it improvised? Had you done something like that before?
I’d done it once with him before and he just came up to me and was like, “Do a poem with me …” Which was brilliant because the first song I wanted to play was in this strange tuning, and it just really worked as an opening to the show. That riff I want to do something with. I was thinking of getting him in the studio with him reading a poem over something.
Have you done much like that before, or just those two times?
Yeah just, we’d winged it one time before; but it’s nice to just sort of follow him and see where it goes.
Yeah, I get it. I do comedy improvisation and …
…. Flying by the seat of your pants
Yeah, totally. I used to be terrible, but, the thing is, as long as you just go with it, everyone’s good.
Yeah, you’ve got to be open, and I think the more you do those things the more flexible you become …
You find your way in the moment, not sure how else to explain it. So speaking of collaborations – one who’s alive, and one who’s dead?
I’m obsessed with a band called Shovels and Rope.
Like the name …
It’s a husband and wife duo from North Carolina and they play this sort of dirty, gothic, Americana – with a slice of hillbilly on it. They are just … yeah I love them. If I could do anything with them I would love to. If I could write a song with them …
And who’s dead?
Townes Van Zant, definitely.
I hear Fell Truth was inspired by a true story you saw in the paper?
I was asked to find the article again and I cant which makes me question whether I indulged story it a little bit …. It was the first song I managed to write that wasn’t about me, which I knew was a good sign. I loved the idea of this guy who hadn’t committed murder, being framed. But at the end of the article there was a suggestion that after he was acquitted, he had actually done it.
Maybe we’ve all done it, or maybe it’s just me, where you can tell a lie, certainly as a young man making mistakes, I told plenty of lies in my early 20s, but I told them so many times …
… You almost believed them.
Yeah, they sort of became truth, real. And that’s what I was doing with this song; he was so convinced he hadn’t done it and then at the end he just kind of give the suggestion; and I love that part of the story … It’s funny, it’s not something id’ been interested in before, understanding the psyche of crazy people. But, I think I’m getting more interested.
There’s a lot in it for sure, especially if you’re a storyteller of any sort …
Not far off that point. If you had two parallel lives, I’m not saying you don’t maybe you have more. I don’t know. But for purposes of this question you have two, what would you do? You have choice, you have free reign you aren’t limited in this parallel life …
I would like to live in a Jack London novel live in Montana live simple life fat of the land, fishing, playing banjo …
But you can do that in this one … that just sounds like the future to me.
Parallel life on this planet?
No, I mean, why limit yourself to this planet? You have the choice to do anything, anywhere in space or time …
Exploration sounds wicked. To be the first person to go to a place, an untouched land. History’s like a new topic of mine I’m enjoying …
It’s the best …
I think the first time to be a settler, the gold rush is something else I’m interested in, the 49’ers, the first ones. That would be pretty wild. To be heading for something you just heard as a whisper, a story, and go, I’m going.
What did you miss UK while you were in Mexico and what do you miss Mexico now you’re back?
I’m terrible for wanting more. The grass is greener on other side. I was saying to my girlfriend, “Oh, it would be nice to spend winter in Mexico and the summer in London.” I was complaining for so long about wanting to come home and now I’m here, I’m like …
… Kind of want to go back?
Yeah! Im terrible. Dad’s the same, they’ve just moved to Spain and he’s like “Yeah, but its not Mexico” … but yeah, while I was there I missed the transport in London.
Wow. You know you’ve got it bad if you’re missing the public transport in London.
Not when you’re using it in Mexico, its hard work. That, and I missed Sunday roasts. Probably those 2 things, really good public transport and a roast
Sound sensible ….
Now I’m here, I’m missing reasonably priced restaurants; really good, delicious, fresh food; cheap beer and mescal – miss that, and the weather. And I miss a place I played called The Black Horse which was full of bunch of immigrants form all over, blues guys from New Orleans, Country form Oklahoma, a guy from Reading, me, Mexican guys; we had a really cool thing going on for a while. I miss that.
Solid things to miss. Beer and mescal sound great …
They go so good.
I’ve got in to beer and whiskey chasers …
Sounds dangerous …
Might be dangerous.
I’m getting to whiskey very slowly.
I don’t like alcohol at all but I’ve got really into whiskey ….
Haha! You don’t like alcohol but you’re drinking beer and whisky chasers …
Yeah … So, What’s next, or is this enough?
Yeah very. Next is getting good gigs, the next videos; I have two live videos going live this week, a few festivals, met a cool guy I’m doing some writing with, and back into studio, to what extent I don’t know, maybe E.P. or another album. Maybe just something we can give away for free but yeah keep on planning more …
The single Fell The Truth is out now and the album (‘Born Lucky’) was released on Laid Bare Records on the 22nd April.
He’ll celebrating the album release at Brixton East Gallery, tonight, Thursday 28th April. Go!
Gigs – go out, see things, feel stuff in your ears:
Spiritual Caipirinha Bar, Camden – 16 April 2016
Laid Bare At The Ritzy, Brixton – 20 April 2016
The Pack & Carriage, Mornington Crescent – 07 May 2016
Century Club, Soho – 12 May 2016
Old Queens Head (Daytime show), Angel – 15 May 2016
Nozstock Festival, Herefordshire – 22, 23, 24 July 2016
People always tell you not to judge something by its cover; if that’s in regards to a person, then fine, I agree; I don’t want to be judged by my cover at 6am on a Monday morning. But in regards to anything else, I think you should judge things by their covers, and anyone who tells you not to is an idiot and just repeating a saying that went out of date before it was even said. If the cover is to your taste, the likelihood is, so will be its content. That’s my rule of thumb and I’m sticking to it. So when I saw the artwork for Chris Belson’s new E.P. I hoped I was in for a treat (interestingly in regards to this point, Belson had designed the artwork himself).
‘Moon Songs’ might be his first E.P., but Belson has already garnered some notable praise: “An outstanding new talent for today…” Mojo.
Like a consummate professional, I started the record at the beginning, and while swaying to the intro of ‘Children’ I looked at the picture of Belson and thought he reminded me a little of Michael Cera, so I was expecting a similar tone to come from my computer when he sang; but then, there’s that voice. It comes out of nowhere like a long, pulled note on a double bass, that somehow trips into octaves a double bass could only dream about.
While I was listening to the record I was staying with my mum, who I know to be quite a ruthless critic of my, and anyone else’s, work. She walked in to the room and the first thing she greeted me with was “Who’s this? Great voice …” I said who it was and that I was reviewing it. She said “Well, a great voice is one thing, but let’s see if he’s written any good lyrics.”
For the rest of the E.P. mum sat there in complete silence, and when it was over, said “He’s great, play it again.” One can only assume she was satisfied with the lyrics, that range from planetary metaphors such as ‘Planets Align’, which fills you with the hope that you are not alone in being unable to read “what’s written in the stars” (Lord knows I’ve tried) to ‘Without You Again’, which uses nature and landscapes to describe what it’s like not being around the one you love. ‘Dogs Are Howling At The Moon’ contains the imagined meaning behind the howls, and their relatability to lovers, friends and family who are far away; and the transitions of the moon are used to represent the ebb and flow of romantic emotions.
Belson began playing on a broken old Spanish guitar he bought at an auction age 12, which he still has, and the album focuses around the guitar and his accomplishment on it; though hints of piano, horns and an occasional rhythm section throughout the record keep it interesting.
So, let it be known: Chris Belson is the whole package. He’s Leonard Cohen with a good range, he’s a lighter Tom Waits, he’s Johnny Cash without the guns, in ‘Dogs are Howling at the Moon’ I can hear J.J. Cale; he has the hymn-like rhythm of country with the homely melancholy of folk. But then at the same time, he’s none of these. Chris Belson is different. He has a knack of creating melodies where the notes seem to chase themselves and the album creates a sort of melodic circle, much like the face of the moon on its cover. And how nice not to be hounded by bass, how nice not to hear another girl singing folk-y songs like a baby, how nice to hear a man, though having a competent range, not feel the need to drive home the message he can compete with a mezzo-soprano. In sum, Chris Belson is a bloody relief.
‘Moon Songs’ has been released on the record label ‘Laid Bare Records’, which emerged from acoustic nights of the same name: ‘Laid Bare Live’, all founded and operated by Rami Radi, who himself has his roots in acoustic music.
‘Moon Songs’ is out now and you can catch Chris Belson at the launch party upstairs at the Ritzy on Thursday the 14th of January, for free. How bloody nice.
Pink Floyd have wafted vaguely through my whole life. Like a heady, psychedelic incense they have always been in the air. They infiltrated my consciousness through old stereos and tape decks and later, when my mother was aware I had a consciousness, through my mother.
My mother had grown up in Cambridge in the ‘60s. A model for Ossie Clarke, the first Flake woman, a purveyor of quick wit and a partaker of LSD, she was one of the cool cats. Stories of Leonard Cohen, Nico from the Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd just drifted over me, as at 12 I had no real concept of who these people were. I was a latter-day cool cat at this point and uninterested in the past. But post my highly acclaimed Ferbie, Spice Girls and Run DMC era, I got Leonard Cohen down by the time I was about 16, Nico – I’m still yet to do; I was about 18 when I first tried to heighten my awareness of Pink Floyd. I went with my sister to the Live 8 gig – had I already been a long standing fan like my sister, I may have enjoyed standing outside the arena listening to the echoed reverbs of 50 year old men, as I was not, I did not particularly. Pink Floyd’s ember was left to glow in the back of my brain a while longer.
Then at the age of 20 a flutter of pages re-ignited my curiosity. I thought maybe I’d enjoy the literature about them more than I had their music, so when the biography ‘Pigs Might Fly’ was released I pinched my mothers’ well-thumbed copy and took it up to London with me. It was moderately interesting for the first 50 odd pages, but having not enjoyed their music and with no real reference to who any of these people were, except my mother who was being referred to as “Mad Sue” by the middle aged, Henry Rollins wannabe of an author, there was little impetus for me to read much more.
At this juncture I’d like to point out I’m listening to Pink Floyd now and, I do think they’re music is a bit, well, for the sake of argument, we’ll say it’s not to my taste. Which disappoints me, I expected more from myself; but I now remember why I regretted syncing my iPod with my dads’ computer.
From what I’ve read however, I like them, I like their lyrics, I like their intention, I like their balls (as in chutzpa – grow up) and I’ve always liked the sound of Roger Keith (Syd) Barrett.
Roger Keith Barrett was born in 1946 in Cambridge. As a child he loved art and as his parents noticed his talent he started attending Saturday morning drawing classes at Homerton College and later attended the Camberwell College of Arts. A month before Barrett’s 16th birthday, his father died, which people reasonably suggest being a potential contributor to Barrett’s later mental instability. Roger Keith, became Syd after the old, jazz double bassist Sid Barrett. Both Barrett and Pink Floyd (as they would become) respectively dabbled in music and bands and Syd joined them in 1965 when they were called ‘The Tea Set.’ Barrett later named them The Pink Floyd Sound, after an amalgamation of the names of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, who he’d read about on a sleeve of a Blind Boy Fuller EP. Barrett is credited with influencing their psychedelic sound and having all moved to London they became the house band at UFO – where all the movers and shakers got groovy and off their nut, and then later, The Roundhouse. They swiftly became the most popular band of the ‘London Underground’ scene. The band were offered a contract by EMI and their debut single ‘Arnold Lane’ went to number 20, despite being banned by Radio London, their next single ‘See Emily Play’ reached number 6. The bands increasing popularity and vast fan base also increased the amount of pressure on Barrett. He was famous, as his true namesake Roger might have suggested (Germanic elements of Roger mean fame.) Consequentially Barrett’s intake of LSD and his erraticness increased (bouts of depression and schizophrenia were reported) as his level of dedication to the band, as a group, decreased. It decreased to a level where a new guitarist, David Gilmour was brought in to cover for Barrett when he was either physically or mentally AWOL. Barrett’s involvement in the band continued to decrease and in 1968 he left. Barrett made a brief foray in a solo career, coerced by EMI but this don’t last long either. After touring with Jimi Hendrix, sporadic appearances on the BBC and interviews with Mick Rock in the Rolling Stone in which Barrett contested he “couldn’t find anyone good enough to play with” – after his tour with Hendrix, Syd flitted between his home in Cambridge with his mother and London and then finally moved back to Cambridge for good in 1982. On this final return, according to his sister, Syd walked the whole 50 miles back. He secluded in to his burrow, reverting to his love of painting and cherished his privacy. In 2006 he died of pancreatic cancer having suffered from type 2 diabetes for years. Artists such as Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Marc Bolan and David Bowie have all acknowledged Barrett’s influence on their work. By many he was and still is called a genius. For me, the first thing that pops in to mind at the mention of his name is a story my mother told me of how he decided to paint his bedroom floor, but started at the door so he eventually painted himself in to a corner. It sounded like something I would do, a sucker for affinity, I liked this kid from the off.
This image flooded back when my friend who works at the Idea Generation Gallery told me they were doing an exhibition on his artwork and love letters to old girlfriends. I was curious, I still wanted to know more about this man who had played an, albeit brief part in my mothers life. So I put myself down.
On the morning of the private view, Radio 4 was as it is always in my house, burbling in the background, Woman’s Hour were chatting away about burkas or something, when I hear the name ‘Jenny Spires,’ my ears prick up. Jenny Spires, one of my mother’s friends and one-time girlfriend of Syd Barrett is talking to Jenni Murray about the exhibition. This is all too exciting for me and I have to lye down for a while. I have a very fine constitution.
Against all laws of chronology, the evening of the private view came around. I, like many others, was genuinely excited to be getting this personal insight. So, to mark this special occasion I put on my finest Yasser Arafat-style bedroom slippers, a flowery little crop top and a leather skirt. Looking truly extraordinary I headed out the door. Within a few steps I’d tripped over. Muttering profanities at the pavement I look down to see the pavement was not culpable and that the soles on my dictator slippers had all but disintegrated.
No time to change them now, I’m making a concerted effort to appear something approaching punctual these days. So looking like a drag incarnation of ‘Steptoe and Son,’ I trip my way to the exhibition.
“Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.”
I show me the way and we arrive punctually at 7pm, there are already hoards of people. As is the correct etiquette at a private view, I head straight for the bar and wash warm rum down my throat. One of Syd’s paintings stand out, a picture of two lions lion with a woman and two children standing next to them. I stare at it momentarily and then am jostled back in to the running commentary of …
“Do you mind if I just squeeze past.”
“That was my foot.”
“I’ll pay for the dry cleaning.”
A perpetual pigeon in a room of storks, crowds make me nervous, but nerves muted slightly by the Sailor Jerrys I slalom my way through the crowd and head straight to the love letters. They are almost childish in their romanticism, their lack of restraint, with ink pictures of stick couples left for the girlfriend to fill in. Which she does. The majority of his letters are to his girlfriend Libby Gausden, a smaller portion to Jenny Spires, which they had kindly donated to this exhibition.
We go outside for a cigarette and I regale the fascinating story of my battered shoes. The artist currently known as ‘T-Bone’ remarks:
“That’s what happened to Syd.”
“He tripped over his soul.”
Bar a few lines from Syd’s love letters I am quite positive this is one of the loveliest things I’ve ever heard.
With that in mind, we head back in but unable to concentrate properly as my magpie eyes find it impossible to direct their gaze anywhere other than Noel Fielding’s be-jeweled cape, we leave. I promise myself I will return another day.
As that hilarious old chap, Fate would have it, a few days later I receive an email from my mother and subsequently Jenny herself, saying that she would like to meet me and take me to a Q&A, it is at this moment I am alerted to the fact that the exhibition was actually a bi-product of a new biography about Syd Barrett, aptly named ‘Barrett’ by Russell Beecher and Will Shute.
On the day of the Q&A, moments away from the door I receive a call from Jenny asking where I am. I see a woman outside the gallery from behind and make the calculated assumption, as she was also on the phone, that this was Jenny, I cringe as the panto inside me blurts …
“I’m behind yooou.”
Jenny turns round, and either ignores or doesn’t hear what I say. She smiles and gives me a kiss. She tells me it’s lovely to meet me and to come inside. Having not smoked all day I make a quick apology and tell her I’ll follow her in while I clumsily balance coffee, tobacco and liquorice papers. As my mothers elected spokesperson on this earth – I don’t quite feel I did her justice here, and even less so when I discover as I enter the gallery wafting out smog-like smoke from an over-packed rollie, that Jenny wanted to introduce me to people.
The familiar feeling of vague embarrassment and guilt washes over me as I assert I wouldn’t have smoked had I known.
We look at some of the art and pictures, there is one of Syd in a room where the floorboards are all painted bar a mattress-shaped corner in the room. I tell Jenny the story my mother told me and she says that, yes, this is the room. I liked this, don’t know why. Jenny then walks me over to one of her letters, next to it a beautiful picture of her and Syd staring at each other with respective intent. Sunlight coming in from the window behind them. I look at Jenny now, her profile looking at her profile 40 odd years ago and I could see the same girl. The smooth curve of her nose and her soft cheeks. Syd had been a lucky man. We walk away from the picture and over to the scattering of people, while discussing the popularity of the private view Jenny, with amused humility says ..
“Yes, it was very funny, Graham Coxon asked me for my autograph. Should’ve been the other way around really shouldn’t it?”
I meet Russell, who is tall, with a kind voice and sporting a luscious head of raven coloured hair. A conditioned Noel Fielding.
“This is Jade, Sue Kingsford’s daughter.”
It turns out Russell as well as co-writing this book, had also made a film called ‘A Technicolor Dream’ in which my mother featured with a daffodil in her mouth, I profess this is the only part of the film I’d seen. He replies..
“Probably the only part worth seeing.”
I’m sure it’s not, but it makes me laugh.
I head over to the bar, a delayed reaction. Men, ever ahead of the game, are drinking beer, I go dead continental and get a glass of red wine. While a pretty girl struggles to find a corkscrew I start talking to the man next to me, no idea what I said, but it was probably idiotic. I progress from idiocy, to condescend him and say ..
“So what are you doing here? Do you work here or something?”
“I wrote the book.”
“Ah, right. I see….”
This is Will Shute, co-author of the book. He is young, with a shaved head, glasses and a nervous intelligence. As with Beecher, I gauge his intelligence not from the fact that he has written a book (whilst doing a PHD) but from his self-deprecation (which unlike Beecher I haven’t quoted, but it was present.)
He asks me to ask a question.
I hate asking questions at things like this, someone usually asks my question first (and uses shorter words than I would,) or I worry I’ll do something embarrassing while everyone’s looking at me. Like sneeze or spontaneously combust. But I’m no deserter, a loyal soldier I pry my brain for a question, and then remember a quote beneath one of Syd’s paintings I read while I was pretending not to look at Noel Fielding’s cape. I let the quote soak in the soup that is my brain as I find Jenny and sit down.
Jenny has a wonderful warmth about her, I wanted to nestle in close to her – but felt this might be creepy. So, I sat up straight, crossed my legs (as far as my brash, skin-tight, acid wash jeans would allow) and waited for everyone else to settle down.
The publisher of the book, a man who seemed lovely, but whose name I forget, introduces both Russell and Will and gives us a little breakdown of the schedule. This mission accomplished successfully he heads off to the shadows, or where they would normally be, and allows the limelight of our attention to drift over to the writers of the book. They sit next to each other behind a table displaying the immaculate books, two examples of the editions. One in orange leather with Barrett’s signature in green across the front, and another in emerald green leather with one of Syd’s illustrations of a turtle in brown stamped in the middle, had I £70 that wasn’t already owed to some hideous conglomerate, I would have gone for the latter.
We hear how Will, a renowned Barrett art aficionado, had come on to the book by word of mouth. Brain Werham, a wonderfully dressed man in a jade-green suite who also curated the exhibition had passed Will’s details on and thus, the book as we know it was made. The Q&A varies from repartee between the writers and a woman who went to art school with Syd, questions of what colour the paintings in the black and white photographs were, why they had decided to write the book – which is because when Russell made ‘A Technicolor Dream’ he came across so many of these rare and undiscovered photographs and paintings that he felt they should be shared; and then, all of a sudden, it was my turn.
Automotive Systems are go!
I shoot my hand up. They ask someone else.
Don’t remember what they said, I took it personally and was too busy telling myself not to take it personally to listen to either question or answer.
Automotive Systems recharged, I fling my hand in the air again. I am granted a nod of acceptance, this is it. This is my moment. I direct my gaze at Will and wax lyrical …
“There’s a quote underneath one of the paintings that says “Roger was influenced by Roger” what do you think that says about the variation in his work, that we can see.”
Will says he liked this quote too, good man.
He actually misinterprets my question, but his answer is far more interesting – he goes on to say that although Roger was influenced by Roger some of the variations in his style have been compared to, well, I forget whom. But people who would be interesting if I had the slightest iota of knowledge about art. But Will says he can see consistency in Syd’s work. He has a finer eye than I.
What I actually intended was (in retrospect) to try and get Will to do an Oprah style psycho analysis of Syd; in that if “Roger was only influence by Roger,” and his work is so varied was Roger himself in a constant state of flux or change? Or did the variation in his art say nothing about his instability and reported schizophrenia; he just did what he felt like at the time. But as much against art critics philosphising the meaning behind the artist painting certain things as Miró – I wont even attempt to answer my own question, because it pales in to insignificance really.
The Q&A over we are invited to be shown around the paintings and letters by Will and Russell. I slip out for a cigarette to find Russell and a man who was from the Belgian parliament (as far as I remember) outside. We make jokes, forgettable ones, but oh how we laughed.
I head back in and am introduced to Brain, the man in the jade-green suit who is tingling with excitement. He offers to show me around the paintings but first asks …
“Guess whose suit this was.”
“I don’t know … James Bonds.”
I smile and he shows me the inside of the breast pocket that confirms, the suit was indeed Kevin Spacey’s. I am suitably impressed, as was Noel Fielding apparently, but then I always knew we shared a similar taste in clothes.
Brain’s excitement is tangible and contagious. I can’t help but get excited. When at first glance, admittedly, a lot of it looked like the random sloshing of paint on canvas – or paper, they reveal themselves to be, after more considered studying and direction from Brian, quite considered. Blobs that look like blobs reveal themselves to be large stones from a park in London, a darker, purple version of the blobs are the stones at night. A little blob inside the blobs is not actually a blob, but a very accurately depicted (in it’s precise colouring) specific type of lichen that grows on the stones. A wash of orange and red in thick acrylic is the burnt orange candle that stands next to it. Child-like skills such as painting over wax are used. Every painting is much more intentional than I’d initially realized. Like his letters it is, in my opinion, their childish romanticism that makes these pictures so, well, I’m going to say it, touching. In the knowledge that he was such an intelligent, sad man, the infantility of his art has a very endearing yet melancholic lilt, to me anyway.
But like I have any fucking idea what I’m talking about anyway.
To read about this man and his art by people who actually do know what they’re talking about, go here ….
And because I promised Brian I’d plug it (that’s right you two readers – mum that includes you,) make Brian’s day and go down, it’s a truly lovely insight in to a small part of a wonderful mans mind ….