Friday, December 22, 2006

i got da blues

Level of conviction in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: Nil
Hair day: As to be expected with lack of ANY KIND OF HAIR PRODUCT (faint)

Up in East Yorkshire, I am doing nothing. So far, the day’s activities have totalled: lie-in, shower, liberal application of every toiletry product of my mum’s I could lay my hands on (scrub, toner, eye gel, 3 different moisturisers etc), plundered the fridge (noting the plethora of cheeses to be tucked into later), read three Sunday Telegraph magazines, taken dogs for extremely sloth-paced stroll, read some of VERY BAD book based on blog of girl’s sexcapades (honestly,after the twentieth mention of ‘I really just want to eat some hot throbbing cock, wow I’m such a crazy slut!’ it gets a little yawnworthy) and made several unsuccessful attempts to crack some nuts (no, just the edible kind, the book had no effect). Tis sheer bliss.

Event of the week was undoubtedly the visit to The Valley to watch my plucky beloveds, Wycombe Wanderers, stand up to Premiership’s Charlton in the quarter-finals of the League Cup. So sure, it lacks the natural glamour of the sweet FA (but hell, we’ve done that one already, shrieking to the semis against Liverpool in 2001); however, there was nothing more exciting than joining the throng of blue-scarfed masses as we swept into the South Stand. It’s a lovely ground, and what with teetering terraces, luminous pitch and vast screens, was as exhilarating as a sight for us as the Neu Camp would be for most poxy Arsenal fans. It is so easy to slip back into being a football spectator (I can barely call myself a fan, what with approximately attendance at one live game a season): the £1.50 hot watery mud calling itself tea, worth it just to retain the feeling in your feet, spongy hot dogs, the shouting of abuse to the ref even when you know he’s right, the rituals of ‘shhh’-ing when it’s the opposition’s goal kick….. it sends me back to my season ticket days in an instant. And they were BRILL! Gnash-toothed little attack-dogs in the first half, finally grabbing a goal on 35 mins, then defending like the clappers for the second half, and hanging on just enough. Incredibly, the Wycombe end kept the noise up continuously for the 2nd half, which, while impressive, makes me wish they could come up with something more snappily creative, as chanting ‘CHAIRBOYS! BARMY ARMY!’ for 45 mins gets hilariously tedious. But we won, made all the back pages the next day and will greet either Arsenal/Liverpool, Chelsea or Spurs. Bring it on…

Gosh, it’s the end of the year. 2006, where did you go? I tend to think that this year has been an unhappy consolidation of reluctant teacherdom, but if I think about it, it hasn’t been too bad, seeing as I’ve (deep breath): been viva-d by Gavin Bryars and become a Doctor, had another choral piece published by OUP (1,500 copies sold!), moved to East London in Kerry-grows-up-and-cohabits-with-sexy-man-shocker, gigged with juice in Denmark, at Cargo, with Karl Jenkins, with an orchestra and done our first recording (for NMC), started a new band called DOLLYman, been heard on Radio 3 and Classic FM, been broadcast on Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC News 24 live and all other news stations with my memorial piece for the London bombings, had a massive premiere in York, started freelance roles in curating gigs, reviewing gigs and being a music workshop leader for Wigmore Hall, and, oh yeah, got engaged to my aforementioned sexy man, engaged to be married on a funky farm on 7/7/7.

Well, it is my favourite number. Bodes well, methinks…

Sunday, November 19, 2006

club motherschmucker

Current level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0
Hair day: sporting remnants of pink but still nowhere near as exciting as it should be for professional musician success (see below)

Gosh, haven't written for an AGE. Have been treading water in the usual brew of madcap teaching and creative fun - am just emerging from a week of school Christmas insanity with carol services and several all-singing nativity plays (accidentally-peeing wise men, crying Marys, etc). Thankfully, my kiddiewinkles have transformed, mostly through yelling at them, into crooning angels and my choir's rendition of 'Walking in the Air' leaves not a dry eye in the house. School is slowly appreciating my incredibly genius. On the flipside, I'm playing groovesome promoter-type in my scouting of crazy vocal acts for Music Orbit's gig with juice at The Spitz next spring, preparing for juice's gig at the London College of Fashion Graduate show (in which we perform with ace beatboxer Beardyman and get painted white oh yes!), and have just finished exciting freelance music workshopper role for Wigmore Hall. juice also did another lovely gig at the Redgate Gallery in Brixton, supported by my new band DOLLYman in a Kerry Goes Avant-Garde Not Once But TWICE Extravaganza.

Found time way back half term to hike north to the comfort of Ma's fridge and drinks cabinet. Highlights were the juddering steam train from Pickering up into the whistle-clean North York Moors, the increasingly flaccid penis that is the Spurn Head peninsula, strolls and pool at Bridlington and Whitby's incredibly posh fish restaurant, Green's, followed by a very rough 'n' ready pub quiz (in which the landlady rasped her questions to one side of the bar before rushing to the other to repeat them whilst a fish-eyed old drunk crooned a ditty or two). There was also a gorgeous exhibition called 'echo' by Susie McMurray in a deconsecrated church in York, where the whole middle space had been filled with 10,000 hairnets filled with the discarded strings from violin bows... they looked like trapped prayers, or clouds of jellyfish, or ghosts of candy-floss.

Have been trying to remember that I am an eclectically-cultural being and making the most of London's offerings too. I reviewed a richly luminous gig by Joanna McGregor, who delivered new arrangements of Bach's 'The Art of Fugue' and stuff by New York maverick Moondog with a talbe player, Andy Sheppard on sax, The Britten Sinfonia and a rhythm section including the ubiquitous Seb Rochford on drums. The Moondog half was particularly barnstorming, a raucous riot of street flavours and sounds. More to the point, I clearly need to have outrageously bonkers hair in order to plough musical success, if this was anything to go by: Joanna McG sports trademark dreads that are tossed around her frame like tassles, and Seb R has the most distinctive barnet in London, a sort of colossal dirty charcoal candy floss afro that surrounds his head like a storm cloud.

Also recently checked out Coldcut’s launch of their new DVD at the NFT, watching the specially-commissioned vids to their latest (very good) album. Was a fun mishmash of styles to suit the eclectic nature of the tracks, and it was followed up by the first night of ResFest’s short film festival and finally dancing in the bar to Coldcut themselves DJ-ing. Class.

Last night said it all about the varying quality of London’s cultural life. Andy and I swanned on up to Bardens Boudoir in Stoke Newington for Club Motherfucker, the much-swooned-over (well, by Time Out and various artrock papers, anyway) night of live bands and DJs with names like Simian Mobile Disco and Daughters of the Kaos. The first band was Fake Shark Real Zombie, a bunch of Canadian tykes who were apparently purveyors of nu-rave. Nu-rave, then, appears to be hyperspeedartpunknoise with shouting and not much in way of actual musical content. They were as tight as their wardrobe though (including the guitarist’s t-shirt with its handpainted slogan ‘EAT MY FUCK’, and you couldn’t fail but be won over by the clownish drummer who liked to run around his kit whilst playing. Up next were California’s Hey Willpower, made up a girl DJ with a hoodie but without the jumper bit, a sweet gay frontman and a 7-foot tall Amazonian goddess of a dancer. It was like watching an avant-garde 80s workout video. Last and least was ‘Planning to Rock’, an utterly bizarre banshee-haired woman who occasionally liked to don her homemade faux-tribal masks whilst belting out weird and repetitive soul/blues nonsense, like a kind of zombie Kate Bush without the talent. With a prentending-to-love-it crowd comprising razored hair and sprayed-on jeans nodding along, I truly felt as if we were in a failing New York basement club, circa 1987. Nu-rave my arse.

Thankfully we burst out of there and straight into the Dalston Jazz Café, which is frankly the coolest place in town, open til 6am and slightly off the beaten track, with a shouty, cheery crowd steaming up the windows whilst the queues huddled outside jealously. We drank slightly inept cocktails and grooved to jazz/funk/Latin/hip hop/soul classics until the posturing daftness of Club M was but a distant memory…

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Avant-garde report card

Current level of conviction in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: far too busy for that kind of nonsense
Hair Day: Acceptable.

Two wildly varying gigs caught in the last week. The first was my second live review of the new season, with more Reich at the Barbican. This time it was 'The Cave', his epic visual-theatre piece in collobaration with his video artist wife Beryl Korot. In principal, it ticked all my boxes: experimental non-operatic music-theatre - check; multi-screens - check; forging of roots between religions/cultures - check; incorporation of non-Western musics - check. Unfortunately, all these boxes were then scribbled furiously over in lurid red marker, as the piece was so fantastically dull it made my eyelids put on a stone each. Reich's fatal flaw was to exactly mirror the rhythms and melodic shape of speech uttered by various interviewees (Israelis, Palestinians, Americans, all answering the questions 'Who for you is Abraham?' 'Who for you is Sarah?' etc) in the chamber ensemble. As the video material was cut up and repeated ad nauseam ('ok, ok, we geddit!! Sarah was a ve-ry beau-ti-ful wo-man!'), so the music swayed awkwardly again and again, jerking to another pulse for each new person's phrase. It was infuriating and the relatively engaging subject matter and different persectives lost all context and interest. With my best teacher's flourish, I give him an E. (Though an A for effort: the piece is 3 damn hours long and costs so much to realise all the technical demands it always makes a loss).

At the other end of the scale was Camille, the wildly innovative French singer who is a massive leftfield star in her native country. With a mixture of looped percussive vocal riffs, chanson-style cooing, screeches, animalistic yelps and a sexily offbeat and slightly deranged manner, she went down a storm at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. She was erratically theatrical, toying with the long thread at the front of the stage which mirrored the vocal drone that is sustained throughout her album, getting tangled up in a giant organza sheet and getting some sheepish menfolk up to dance. Dang. She is everything I want to be and so much more! Artpunksexpot Performance Skills Revision starts here. Oh, and I'll give her an A.

Friday, September 29, 2006

behold! The DOLLYman!

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 0
Hair day: fringe pinned back Gwen Stefani-style except much less dramatic

Have been absorbing lovely cultural stuff in all colours of the rainbow recently. Buddy Cat and I finally saw the Kandinsky exhibition at the Tate; it was such a unabashed orgy of colours and shapes I felt slightly drunk after about the 3rd roo. Still, it was fascinating to see the progression from charming early Russian folk art-inspired stuff to the later works which boiled down the previously-painted villagescapes to abstract forms. I'd have loved to have seen what came next: the exhibition stopped with 20 years of painting left in the man; that said, I'd have been drooling and giggling on the floor had I been exposed to much more.

Last weekend I jollied up to my second home to grace the premiere of my whopping 'dusksongs: music for Compline' in York Minster. I was soooo pleased with it - with hefty candelabras fatly dripping wax in the reverberant round of Chapter House, it couldn't help but be hauntingly atmospheric, but happily all the notes seemed to work too! It ended up being a major piece, lasting 45 minutes, comprising prayers, hymns, responses etc which mashed up English, Latin, a bit of Scottish Gaelic and a touch of Ancient Greek. Absolutely all credit to Paul Gameson and The Ebor Singers, whose commission granted me a lovely rich summer of writing (like, for money!), and who did an ace job. They'll be recording it next month.

I am now an online reviewer for spnm, meaning I get sent the odd CD to critique and get free tickets to gigs I would like to go to anyway! Reviewing can be a tricky job for someone who is compelled to be nice to everyone at all times even when she doesn't want to due to an over-developed fear of confrontation. So naturally I'm slightly terrified that the artists of the CDs I've written about so far will see the more negative comments and track me down and pummel me to a pleading, take-it-all-back pulp.

Still, it won't be a problem when writing about last night at the Barbican, which over two weeks celebrates the work of just-turning-70 Steve Reich. This inaugural gig forged collaborations between dance and Reich's music, and mostly was fabulously successful. Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker showcased two audacious piece based on some of his most hardcore work, the incredibly minimal 'Piano Phase' and 'Violin Phase'. With the adept use of lighting and a screen, the music was inately reflected in the limited, pirouetting gestures of the dancers, who wheeled and spun so frequently I'm amazed they didn't spiral off the stage and into the adoring audience. Less convincing was the new commission by Richard Alston, with ever-changing, mildly playful dancing from a large ensemble; that said, Reich's 'Proverb' seemed a rather dull piece, so no love lost there. Andy joined me in time to see the most visceral, soulful work, by the omnipresent Amran Khan (fresh from collaborations with the likes of Sylvie Guillem and Anthony Gormley). Three lithe, lovely men clad in Kathak-inspired dress danced funkily and energetically all over the stage to a great new work by Reich for vibes, pianos and strings. The sublime moment came when the dancers 'conducted' the music in exaggerated moves and had the real conductor join them; it was so refreshing to see the man at the helm's movements not just as a mad hand-waving to keep time but rather a series of beautiful gestures. The whole piece was completely fantastic, and left me weeping and hopping up and down with excitement.

Phew. I don't have a single night free for the next two weeks what with gigs, juice rehearsals, more Reich-reviewing and gigs, and now rehearsals with newly-formed composer's collective/band DOLLYman. We saw the name scratched into a train window and thought it a hilarious mixture of creepy and cute. Mostly creepy. Of course, I've now discovered that Dollyman is also a Negril-based reggae star. Perhaps people rolling up to our debut gig supporting juice at the Redgate Gallery on October 28th will be rather disappointed to hear avant-jazz/classical/rock played by string bass, basset clarinet and melodica. Ho ho.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1
Hair day: Newly-chopped by meek chap with afro at Vision in the silly heart of Shoho. Not as anarchic as before, but Andy informs me I look slightly less like a militant lesbian with this look.

Well, I'm facing 7 packed weeks of school madness (with a few juice gigs, some research for Music Orbit - new music networking organisation run by composer Colin Riley - and proposals for composer-in-residence posts thrown in for good measure) on the flipside of a sausage and mash-fuelled sleep tonight. Ugh. Well, I have to earn proper money in order to rent my lovely basement flat in Bethnal Green somehow, I suppose.

Still, I made the most of my last weekend of freedom by ploughing the culturally-fertile fields of London town. This began with a visit to the inexplicably-named Wormhole Saloon IV, a night of sound and art at Whitechapel Gallery (I’d popped into my local big gallery earlier in the day to see the splashy, slightly daft paintings of Albert Oehlen). We were there to support visual partner-in-crime Harry's quirky film work in collaboration with baffling sound-art DJ Ash Sargent. But before that we had to wade through all manner of ludicrously pretentious artwank nonsense in the packed bar and surrounding rooms. Now, remember, I am a fairly avant-garde-minded kinda gal, and can take all sorts of challenging mixed media installations involving living rooms being recreated in galleries and music sampling insect sounds and text projected onto icebergs. But a man in his underpants steadfastly fixing lollipop sticks to his head with a gluegun is silly. Two bellowing opera singers, a trombonist and a flautist trying to make their music (timed with stopwatches) heard in a rammed, steamy bar full of massive-specced, angular-haired East Londoners who loudly ignore them is silly. A girl who invites you to ink-stamp her seated, utterly naked form with words like 'choice', 'vulnerable' and 'communication' is not only silly but incredibly Yoko Ono and thus incredibly over. It wasn't a club night, wasn't dedicated enough to performance to be a live music night, and the brain-melting wall of industrial noise generated by bowing kitchen implements meant it wasn't just a bar either. Whilst I may have bumped into Enrico and Eric of excellent music producers 'no-signal' and star-spotted the maverick avant-folk urchin Leafcutter John and his musician buddy Simon Bookish, it was all just too silly, and we were all grateful to fall out of the gallery and have some beers on scummy Whitechapel Road outside Indo instead. There was even a bit of an fight (or a 'frac-art' as my friend Cat wittily coined it) after DJ Ash had accidentally left a little strip-light on as the next film in the auditorium took over, meaning lots of shouting (obviously the effect was ruined) from the stalls and a few too many arch words in the doorway later. Crumbs.

Aaanyway, Andy and I ignored London for most of Saturday, stapling ourselves to the sofa for a diet of toast, tea, biscuits and football but roused ourselves to get to Dalston for a decent Vietnamese in an unprepossessing old bathhouse and drinks in the super-lovely pub the Talbot. Alas, the completely brill-looking Dalston Jazz Café was stuffed to the gills and we sloped home.

Today, we caught the tail-end of the Tour of Britain at the Mall (ie, stood around, then cheered for the two seconds in which 30 cyclists buzzed past in a flash of neon pink and yellow, adverts on two wheels with all the sponsorship logos plastered all over them) and popped into the ICA for refreshments and an extremely brief glance at the Surprise, Surprise exhibition. The concept is that artists, all hefty names (Hirst, Chapman, Gursky, Ofili), show something very unlike their known body of work, to turn expectations on their heads, and challenge the audience into viewing the work based simply on the content rather than with a name attached. I did find myself wondering who's was who's (information was only put in the accompanying brochure, not beside the works), but there's a lesson to be learnt as to why we haven't seen these pieces before. It is because they are, frankly, a bit rubbish.

Rather more fun was the Passion for Paint exhibition at the doughty old National Gallery. I'm not a fan of pre-1900 stuff generally, but could still see the appeal of grand renaissance works amidst the swathes of paint in the more modern stuff from Bacon et al. My favourites were both produced only last year: there was a very cool, vibrantly metallic homage to Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights and best of all, a brilliant, funkily colourful work by a Taiwanese artist, which was practically 3D in its layered, holographic colours, with hints of traditional Taiwan art and graphic novel imagery.

Art lecture over. But hey, this weekend, along with many other epiphanies like walking towards the Gherkin through Whitechapel Market whilst a helicopter takes off from the Royal Hospital, makes me not take London for granted. I love that Ken has put up his 'We are Londoners' signs. Of course, living in this bulging city comes with the paranoia of terrorist threats, the muck, the constant rush to be somewhere, but that's what comes from being here, in the centre of the damn world.

Right, back to school…..

And the mass* is finished! Go in peace etc, ho ho.

* The evening mass I have been writing for the Ebor Singers in York Minster next month, that is…

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

keep it green

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived today: 3 hours
Hair Day: Was distraught to hear yesterday that my new local hairdresser of choice, Ross, he of leg-warmers and slashed-to-bits jeans, has deserted Diane James Hair and Make-Up on Roman Road for glossy pastures new. Now have to resort to ludicrous Shoreditch salon-cum-DJ bar as hair is getting bit mumsy.

Have been soaking up the summer hols lazy rays in style... this has included everything from:

1) going to one member of juice's very dream-white wedding (she has now earned herself the fantastically-suited, fairy tale princess name of Anna Snow) in Hexham, where Sarah and I performed a piece specially for them and enjoyed copious amounts of free booze before getting confused and slightly dizzy in the ceilidh.

2) going to the hen night in Cambridge the weekend before that, for fab girly time in The Orchard at Grantchester, basking under the plum trees whilst the ghosts of Rupert Brooks, Virginia Woolf, Plath, Hughes et al drifted by... excellent tapas and wine the night before that, followed by possibly the worst club I have ever been to (clues: 5 stag and hen nights, we being the only ones not wearing angel wings/pirate costumes/sombreros, £4.50 bottles of VK Energy for old times' sake, and the musical highlight being the Grease medley)

3) A week-long canal boat holiday with 13 of Andy's pals on two cumbersomely long Black Prince barges. We tackled all 97 miles of the Cheshire Ring (not for the faint-hearted apparently, though we steamed round and developed a crack team of lock-operators), cruising (or should we say crawling: the barges licked along at oooo, about 2 miles an hour and you could easily outpace them with nothing more than a gentle stroll) through gorgeous, green-rainbowed countryside, up into the Pennine hills, and through the crumbling warehouses of Manchester.

4) Creative things: currently in talks with the National Trust in West Wycombe and RSPB London about being a composer-on-residence with them (if the Arts Council agrees) and have almost finished my massive Compline Mass to be performed in York Minster in less than a month!

5) Two exhibitions: Amongst some sillier stuff, we caught a comprehensive Sam Taylor-Wood show at the Baltic in Newcastle. I was ready to loathe the glossy, celebrity-hungry work, but actually liked an awful lot of it, including the Andy Warhol/Renaissance-inspired film of David Beckham slumbering, and sped-up film of a maggot-infested rabbit and fruit being taken over by mould. The gorgeous photos of actors from Ed Harris to Forest Whitaker crying were a great take on the nature of emotion, true and false. I am slightly sceptical of her own studies of movement as they feature her wearing sexy wee pants, but then hey! If I was a successful visual artist maybe I'd do that more too, in my American Apparel undies of course....

Yesterday Andy and I fought our way through the screaming, ice-cream-covered mass of children in the Natural History Museum to get to the cool, sedate gallery featuring 'The Ship', in which artists from different media travelled to the Arctic to see the misfortunes of climate change in action and try to respond to it. There was some nice stuff in there, from Ian McEwan's writings, Siobhan Davies' projection of a dancer caught in long, ice-like spokes, lit text projections onto ice, photos of life at the northernmost inhabited part of the world in Norway.
A documentary filled in more, and made me desperate to co-habit with slightrly prententious artists on the ship or get through the Antarctica Residency next year. Dammit, I want to get a tell the world what we're doing to it! And therein lies the rub: what can art really do to change our habits? Whilst we were browsing through an exhibition which warned, beautifully, of the monster of the future, hundreds of families queued to get in to the interactive rooms full of dinosaurs and gasped at their big teeth and terrifying claws. Perhaps someone needs to develop a theme park full of brilliant rides in which icebergs melt on you, your pretend home gets flooded and the ground under your feet eroded as we all scream in enjoyable terror. Now THAT would be fun....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Proper Job

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 3
Hair day: floppily untended.

Ah, this is my proper job. No teaching, just 3 hours composition work from 10am-1pm with a pot of gunpowder and mint tea, a spot of lunch and then lots of fiddling about, arty-based admin, and tea and The Independent on the dot of 5.00 with Radio 4's PM. Summer hols are bliss and allow the scowling Miss Andrew to dissolve into bouncy, creative, somewhat tea-high Kerry the Composer/Songwriter/Poet/Self-promoter supremo.

Composition work is currently entailing a big commission for the Ebor Singers to be performed in York Minster at the end of September. I have to work very very fast in order to thrash out a half-hour-ish Compline Mass setting but am having fun making it a bit more evocative and not prim with Norwegian/Bulgarian/Celtic-inspired bits, muttered prayers, surround-sound singing and the like. Not sure what Paul the conductor will think about my ideas for gamelan gongs and chinese cymbals but we'll see...... It's lovely to be immersed in a Proper Project, though, and will be tying myself to the laptop during all of next week's canal boat holiday in order to Sibelius it up.

But this long stretch of holiday is not just for working.... social activity has come thick and fast too. Last week included seeing the current Photographer's Gallery exhibition from the London Fire Briagde archives, going to Tooting Bec Lido for their ace 'Dive-In Movies' night of swimming-themed shorts (including my first - goosebumpy - dip in 4 years) and going to a Devising Artists' Network musician's improvisation sesh, which entailed using all the vocal techniques I cold think of alongside vocalising trumpeters and multi-percussionists. Also took in two very good gigs at The Spitz:

1) Music Orbit, a night run by composer Colin Riley, which showcases groovy new music acts. These comprised a benignly-smiling experimental gamelan ensemble, quite visceral drums/sax & electronics duo Makeshift and The North Sea Radio Orchestra, whose gentle 11-piece chamber pop setting Yeats poems was very endearing but a little too fey for me.

2) The 2nd of Polar Bear's 3-day festival, mostly featuring outfits stemming from the very incestuous experimental jazz crew, the F-IRE Collective. A great, vibrant night, although the first group, The Princess and The Pervert didn't quite live up to the potential of the eclectic line-up: 6-string electric viola & vocals, guitar, bass and sax/flute/tabla. There were just too many ideas in there, maybe reflecting the state of in frontwoman Amanda's mind, as her waffling inbetween-songs repartee got very very tiresome. Next up were our acquaintances The Elysian Quartet, looking impossibly model-like and ringlety and attacking their fairly challenging contemporary reportoire with such sexy gusto that they went down a storm. Polar Bear headlined, with their two tenor saxes and love of jerking time signature changes - meaning that I, who loves nothing more than to shout in Andy's ear at a gig, 'they're playing in four bar repeats of three bars of 7/8 with one 9/8 bar to follow!', had no clue what the hell was going on. Was amusing to see the ambitious scale of Seb Rochford's hair (he could hide several herons and most of his drum kit in there) and the sweetly serious Leafcutter John tinkering away on the electronic side.

All good stuff. Agh! I've missed the first 12 minutes of PM! Must put the kettle on...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

all quiet on the south western front

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1.5
Hair day: super-conditioned to compensate for recent extreme sun-exposure

Back from much-deserved mini-sojourn with Andy down in the south westerly depths of the country, having completed a year of full-on teaching of both tiny things and preternaturally talented teenagers. We camped for three nights in the cutesome village of Gwithian then B'n'B-ed it in Totnes. Highlights were:

1) Breakfasting every morning on a pot of tea in a cheery flowered mug and piping hot sausage butties served by white-blonde teenage surfers at the Jam Pot, the only café for many miles around, perched high on Gwithian Towans (dunes for the un-Cornish amongst you). With cheek-pinking breezes and a view over the beach, it was the perfect way to shake off the night before's wine and whisky and crack on with the day…

2) The 3-mile stretch of curving beach from Gwithian to Hayle, as white-blonde as those surfers and a third of a mile wide. So smooth and uncluttered it wouldn't know what to do with flotsam and jetsam. Mind-sweeping, broad blue bliss. We had fun walking the length of it, into the wind and with the sand lashing our legs, filming contemporary yoga-infused shadow dances and writing poetry in the sand as is my wont, but also, in most unprecedented fashion (my coastal visits normally being accompanied by vicious gales and snow), enjoying quality beach-lounging time in very skimpy brown bikini.

3) Tate St. Ives, a bone-white art deco slab of perfection. One room showed cherry-picked St. Ives modernists; seeing Pelagos, a Barbara Hepworth sculpture - all wood, wave and strings, like an instrument plucked from the sea - in the flesh was a joy. But this was eclipsed by the John Hoyland exhibition: I don't think I've ever entered a gallery room and gasped with echoey audibility at a work, but we did at several of his large-scale, colour-splattered, explosive abstracts. Sherbert bursts for the eyes.

4) A phenomenal meal at the Porthminster Beach Café right on the talcum powder sands in St. Ives. A ludicrously multi-sensory feast where we sighed over things like beetroot and vanilla cured gravalax of salmon with a shot glass of crème fraiche and pickled fennel. And that was just the starter.

5) We were in Totnes to grace the world premiere of my Sundial Songs, commissioned by Eilidh Fraser to commemorate her mother and written for the counter-tenor Nick Clapton. Having written it 18 months ago, it seemed strange to hear it finally realised at Dartington Hall, but Nick gave an excellent, emotion-laden performance, and it went down beautifully. Amusing to know that they decided to use £60,000 worth of antique Steinway grand for my prepared piano part. Tee hee. Andy and I were treated to a most diverting lunch the next day by Eilidh and Nick, who entertained us over prawn and crab salad and local wine with anecdotes that showed off their incredibly creative, much-travelled lives. Eilidh, a designer and goldsmith who resides in the South of France, recently accompanied her weaver husband to Boston Fashion Week where they co-represented Britain alongside Paul Smith; she mentioned in passing the time when she met one of the original dancers in the Rite of Spring, as one does. Nick threw in very amusing vignettes about his various travels including having to take a castrating device through Hungarian customs for BBC4 and advised us to grace a tea shop up the road where you could get served by the 'most delightfully chunky waiters.' Felt very young and flighty indeed….

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


Current level of convictio0n in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0
Hair day: sound.

This last week has been a very weird one, with the run-up to the July 7th commemorations and my involvement in it through a vocal trio I wrote escalating wildly. Over the last week, the piece, The Song of Doves (which sets a poem written by the stepfather of one of the victims of the Piccadilly line bombings last year), has been heard on Radio 4's Today Programme, and soundtracked an evening feature, appeared briefly on all national and some London-based tv new stations, been referenced in most national newspapers and went out live on BBC News 24, when it rounded off the evening memorial service in Regent's Park. Phew. I felt a complete charlatan being there to listen to Trydyyd sing my piece, surrounded by discreetly emotional survivors, with the ashen-faced bereaved on my right and the bus driver of the no. 30 nearby. It was a highly-charged service, and I wanted to erupt into noisy tears but felt I had no right to.
It was obviously wonderful to have my piece so exposed - thousands more people will have heard a snippet on Friday than have ever heard any of my music before - but slightly upsetting that, apart from the Evening Standard, it was never mentioned who the composer was, or even misinformed that the song had been written by the families or by survivors. It's hardly important in the whole scheme of things, but just so you know: it was me, honest.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Current level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 10 mins
Hair day: amazing lack of wiltage given temperature hotter than the centre of the sun

No, the gutter of the title does not refer to England's customary plummet out of the World Cup (during which I wound myself up into a sweaty headachey frenzy and swore more creatively than a particularly potty-mouthed fishwife) - THAT, after all, is to be expected; don't know why everyone gets so convinced we'll scream through to the final on each and every big tournament, forgetting that we will always a) have a hot-headed young hero sent off b) have at least 2 star players injured c) play with inexplicable tactics and d) lose on penalties. Still, it has been as usual jolly fun fashioning puns for the next day's red-top headlines: my bro's best one was in the Brazil-Ghana match, with 'CONSTANT GHANA FAIL TO FIENNES THE NET' and my own was for our sorry state of affairs: 'PORTUGESE MEN OF WAR GIVE LAST STING IN ENGLAND'S TALE'. I thank you.

No, the gutter is just for me, obviously far more important than some sorry internation bout of football. Was supposed to leg it from school to train station last week in order to get up to York for a prospectively cool interview as artist-in-residence at the National Science Learning Centre. It's not as glamorous as being artist-in-residence at NASA (See Laurie Anderson), say, and would be housed at the back of my old college of Alcuin, so would have been a hilarious revisit to my early besozzled undergrad years, but these jobs don't come round very often. So I ran faster than Aaron Lennon to get there, only to find the soap-esque nightmare scenario of EVERY TRAIN CANCELLED DUE TO FIRE AND RISK OF GIANT GAS CANISTERS EXPLODING ONTO TRACKS greeting me. The Arts Council lady was fairly sympathetic of my slightly hysterical sobbing phonecall, but calmly explained that they had had to make a decision that day. Not even a chance of a re-scheduled interview. Alack, rue the day, etc. So instead I have had to make do with drinking much wine, watching DVDs, shopping therapy and having to put on the kiddiewinks' school concert (Green Day transferred to kids' choir! oh yes!).

More fun at least was Andy and my brief sojourn to the coun'ryside, for Woodendstock, run by clearly the coolest people alive, seeing as they live in a huge house in the middle of nowhere, put on a free festival and rave-up and play in the headline band, the woefully-named but very choppy and chirpy Rotating Leslie. We were there to support the ever-brill Lazy Habits, who sounded double-ace in the surroundings of balmy air, haystacks and a soundtrack of sheep and birds.

In Kerry-goes-public news, should be in Evening Standard tomorrow, the Today
programme and London Tonight on Thursday, and maybe the BBC on Friday with The Song of Doves, the 7/7 memorial piece.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Current level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 30 mins
Hair day: now sporting terrifying asymmetric-hardcore-indie-lesbian cut after visit to new fave proper local hairdresser

Have had a gill-stuffed week of gigs, running the full gamut from sedate chamber music to head-exploding jungle. Business as usual, then...

Treated Pop to a Father's Day coffee concert at Wigmore Hall, which had us chomping loudly on our Fishermen's Friends (it's a throat-clearing sweet, you know) amongst the frowning blue rinse brigade, letting the Szymanoski Quartet's surprisingly feisty Hadyn and overlong Schubert wash over us, before gulping down our free medium dry sherry. Then on Wednesday it was off to support Andy in Step 13's second round of the nationwide Battle of the Bands competition, in which they have to suffer the ignominious surroundings of O'Neill's on the Green Man roundabout in Leytonstone for three rounds in order to play the Carling Academy Islington in the final. Still, they did play Mass in Brixton on Saturday, which is a damn sight cooler. The whole thing was hilarious, although slightly less so than the first round, with the night seeming very Phoenix Nights/Spinal Tap. Step 13 of course won this round too, being far and away the most professional outfit, ie a band who didn't a) get twisted up in their own mic lead and b) not fall off the stage whilst wearing very tight PVC and lace and being a size 16. Classy.

Thursday was the other end of the spectrum, with buddy Cat and I artily lording it in the ludicrously over-arch ICA for their monthly Roots 'n' Shoots night. I remain slightly unconvinced as to the ethos of the series, which I had taken to be a celebration of all things traditionally British and alternatively folky, but which put out a silly Brazilian singer with lyrics like 'oh sea, make love to me' and a po-faced sub-Polly Harvey singer. We also had, though much more engagingly, the Pink Floyd/Nick Drake producer Joe Boyd plugging his new book and playing unique tracks like a recording of Nick Drake's mum singin beautifully. It all became clear when the headline act, Leafcutter John (who we'd come to see after meeting very sweet promoters Enrico and Eric on a roof terrace at a party), appeared, although he is such a fragile babyfaced moppet we took him to be a trainee roadie when he first came on. LJ was fab, the perfect modern new English alt-folkie, with his mixture of acoustic songs about honey bees and night-foxes plus glitchy experimental electronica. Added to that was the great duo of a Jarvis Cocker lookalike who played lung-beating melodica chords and incredibly contemporary stuff on a wicked-looking bass recorder. AND a clearwater-voiced girl who blew bubbles into her drink which were then sampled. Oh, and they also miked and sampled a slinky and some cutlery and as an encore improvised songs about badgers and quince jelly upon the audience's suggestion. Fab.

Today, I decided I must visit the Vortex Dalston for their World Cup Jazz Ball events, in which, in rather hilarious high-London-art fashion, two trios improvise to the live football; thought I should go before the stakes get too high for our boys. However, for an avant-garde musician/extreme footy lover, I was surprised at how much I hated the combo. It was partly the incredibly distracting volume (two drum kits in small room = extreme ear pain), and partly down to the players really not seeming to know their football and not reacting sensitively to events on screen, but mostly because I cared far too much about the result. We legged to a friend's house at half-time and took in the rest as you should, over cans of Carling and Doritos, with much impassioned shouting and guffaws over Motty/Lawro's amusing double act, jumping around the room when Becks scored. The moral of the story: cacophonous free jazz and serious football-watching doth not mix. Better a chav pub and 50 sweaty pissed-up geezers slurring their way through 'Three Lions', I say.....

Thursday, June 15, 2006

a wapping good time

Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 0.5
Hair day: Straighteners are hilariously brill, though fringe is so long now that I keep bumping into things (whilst looking very fashionable, of course)

Had an unexpectedly supercool time on what should have been an unassumingly quiet Wendesday night in. Andy and I took a post-dinner stroll past the satisfyingly pongy Stepping Stones City Farm and the villagey St. Dunstan's Green to Limehouse. Having previously viewed this area only as an out-of-the-way backwater for city lemmings, it's growing on me massively. The street names - Narrow Street, Ropemaker's Fields - seem to peel back the centuries, pubs creak invitingly, and joggers pass serenely down gleaming, non-Asbo-ed-up pavements n their way home to their converted docklands warehouses. It's sedate, sanitised even, but there's some history lurking in oily corners. We stopped at our favourite riverside pub, The Grapes (gloomy wood interior, proper smoke-riddled locals, posh fish restaurant, Dickens' old haunt), to gaze out onto an alien, steel-pink Thames, whilst birds were tiny black shards in the sunset.

We wandered to Wapping, with Canary Wharf a menacingly glittering Death Star to our left. Finding our target, the very ancient Prospect of Whitby, under refurbishment (probably into a gastro-tapas-tequila bar, but we can cross our fingers), we slipped down Pelican Stairs alley and onto the beach. We had the river and the night and the mud all to ourselves, with the football echoing over from a chav pub on the south side, and the odd booze cruise leaving a coda of waves. Most spookily, a hangman's noose is strung high on a mast at the back of the pub, and slapped a rather macabre silhouette on the night sky; maybe it's an alternative way to eject people after one too many Barcardi Breezers.

Leaving the beach, we stumbled on The Wapping Project, which I've been meaning to check out for a while. People, it is the most ludicrously edgy urban-swank hulk of cool I have ever entered. A converted hydraulic power station, the building is no glossy, clean-lined renovation a la Tate Modern. It's bravely kept its stark husk, with the industrial remnants right in your face: sitting on slim modernist chairs and glugging shiraz from almost square glasses, we were surrounded by rusting power generators, hulking old cubicles and thick trunks of pipes scaling the walls, all softened only slightly by dozens of fat candles dotting around the place. It was fall-about-on-the-floor hilarious hipness from concrete slabbed floor to crane-your-neck ceiling. Even better, the waiter covertly led us and our drinks to the artspace at the back of the building, and opened foot-thick metal doors into a dank, dark cavernous room, where we watched Angus Boulton's video-sound installations on run-down Russian Olympic gymnasiums before I got spooked when our shadow puppetry on the screen seemed to turn everything off with an echoey bang and we ran away back to the safety of the light and post-classical music. But what a space! Am desperate to stage my 1 and half year-old music-theatre piece sedna stories in there. Would be triple-cool.

That said, I'll already be double-cool next year if a proposed project in which I write for (gasp!) Antony from Antony and the Johnsons next year....

Monday, June 05, 2006

headlines of the day

Level of conviction in own genius: 10 (if you look at headlines 1 and 3) or 8 (if you look at headline 2)
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 9. Yes, NINE.
Hair day: Have silly 'punkpink' hair gunk in fringe, residue of yesterday's whack performance...

Phew. Not entirely sure where my half term disappeared to.Was far too busy being tossed in a whirlwind of creative shenanigans as usual. Headlines being:

For a lot of the week I was tiptoe-ing on the sleek floors of the National Gallery before opening time, co-ordinating the music side of a dance/composition project with my Junior Trinity talented wonders. Very strange seeing the morning netherworld of foreign cleaners, terrifying butch German secrity ladies and paintings the size of houses being wheeled about. There even seemed to be someone ticking off the paintings in each room, as if checking none had been swiped during the night. The event itself went marvellously, with 17 year-olds performing insanely hard-hitting contemporary dance to fab music from my lot. I, ever the show-off, got to be the calling boy in front of Seurat's The Bathers, doing minor vocal gymnastics whilst sporting a particularly fetching red hat.

This week I received a letter from the British Antarctica Survey peeps informing me that I had got to the shortlist of 4 from 40ish applicants for the Writers and Artists in Antarctica scheme, but that their first two choices had passed the rigorous medical exam. Alas, alack... Rather gutted at not being able to spend terrifying toe-numbing time being blinded by snow and ice and being inspired by seals and things, and am secretly hoping that one of the lucky twosome breaks several limbs or experiences sudden seizure of year-long artistic block, rather uncharitably.

After weeks of hardcore practice, managing visuals, madly advertising, juice pulled off a cracking performance at the fabulously groovy Cargo in Shoreditch. Had a great crowd of whooping fans, fat on posho BBQ, who were smacked in the face with post-classical/rock/electronica/jazz vocal insanity, complete with visuals providing everything from manga VJ-ing, kooky photos and film cut-ups. juice had a hilarious time slapping on dramatic make-up, wriggling into tiny dresses and then panicking about where the hell to put our cumbersome radio mic packs. Moreover, as well as singing our usual rumbly growling/harmonics/
stratospheric cluster-chords, we also finished the show with some very silly choreography which had us cavorting around the stage shaking our asses Beyonce-style and ridingg horses. Ohhhh yes. My knees are still trying to recover....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Wycombe come home

Current level of conviction in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: if you count watching Soccer Aid as creative activity, 90 mins.
Hair day: Like trendy iron filings. Am besotted with new hair straighteners.

So, after a resplendent first half of season in which they lorded it over League Two and reigned over even Chelsea's moneyed himbos in the length of their unbeaten run, my beloved Wycombe sagged quietly down into the play-offs, just about holding onto 6th place. Having managed to see no football on telly this season due to a) working on Saturdays and b) rabid social life, it was only right and fair that I would completely miss what seems to have been an FA Cup match of gladatorially dramatic proportions in favour of persuading Andy's buddies Jessica and John up the road to let us hog their sofa and force them to watch WWFC play Cheltenham in the play-off first leg on Sky Sports 2. It was a damply dull game for the most part, we lost 2-1, and then sighed despondently out in the second leg in a 0-0 draw. When I first supported Wycombe, Martin O'Neill was our Lord and Master, I saw them play at Wembley three times in three years, we went up two divisions in two years and I was wrapped in a permanently joyous blue bliss. Alas, no more. Sob. Still, only a game and all that.

In composition news: I have two private commissions being premiered in the summer: one is a memorial to the commissionee's sculptor mother and is being performed by ace prof counter-tenor Nick Clapton; the other commemorates the victims of the July 7th bombings and should be heard on Radio 4. Actually providing people with pieces that perform a function, rather than being some piece for some orchestra for some competition, is really very professionally fulfilling.

In other groovy arts news: juice's Cargo gig looms ever nearer, with the girls doing very strange things to small toys (no, not that strange...) in aid of doing some visuals; fuseleeds06 festival gig went very nicely; we were in Music Teacher magazine (like Dazed and Confused, expect without the arch writing and high fashion, and more articles about using xylophones in Key Stage 1); we're hopefully playing the Spitz in July! And we're currently on Danish radio online!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

something clement in the state of Denmark

Current level of conviction in own genius: 6
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: zero
Hair day: Asymmetrical. Braved a visit to local Bethnal Green coiffery, got given a single look by the elaborately boybanded hairdresser who said he could do something 'very interesting' with me. When I asked what, he said he didn't know and would 'just have to go with it, you know?'. Gulped and consented. Emerged with crazy one-short-sided-getting-longer-round-the-other Shohoboho cut. And hilariously for such a cropped lass, have bought straighteners! Ahem.

Have had busy few days. The last bank holiday weekend was a packed one, starting with the registry wedding and henna night of one of my best buddies and am now sporting slightly faded but very groovy henna tattoo on right hand. I made my debut at one of Oxford's legendary Aston Street parties (friends of Andy's), where the attention to detail is ludicrously impressive: a Western theme, they'd removed the lounge door and replaced it with bullet-riddled saloon doors, slung haystacks outside and strategically placed inflatable cacti, and best of all, down at the bottom of their winding secret garden could be found a roaring campfire and shed masquerading as frontier wagon. I made a half-decent attempt at Native American slut (breasts falling out of tassled top, arse hanging out of suede skirt, war paint etc) and boogied to silly house and, much more appealingly, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Rockin'. The next day I supported the Step 13ers at the rough'n'ready 491 Gallery-cum-squat in Leytonstone, where they delivered their usual tight set of friendly drum'n'bass.

This weekend was a fab one, with juice and boys (soon to be labelled 'the juicettes' if they're not careful) taking off to Arhus (key to pronunciation: think Scottish pirate with extreme facial tick) to perform in Roger Marsh's music-theatre loveliness, Pierrot Lunaire at the Spor Festival. The gig went off very successfully, with our intrepid trio doing everything from French cabaret to Eurovision pop, skipping to Monty Python-esque heckling in the audience. In our free time, we hopped on free bikes (you put 2o kroner in a slot and get your bike! like a shopping trolley!) and rode to the beach, enjoyed park walks through banks of wild garlic, saw lots of public art and had a great night in surely the most louche bar in town, Cafe RisRas, which would be THE place to be if bang in the middle of Brick Lane, with its rainbows of beers and 20-strong list of single malts, table football and Scandinavian hip hop on the decks. It's soooo great to be doing, albeit far too occasionally, the kind of well-paid work which allows you to sun yourself in the middle of the cathedral square cramming your face full of Danish ice cream.

Apart from that it's just been the usual mix of improvising percussive weirdness in the studio, quaffing free wine at book launches and trying to forget I still have to be teacher for a living. And also trying to find a pub in East London which will show Wycombe Wanderers' first leg play-off with Cheltenham Town on Saturday evening.... Get in the Wyc!!!!!!!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Strange things I have seen this week

1) George Galloway and entourage strolling through Globetown on the Respect prowl; I, star-thwacked by anything remotely famous that moves, smiled at him and got a louche wink and a burred 'how're you doing?' back. Tee hee. He is an opportunistic buffoon, of course, but when it comes to oratory skills there are few better. He'd make a fine stage actor, belting out heather-burnished polemic on the stage of the Globe, or maybe on tv. The new Trisha! He'd sort those whey-faced ratlovecheats out.

2) A mad old woman pushing one of those creepy toy dogs (the cretinous black-faced fur balls, like the one who cast his satanic spell over - I mean won - Crufts the other year) along in a pushchair down Bethnal Green Road. The woman was struggling. The dog looked very relaxed.

3) A very odd support act to the fair-to-middling avant-rockers Battles at Dingwall's in Camden last night. Battles, with their line-up of 3 guitars and drummer (with one cymbal propelled high into the air reminiscent of a Christian Marclay installation), had just a too-sonically-limited palate, though I'm always forgiving of anyone who plays in 9/4 or 6/8 and 3/4 alternately. They were preceeded by the peculiar Hot Club De Paris, a jerky angualr trio who lashed out 1-minute long post-punk numbers, whooped maniacally at the end of each one and only impressed me when they sang in perfect three-part folk harmony, with hilarious lyrics like 'i'll love your teeth in/i'll love your limbs off/ i love your crutches/you painted them pink yourself'....

Happy birthday to my newly-specced love by the way!!!

Monday, April 17, 2006

the long good friday to monday

april 17th

Level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity achieved today: 1 hour
Hair day: adequate though am contemplating flash of shocking flamepink to make primary school collectively gasp in horror

This long Easter weekend has shaped up marvellously, stretching gracefully over four days and packed to the gills with vibrant activity...

Friday was indeed Good, with a quick visit to Victoria Park's lush secret garden, complete with balletic squirrels and birds in four-part harmony. In the evening my visual wiz partner-in-artcrime Harry took me to the Lyric, Hammersmith to see an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean graphic novel 'The Wolves are in the Walls', which proved to be a zippy musical with audacious set design and puppetry. Brill.

On Saturday, I reminded myself why I used to love Soho, drinking mid-morning Earl Grey, eating brioche and reading the New Statesman (ok, pretending to the read the New Statesman whilst admiring my glamorously intellectual reflection) in Patisserie Valerie on Old Compton Street alongside the old Italians and cutely-coiffed gay men. Andy and I then fought our way into the V&A's 'Modernism' exhibition, where I learnt that the bad things to come out of it were Nazism's and Facism's twisted adaptation of the aesthetic and the good things were the later rejection of straight lines in favour of responding to organic forms found in nature and some kick-ass tea sets.

We topped off Saturday with a mosey down to the coolest joint in town (so says Time Out and they are the gospel in all things London): the Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. Oh yes. Just off the beaten track enough to lose the city types and Shoho ponces, we were there for Viva Cake, a hilariously off-the-wall night of 50s music, Lindy hop class and free tea and cake served by roller-skating waitresses, and mingled with the old-school locals from the still-very-working-men's-club bit downstairs. A fun, unprentious night, complete with bizarre (and not terribly good, admittedly) dance troupe of ladies dressed as stewardesses.

Having demanded one trip to the beach before my hol was up (my recent afernoon in Scarborough with ma not really counting seeing as we cowered in the car whilst a snowstorm tried to force the windows open), we hopped on the train to Whitstable for a quick fix of salt air. We ticked all the boxes, eating fish and chips on our laps whilst the grease soaked through our jeans, traipsing over the breakers and pebbles to the weathered huts down at the far end, having tea and organic cake, proving artistic worth by spotting founder of Stuckism and previous squeeze of Tracy Emin, Billy Childish, inventing games involving the re-creation of film scnees using beach debris (I got very wet during my Jaws effort), jotting some poetry and writing some on stones for people to pick up later. And all this while the sky, a cloud canvas, practically screamed 'WATERCOLOUR ME! WATERCOLOUR ME!' and the sea was silvering milk.

Switching from quaint coastal towns to knife-edgy East London in one fell swoop, we danced away Sunday at the slightly-perturbing Favela Chic (done up, apparently, like a shanty town - yeah, we're like, poor and Brazilian! and blowing our last thousand centavos on beer!) at Batamacumba's night, decent if ending with some tropical funk with, strangely, the bassline from Grease's 'Summer Nights'. Hhm.

Phew. Feeling like we were somewhere into Thursday afternoon, having lost track of the days completely, we took it easier today, lunching at the utterly wondrous Grapes pub in Limehouse, an ancient, dark-wooded pub that reminds me of my fabulous York local the Blue Bell with its perfect mix of old crazies and relaxed Indie-reading new Londoner types. Plus a fab view of the iron-glittering river. Then went to the Docklands museum, chiefly to see the lovely 'Unquiet Thames' photographic exhibition but also to soak up the history of the area. Whilst I acknowledge that this city thrives on change, it seemed sad when walking back through Westferry to see the streets named so evocatively after the trades that buzzed there (Ropemaker's Walk, Butcher's Row) now labelling blocks after blocks of city-boy flats, and the river so unpopulated by boats. Things move on, but you wonder what happened to the older 'islanders' who got quietly pushed aside in favour of the towers of Mordor now gleaming blindingly into the sky.

Now, duck, lentils, wine, The Beat That My Heart Skipped, and hopefully a six-week sleep which thus allows me to bypass school summer term part one and arise refreshed for half-term high jinks. Well, a girl can dream....

Monday, April 03, 2006


april 3rd, 2006

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 1
Hair day: not looking as snappy as it should for a £40 chop in an organic hairdresser’s in Shoreditch

Have upped the live music stakes this week, having been to four gigs so wildly varying they might well have taken place in opposing corners of the globe – well, not everyone can say that in 6 days they’ve taken in a Canadian post-artrock outfit, a harpsichord in a club, a beatboxer who can perform entire Daft Punk songs and a MOR sub-Radio 2 country singer in Driffield.

1) Bell Orchestre at the ULU was a wondrous, ear-glowing experience. Comprising octopus-like drummer, double bass, violin, horn and trumpet, the brass started by disorientating us completely by playing acoustically amidst the audience, and the band swiftly followed with a set of innovative, jazz/folk/rock-inflected genius. The use of melodeon through a hosepipe, bass knocks on the wood and almost entirely col legno bowing, percussive typewriter and whooping horn harmonics lent a quirkily avant-garde edge, and the build-up of Reich-esque riffs, angular time signatures, the blurred virtuosity of the players and some kick-ass rocking out sent me to heaven and back. Euphoric. I am viciously anti-illegal drugs at the best of times, but seriously people, the best music does it all for you…

2) Jane Chapman at Cargo. In the second of the Sound Source series, which aims to bring contemporary music into funkier venues, we were greeted with the bizarrely innocuous sight of seeing a harpsichord perched primly on the stage of Cargo in Shoreditch. It was a mildly odd night, with some very cute and funky pieces in there; however, some of them seemed very slight and the audience was a mixture of subdued harpsichord enthusiasts (glaring at me for laughing very loudly at a genuinely funny number) and your usual 20-somethings. Still, it gives juice a few more ideas as to how to make ours work for yes! We are the next in the series on May 30th!!!

3) Mr Mouth and 7 Seconds of Love at Cargo. Again. We were there to see friend Ed do his dancing-drummer thing in previously-blogged about comedy ska-punk band 7 Seconds, but were wowed by the 3-mouths-in-one beatboxer, a self-consciously styled geek who could sing Michael Jackson songs whilst chewing over the beats, used a loopstation and then upped the stakes by accompanying his jazzy keyboard riffs with a mouthy beat. Gift of the gab indeed.

4) Up in York for juice’s second recording session for Roger Marsh’s Pierrot Lunaire on NMC, I put up only mild resistance to go see Mum’s favourite singer, John Wright, with her in Driffield. It was Phoenix Nights, East Riding style, all the way here – crammed into the back room of the Blue Bell pub, last decorated in 1959, I was surrounded by septuagenarians sipping half-pints of Tetley’s, all swooning at the boxy-suited, mullet-haired sleazemeister up front. Wright, delivering trite covers of country, folk and soul numbers, makes my old student Katie Melua look on the teetering edge of avant-garde. Granted, he had a lovely fiddle player, I quite enjoyed the bagpipe-wielding support act who sang comedy songs about women golfers with large breasts, and appreciated the light buffet of cheese-and-onion sandwiches and sausage rolls handed round in the interval by buxom lasses. Still, I think I prefer the capital’s offerings to gigs accompanied by the sound of the fly-zapper on the ceiling snapping and crackling at regular intervals….

Have been whipped up in a whirlwind of creative activity, what with working on our websites, succumbing to the Murdoch-lorded (cue sound of bandwagon screeching to a halt to let juice and I clamber on), embarking on a new career using a covert identity that shall maybe revealed later, and being creative consultant and assistant model for the new art/fashion venture UP YOUR ART taking place under our E1 roof. I am currently sporting an apple-green t-shirt emblazoned with ‘AVANT-HARD’. Oh yes. Well, in these East London parts, you have to create new identity as fashion-designing/DJ-ing/artzine Shoho type to avoid getting trampled underfoot by pairs of Victoriana-heeled poetry punks whilst being beaten to bits with piles of obscure 1960s underground-country-disco records.

Friday, March 17, 2006


march 17th

Current level of conviction in own genius (out of 10): 9 (creative admin genius)
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 6 (creative admin that is)
Hair day: bit short and un-style-able. Went to Green's in Hoxton, not massively impressed with my 'lesbian/prisoner of war in strange '60s hippie camp' look.


Have had manically busy few days of being Miss Creative Administrator 2006, fired up to the eyeballs with artistic ideas and soundtracked by feverish note-scribbling. If I ignore the trifles of primary school crowd control, the week has been a very positive one: I've been sorting juice's vocals/electronics/visuals extravanganza at Cargo in May (cue mad hand-waving in the face of slightly bemused spnm lass at talk of Bjork covers and throat-singing), plus setting up a funky little gig at the cutesome Redgate Gallery in Brixtonia (a space so naturally echoey you could half-whisper the phonetic 'sk' and half the railway arch would fall down). Yesterday juice did some Meredith Monk-esque improv and recording in the Royal Academy of Music studios plus throwing about of ideas encompassing live vocals and film juxtaposition. Today I charted the National Gallery's horribly tourist-polluted waters in search of paintings with which to get my Junior Trinity kids to compose dance pieces, leading to animated talk of contorted dynamics and pointillist forms. This was swiftly followed by a creative meeting with my visual artist of choice, Harriet Poole, to discuss pinhole photography and Uta Berth-inspired images for Cargo. Creative meetings also include tea, cake and in-depth discourse over boys and shoes, obviously…

All these lunch meetings has entailed a dedicated survey of new places to eat, drink and be creatively merry. This week I have made the acquaintance of MTR Studio 23 on Charlotte Road in Shoreditch, a hilarious couldn't-be-more-Nathan-Barley-if-it-tried café/film/space, where I sat in a booth on an old cinema seat, watching a Japanese movie on silent and grimacing into an extremely bad latte. Much cooler was the Photographer's Gallery, an oasis of contemporary coolness amidst the grimy stewpot of Leicester Square. Wholesome rainbows of food and green tea from rolled-up jasmine leaves that uncurled coyly in the cup. We have also now appointed The Camel on Globe Road, E2, as our local (well, Charlie's Bar is our actual local in distance terms, but I'm opting out of bleeding cheeks and being forced to sing Foreigner on karaoke night for the moment). It’s a sedate, baroquely-wallpapered and dark-wooded haven with an ole joanna in the corner and a menu consisting only of pies. Beats your conventional youth-pub with its noise and smoke and new-fangled jukeinthebox or whatever you call it…. London rocks!

Friday, March 10, 2006

brits and twigs (hhmm...)

march 10th

Current level of conviction in own genius (out of 10): 6
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: a bit
Hair day: if I spike it up at the front it is a foot and a half long. think it needs cutting.

Of course, in my last blog I completely forgot to mention my appearance at the BRIT Awards (such is my celeb-wheeling whirlwind of a life, all these things blend into one after a while...), in blagging a ticket from my old chums at the BRIT School and standing with da kidz in the pit (alas, not merrily guzzling champagne at one of the tables behind us, swearing blind I'd always been the biggest Prince fan to his royal smallness). I've been twice before, and it was a little underwhelming: not quite the swift glitzy musicfest you see on tv, what with the interminable gaps inbetween acts for set changes, and the sound firing blanks over your head. Lowlights were the deathly dull Jack Johnson and James Blunt, whose girlish yelpings could give a Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier* a run for its money. Ugh. More fun were Gorillaz' stageful of grooving kids, the funk-whippet* Prince (a bit indulgent, but hell, he played Purple Rain) and - I can't believe I'm saying this - Paul Weller, who although looking coked-up to the ends of his daftly-flicked sideburns, played proper songs on proper instruments. Give me a down 'n' dirty weed-seeped live drum 'n' bass night in the middle of the week any day. See for details!

* Sorry, Crufts is all over the tv this week....

Life is settling down in Bethnal Green, and I am now endeavouring to reflect my 'hood's moniker by being as environmentally-friendly as I can. I am finally doing all those small things espoused by the Guardo et al: turning things off at the mains and the thermostat down and the taps off when brushing my teeth, frenziedly composting everything to pour on our slightly petrified herb garden, and continuing my obsession with refusing plastic bags in favour of carrying everything, spilling bits on the way, in my arms. We are hopping with anticipation at the impending arrival of our first organic veg and fruit box so are clearly true green-tinted boho-eco-warriors now. But there is so much more I can do! Time Out, to which I now subscribe for it is my guide in all things, is full of suggestion this week, and I am next going to investigate being a green woman and source Ecover nail varnish and washable make-up remover pads and tampons made out of hay and things. Oh yes.

PS This all-new green Kerry doesn't extend to welcoming wildlife into our home, though... Came home yesterday to find a little black mouse (or mini-Satan, if you will) legging it out of my bedroom. I, proving myself to be utter wimpoid, screamed like a maiden aunt and Andy found me quivering on the dining room table 15 minutes later. We have now stuffed up the hole under the boiler and it is probably suffocating amongst our Fresh 'n' Wild plastic bags as we squeak. I mean speak.

Monday, February 20, 2006

shits and gigs

february 21st, 2006

Current conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 0, but have going admin-crazy in pursuit of creativity
Hair day: listless and uninterested in the world

Since esconsed in new tres bijou apartement en Sud Bethnal Green (which, proving how comfortably settled I am, I'm already casually nicknaming 'Bethers' or, in my trademark customizing of Shoho, SoBoGo), having been getting back on the gigging track after a spectacularly scant previous year of live music.

Over the past couple of weeks I have bounced and nodded and wept etc to:

1) The wondrous, spellbinding Folk Brittania: Daughters of Albion gig at the Barbican. The good witches of the north, mother-daughter combo of Norma Waterson and Eliza Carthy lorded over the ceremonies, both strumpets endowed with Piaf-esque vibrato. Kathryn Williams and Lou Rhodes from Lamb were lovely, ashen wisps, but paled next to the historically dramatic June Tabor, who introduced her songs with a dark grandeur worthy of Laurence Olivier. It was hold-your-breath exciting for me to see the English/Pakistani singer Sheila Chandra there, too, performing her delicately-inflected version of 'Scarborough Fair' with Martin Carthy. I know folk can seem hardy, horrible nonsense sometimes - I'm no fan of the matter-of-fact singing-style of a lot of the trad male vocalists - but really, when it's just stripped down to the stark bones of a song, an ear-tugging melody and killer lyrics, there's nothing more raw and more intimate.

2) The launch of the No Rest For The Wicked night for live drum 'n' bass night at On the Rocks in Shoho, starring the organiser's band Step 13 - funky, positive, eclectic set and a particularly sexy bass player - and Dead Silence Syndicate, a much colder, jaw-jutting lot who were great but turned the crowd from smiley boogiers into aggressive layabouts boo.

3) The launch of another night, Gonzo, at Ryan's Bar in Stoke Newington, with the Matt Dibble Band racing through a crazy set of jazz/funk/pop and funky lo-fi dance Brighton band Speedway5.

4) Eschewing any sign of typical Valentine's night fodder such as candlelit dinners and red roses, Andy and I schlepped down to the Barfly in Camden for a rock gig - we saw the pretty good, atmospheric post-rock trio The Early Years and the very dull Calla (surely the worst name in the world - why have that when you can be called Tits of Death, Meerkat Population Explosion or Control Z! Control Z! ?**) .

5) The very silly but very enjoyable Seven Seconds of Love at the Metro - there are probably not many current bands out there play comedy-ska-punk with lyrics like 'I'm going to flip out/Like a ninja/'Cos that's what ninja's do' and 'Your mum's your dad/Your mum's your dad/Your mum's your dad/Your dad's your mum OI!' whilst attracting adulation from derangedly devout fans who attend their gigs wearing soup cans on their heads (still not sure about that bit).

** NB These are all real bands, oh yes....

Am currently in a whirlwind of self-promotional activity, from helping our new juice manager Rachel to dashing off more solo CDs to unsuspecting-but-about-to-be-amazed records labels to fashioning a proposal for the Arts Council/British Antarctica Survey-sponsored Writers and Artists Programme in Antarctica phew. Am getting hoppingly excited about this, with my lofty plans for the suggested two months sojourn including music-theatre works, choral pieces and text-based work and escalating by the hour grrrr. Of course, the notion of two months at the other end of the globe (and the lengthy plane rides, more to the point) fill me with abject terror; moreover, the idea of me, a girl who wears bedsocks and jimjams even in the heights of a balmy summer, larking about in the coldest place on earth is massively hysterical. But by god! How cool would it be???!!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

i am ... the doctor (ooo wee ooooo...)

11th january 2006

Current levels of conviction in own genius: 10. Hurrah!
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: None, apart from small poem entitled 'PhD Motherfucker'.
Hair day: Fabulous!

After five and a half years of full-time teaching, lounging, contemplating, schlepping, and occasionally having wild spurts of abandoned creativity and going at a Murder She Wrote pace on Sibelius, I've cracked it and got the PhD. (Small cheers from the back.) I was, after a run-up of extreme aloofness, unaccountably terrified this morning, particularly after beginning to read through my write-up and spotting three typos almost immediately. I'm probably the only Composition PhD-er in a while who has carefully considered which top (emerald green with black tree print and pink ribbon) and which eyeshadow (aquamarine green, naturally) would really help my cause during the viva. But once I was in, and Gavin Bryars and Bill Brooks (my external and internal examiners respectively, which is less racy than it sounds, more's the pity. Arf.) began their avuncular and extremely informal chat, I knew I was on the home stretch and remembered that I am in fact an utter genius. Well, when you're complimented on how artistically coherent your portfolio is and how your notation is better than Faber's and how if you pursued your dream of becoming avant-pop singersongwriter starlet you'd probably be a very rich woman, you can be allowed a leeettle gigantic-headedness for just one evening. Gavin is clearly a man to know: after I name-checked my two pop gurus - Bjork and Tom Waits - the immensely successful composer who looks and sounds like a Yorkshire sheep farmer casually mentioned that he'd spoken to both of them just yesterday. No, really. He also tossed us anecdotes of his encounters with Le Waits all those years ago when he recorded Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet in Tom's old shed containing all his bone machine percussion. Sehr kool. Of course, I have to make a couple of minor cosmetic adjustments to my CDs and pay for the posho boxes to be embossed and go to graduation wearing the most shamingly floppy-assed hat ever in July, but from today I am offically allowed to call myself Doctor Andrew, or just Doc Kerry if you're really lucky. Of course, there will be no shameful flaunting of my title for any purposes whatsoever apart from on credit cards and hotel bookings and passports in order that I get the chance to be upgraded to first class on planes, as the medically-qualified are, apparently. Of course, that does pose the danger of being dragged to chaotic on-flight scene of man with heart attack surrounded by flapping stewardesses and having to try and cure him by applying a range of extra-vocal techniques including Mongolian-style throat-singing and tongue-clicks and mouth-pops before being booed into standard class, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

dr kerryx

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

snow joke

jan 3rd 2006 (crumbs!)

Current level of conviction in own genius: 6.5
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: nul points
Hair day: risked all and got snipped in High Wycombe near dad's, emerging with el chav blonde-side-stripe which am just getting used to

Phew. Well, here we are, spat out blinking into 2006, wondering why the streets of Brixton look as scummy as ever and not chockablock with shiny dealer-robots that can craft any drug of choice with a couple of deft button-pressings whilst boom-boxed spacecars thump by overhead and everyone shouts into the transglobalaudiovisualmobilechip in ther heads (as long as it has Radio 4, I'm in). Still, the back door to 2005 was slammed shut with an almighty kerWALLOP as I threw a bangin' party chez Baytree Court, where we grooved to Zen cuts and FF and S Club (yes, well, all in the past) and Prince's 1999 (New Year will always be musically on the cusp of the millenium unless Robbie Williams or the Arctic Monkeys can come up with a catchy 'Bring On 2007' number) whilst stuffing our faces and spilling so much booze on the floor that I was standing ankle-deep in a champagne swamp come Big Ben's dolorous chimes.. Marvellous.

Of course, nothing has actually changed at all, and I'm still perpetually grumbling about my lack of creative opportunity whilst not doing quite as much as I could about it despite protestations about schoolwork (which am obviously dreading onslaught of come...when is it...tomorrow! AGGHH!) and dreaming of the great things to come. Not one but two chums of mine currently make their sole living from composition and also Have Bought Their Own Houses. How, pray, is this possible???? Perhaps I shall adopt February as my real new year, when the boyfriend-gem-that-is-Andy and I shall squeeze ourselves into our new basement flat, the jewel in the could-do-with-a-polish-crown of E1. Then I shall revolutionise myself into all-singing-
all-composing East London artistic whirlwind that I really should be by now.

Getting away from the city grime from Christmas was well worth it, particularly to venture even further north than mother's in Driffield to majestic Northumberland, where we made like Scott of the Antarctic, watching our fingers turn blue, black and then drop off as we braved -7 temperatures and slipslid our way through the snow. We covered Druridge Bay, a menacing blade of beach with waves as high as houses on the horizon, and trudged through England's most northernly town, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, where locals couldn't seem to decide whether they should be Geordies or Scots. We checked out Alnwick's phenomenally fab second-hand-bookshop, Barter Books, which fills a vast Victorian railway station, nestled into a gorgeous old Inn in Alnmouth for mussles and whisky as cheap as chips, and shivered in the spooky bay the next morning, with its alien-moon landscape of snow and sand, the village behind us huddled into the icy mist like the setting to a Steven King novel. Brrrrrrr.