Thursday, December 20, 2007

School's out for the winter

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: does wrapping presents in recycled crepe paper and masking tape count?
Level of conviction in own genius: Waiting to be reawakened.
Watching/Listening: 'Oliver Twist', in rollocking soap-style version - am sucker for glossy period drama / anarcho-jazz-funk from Londoners Porpoise Corpus
Hair day: Visited Mile End hairdressery for entertaining local fun and a half-decent do from Beverly Knight-loving, arch put-down-delivering chap.

It's over. No more shlepping to NW London to be shouty, hair-tearing-out Dr Andrew. Come January I'll be shedding my permanent teacher's skin and wriggling into the glistening, dewy-eyed world of the Freelancer, a world that I'm anticipating being filled with early morning swimming sessions, dreamy composing, wheatgrass shots, more singing, contemporary dance classes, more promotion of self, juice and DOLLYman, experimental soup-making, etc. In truth, I'm doing tons of educational stuff still, but it's the kind with English Pocket Opera, Wigmore Hall and the like, where I get to be called Kerry, wear my jeans, leap about for a couple of hours and then make a swift escape. I can't wait to get back to my real self, put some colour in my cheeks and breathe some zesty creative spirit into my lungs again.

juice have been madly busy, rather brilliantly. Most recently we did a lunchtime concert at St James' Piccadilly largely to oldies and tourists, whilst two nights' previously we were in the Astoria 2 for an eclectic multimedia night involving animation, fashion, live music from great chamber-cabaret-melodramatists The Irrepressibles, dance... and us! We were given a louche Brazilian hair and make-up artist who, with the help of smoky eyeshadow under the eyes, hair extensions, glue and industrial-strength hairspray which made us swoon slightly, fashioned us into part-'Lord of the Rings', part-Japanese horror characters. We stood on separate podiums amongst the audience and did a juice mash-up for 10 minutes, hushing the pinched-face, trilby-wearing art student crowd into awed silence. Groovy.

Much more juice fun to come next year, from working with special needs teenagers in North Yorkshire to uni teaching in Liverpool, performing at the Purcell Rooms, a gig at the Luminaire in a re-imagining of our fashion show installation from last year, devising live music for a silent film in the Bird's Eye film festival hopefully at the ICA... and much more. This is more like it. I'm also curating the return of the experimental vocal night Gobsmack, and planning to write on the one hand: a) pedestrian choral music for Oxford University Press's new carol collection to add to my four already published by them, and b) chamber contempo-songs about wine and whisky for politico-cabaret outfit Pulse. Ah, I feel the genius stirring... but first: chicken soup!

Merry Christmasxxx

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Toil and trouble

Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: nil
Level of conviction in own genius: 6.5
Hair day: crrrrrap.

The far and hitherto-unexplored extremes of my musical life were definitely laid bare yesterday...

1) During the day and evening I accompanied the doe-eyed, snotty-nosed Year 1s and 2s of St Saviour's C of E Primary School, Maida Vale, in their newly-purchased George-at-Asda angel dresses as they very slickly performed their Russian-slanted Nativity production of 'Babushka'. This included masterful tambour playing on my part and much frowning at child-distracting flashbulbs from hideously clamouring parents. Thankfully not much more of this stuff, as bidding farewell to school in a week and a half now for those freelancey climes.

2) Andy and I hot-tailed it to our much more culturally-spiritual home back east, scoffed a quick Thai at Yelo on Hoxton Square and then dashed to The Macbeth on Hoxton Street, a scuffed and lovely pub/venue, complete with ceremonial sword and blood-red walls alongside the posters for high-art events. It was one of the monthly nights from cool, avant-garde label and night nonclassical, run by Gabriel Prokofiev, who as well as of course being Sergei's grandson, is a cutting-edge modern composer, producer of grime terrier Lady Sovereign and performs in an art-romantic-punk band to boot. juice had been invited along to do a very quick set as a precursor to hopefully a juice-featured night in the Spring. Before our turn we heard two sets from luscious Italian pianist Genia, featuring her rumbling and athletic playing alongside fizzing electronics. Our three numbers were slightly hair-raising, us all (including now-7-month-plump-as-a-watermelon-pregnant Anna) being utterly knackered, but it went down well, and we were promptly pounced on by two ebullient Resonance FM DJs who immediately signed us up to do at least one of their shows. Hurrah!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

(I need) Time Out

Level of conviction in own genius: 5.5
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: Heavens, don’t be ridiculous.
Hair day: awright.

Have been not waving but drowning in an over-buoyant sea of teaching of late, what with the usual stuff being supplemented with teaching snub-nosed little tykes in Tower Hamlets to write songs about Henry VIII and also getting Newcastle University music students to growl/screech/do whistley harmonics with juice. Still, I’m counting down the days til Christmas when I leave my main primary school job behind to enter the head-clearing yet slightly gulp-inducing world of the Intrepid Freelancer. I’ll still be up to my ears but at least it will be in a more groovy, leap-in-for-an-hour-jump-about-madly-then-saunter-home-without-a-care-in-the-world way. And I get to wear my jeans. It will also hopefully complement our recent move up the road to a larger, much less damp 3rd floor mansion block flat with a study in Bethnal Green overlooking a kaleidoscopically-leafed park and the back of the V&A Museum of Childhood.

Had a moment of ego-massaging, career-diverting glory when I had an interview for staff music writer at the London-celebrating weekly bible, Time Out, last month. I applied on the ‘no experience, merely talent’ front, and after writing a gig and album review and snappy critique of their music pages, was one of only 4 out of 400 applicants to miraculously snare a meeting with coolly-rumpled Music Editor Eddy Lawrence. Halfway through I realised that this would be a full-time job and then some, and my music commitments raised their whimpering heads. However much going to 5 gigs a week and listening to albums all day long would be a dream, I’m still a musician at heart and 3 days of doing the listings didn’t appeal to my lofty ambitions. If I’m going to write it has to be on laptops in local Buddhist-leaning cafes whilst drinking loose leaf white tea and gazing langurously out of the window.

Still finding time to do fun London-high-art things, which have included watching Jonathan Pryce in David Mamet’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (say that rapidly 5 times without getting tongue-twisted and you win some kind of special trophy), a fabulously lean play with dialogue like streams of silver bullets in the rather rococo Apollo Theatre. Also took in a partly successful ‘inter-arts social’ night called Rational Rec at the QEH last night which included watching a man play an electric guitar with a scouring pad and a very avant-garde clown called Benny. Hhm. Best of recent gigs has been ‘Plague Songs’ at the Barbican, a follow-up of a huge project in Margate in which artists were commissioned to write 10 songs for each of Exodus’s plagues, with some more recent songs being written on ‘modern plagues’, all accompanied by players who make up most of Tom Waits’ band for his bonkers music-theatre piece ‘The Black Rider’. This produced a gloriously eclectic evening full of mad wonder, including the babbling witch doctor of vocal improvisation, Phil Minton, the previously-unheard-of, maple syrup-toned voice of Daniel Knox, the inventive gossamer funkiness of Imogen Heap in her song about locusts being alright really, a new song from Damon Albarn with kids’ choir, a sort of cheery Blitz ‘we’re all in this together’ song, and perhaps best of all, Heap duetting with Rufus Wainwright on his sandpapered-down country song about the death of the first-born; his melted-Green-and-Black’s chocolate voice warmed me into a puddle of liquid wistfulness.

PS My first CD release, a big choral work called ‘Dusk Songs’ has been released on new wee York label Boreas Music. Choir and Organ call it 'the emergence of a considerable talent'. Hurrah!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

bank holiday smasher

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 7
Hair day: awright. Visited Green's in Hoxton for a very expensive and mildy ok cut. Feel the need to be more edgy, like girl from the Noisettes.

The August bank holiday is always a time to cram in as much rampant activity as possible into 3 days... so we did these things:


Chanced upon fabulous vegetarian restaurant, The Gate, in Hammersmith, hidden away round the back of a less inviting Jesus of the Seventh Advent of Heaven Messengers or something Christian Meeting Centre. Ate many vegetables served in intricately enchanting ways. Visited the Riverside Studios to see Cabaret du Neant-style outfit Pulse, who delivered darkly silly torch songs wearing feather boas and cheekily-perched hats.


Hopped (well, struggled onto, trying to cover lumpen thighs with short skirt) onto my purple chariot of fire and had a lovely sunshiney cycle ride with Andy around the Regent's and Hertford Union Canal, the Lea Navigation and the Limehouse Cut. Got glimpses of old and new: the derelict, creepy backwaters and burly tattooed lads fishing; the legoland-looking new flats being built everywhere; the nice old Hammers fan jogging past; the Cityfied chumps drinking on their balconies. Had a chilled drink on the terrace of old-school pub The Grapes in Limehouse, looking over the Thames. Saw 'The Bourne Identity' at strangely vacuous newish cinema on Bethnal Green, Rich Mix. Liked the film, but thought editing was a little bit too seasick-making, and wondered why Matt Damon never had to carry a bag (where did he keep his toothbrush? and his many passports and various foreign currencies and change of clothes?). Talked film over in vibrant scuffed Moroccan bar Casa Blue at the top of Brick Lane. Had fun drining caipirinhas until there was a fight in our corner and we got showered in beer bottle shards and ice when one of the guys got glassed. Police arrived amazingly quickly and the bar was serving drinks again within seconds. We miraculously escaped unscathed. Calmed our jangled nerves at The Spread Eagle over a Macallan and then scoffed a Brick Lane Beigel on the way home.


Got up blearily early to get tube, two trains and a bus to Camber Sands on the East Sussex coast. The beach was so wide, broad, long and deep that even though packed with families we still had tons of room to lounge and sunbathe and picnic. It's a stonking place, with a dune bank riddled with paths at one end, and the tide stretching almost further than you can reach at the other end. Back in London in the evening we popped into Favela Chic for their after-Carnival party and saw ineffectually yowling Brazilian Cibelle play live before she more successfully DJed global party tracks.


Visited acely absoring 'How We Are: Photographing Britain' at Tate Britain. Loved it all really, especially the quirky 30s photos of musical hall stars and mannish-looking female political fugureheads. Drank at the Morpeth Arms, where once stood Millbank Prison.

All manic here, counting down days of freedom before school and freelancing kicks in next week. Currently working on football book as a small publisher may be interested, and writing reviews in application to be Time Out Music Writer, and writing proper reviews for spnm, and finishing DOLLYman pieces, and doing juice planning, and doing a new vocal tune... gosh, not sure I've ever written '7 hours' creative work done in last 24 hours up there before...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Notre lune de miel

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 2
Hair day: Bit shoddy. I did quite classy home-dye job on the underside of my fringe but it glows a little yellow rather than arctic blonde. Needs chopping back into East London-sharpness.

The word ‘honeymoon’, did you know, translates directly into the French. Why ‘honey’, and why ‘moon’, I’m still none the wiser, but hey, it’s more poetic than ‘post-wedding excursion’ or ‘after-nuptial outing’, and there was a lot of swooningly romantic moons and an awful lot of bees’ own gloopy stuff consumed. Little did I know, however, that I’d be spending my first night not just with Andy but with three other men as well. And a woman,

Not as ‘Erotic Review’ as it sounds, quelle dommage. Our honeymoon, like Wedfest, kept up the eco-friendly theme by cutting out the flying (always a bonus for sweaty-palmed moi), so we journeyed to the south of France sur le train. We piled on at Gare d’Austerlitz to find that the first romantic night of our hol would be a 6-in-a-cupboard affair, squeezing on planks just as wide as my thighs (not that is NOT that wide thank you very much), cramped accordion-like in order to accommodate suitcases on said plank, on a train that mostly felt like one of the runaway carts at the end of ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’.

We fell out of the train at the rusting shack of Najac station in deepest Aveyron territory, half-crazed with lack of sleep and food, and started to get used to our surroundings. Najac was just a pinch-perfectly beautiful place, all quirky tumbledown houses, cobbles, shutters and curling vines, with a kick-ass 12th-century castle lording it at the top with its views of richly dark green hills, a gorge and the winding town. Our own place was a converted barn 7km away, next to gregarious Dutch owner Ronald and his dog Cookie, who is now nominated for the Best Dog In The World For Services In Cuteness Award. We lived within thick stone slabs, lit by a gothic candelabrum, nestled under a gossamer mosquito net, eating sweet milkbreads, bricks of butter and local honey and drinking slightly acidic rough red wine.

Life became pared down to the simplest of pleasures: sleeping, eating, reading, swimming, eating, sleeping, reading, eating, swimming, sleeping. A big event would be getting ourselves to Najac for supplies, either by walking or hitching with all manner of brilliant French people, from a slightly surly tattooed local to a lady who was working on her third book about the sociology of women and clothes. There was nothing better than lying prone on our chaise-longes, with the pool outblueing the blue blue sky, looking out over the undulating countryside, drinking mint tea with pungent stuff we picked from the pathside, whilst the plum tree swayed gently in the breeze and fuzzy-felt bees purred and snuffled at the lavender. Andy looked like slickly Bond-esque in his tiny black swimming trunks and colossal shades, and I a much fatter/paler Ursula Andress in my bikini. In more animated style, we discovered, after attempts at windy badminton, snorkelling and falling off the blow-up crocodile, that inflatable water volleyball was the best sport ever. We also played darts, dominoes, the piano and pool in the only drinking establishment within walking distance, a pub run by a brash Liverpudlian. Who needs London…

Well, we got ourselves back to the Big Smoke eventually, or should I say Le Grand Gauloise, as we stopped in Paris in an author’s bijou flat near Montmartre. We ate many croissants and drank many glasses of bierre blanc or rosĂ©, tried our best to avoid the tourist traps and instead hang out louchely in bars still billowing with tobacco clouds: Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud and Oberkampf were essentially East London’s coolest dives all in two streets. We combed the Centre Pompidou and absorbed 6 hours’ worth of brilliant modern art, including a fabulously twisted Annette Messager exhibition (think the Chapman Bros but with more soft toys), and in high-art homage, we visited the graves of Sarte and De Beauvoir, Serge Gainsbourg, Man Ray, Baudelaire and Beckett, for whom we wrote a tributary mini-play which we left on his slab. Parfait!

Back in the real Big Smoke now, nice to be back in my own bijou flat. So far have enjoyed beating my twin-headed fear of flying and heights with by intrepidly gliding over the Yorkshire Wolds for 7 minutes, a juice trip to Bristol to record music for a short film, a brilliant exhibition of Heath Robinson's daftly witty cartoons, and the sight of Antony Gormley, who was showing his folks round or something, looming out of his own fog box (his work Blind Light) on the day we visited his exhibition at the Hayward. Class!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Wedfest07 - simply the Fest

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0
Level of conviction in own genius: 9
Hair day: alright, paid second and last visit to the too-edgy-even-for-me Kung Fu; drunk Scottish snippers and ear-shreddingly dark punk do not a happy Kerry make.

So, I'm married. Hitched. Wed. Spliced. Legally conjoined to Mr Andrew Simon Furlow Esq. of Bethnal Green, London. Feels much the same to be honest, except with big fuck-off rings.

Wedfest07 was some weekend, made possible by the extreme creative involvement of most of our friends and the extreme financial involvement of parents. What we always planned was one hell of a musical party with a small wedding attached, and that was pretty much what transpired…

Our '15 Minutes Of Fame' night on Thursday at the Dog House in Kennington was a nice pre-wedding gathering, where our pals flexed their DJing muscles over a rather feeble PA for 1/4 of an hour each. Still, we had a nice mix of dub-reggae, Canadian indie rock and 50s jazz so it kicked off the eclectic musical flava suitably.

The prospect of the main event left Andy and I sick as dogs with nerves, which didn't leave even when we arrived, in miraculous sunshine, at the yellow and corn-blue house of South Farm, greeted by glossily regal peacocks and slightly scruffier chickens. I didn't really calm down until I was straightening my hair in the bridal suite and Chief Bridesmaid (I prefer Homie) Christina was chucking some champagne down my throat. Andy slipped on his bespoke suit and Paul Smith shirt (verdict: natty and gorgeous. As long as Tim and Steve approved, it would be alright, although he did come back to complain that Rich D was looking cooler than him) and left us to it. Tried to decide if wrapping ivy round the length of one arm would make me look like I had had a fight with a copse on the way. Put Nan's own wedding ring on my necklace and strapped on my fetching sky-blue garter for some old-new-borrowed-blue action. I found Dad trembling leaflike in the wind and spraying Bach's Rescue Remedy liberally on his tongue, and once errant 2-year-old Eva had been tracked down and re-nappied (and me, for that matter, given nerves), we were off round the back of the Tudor Barn and through the kitchen, greeting everyone we passed. So far, so Goodfellas.

The ceremony passed by in a cheery flash. I strolled beamingly down the aisle (ok, inched down looking at my feet in fear of going ass over tits in my very long swishing ivy-gold skirt), left Dad's arm without even noticing and grinned in front ofAndy. The music, performed quite fantastically by juice vs DOLLYman (minus moi) feat. Ed and Mark, was just heart-steamingly wondrous and I made sure everyone clapped everything. I tried not to pull faces at the musicians and couldn't even look at Andy for fear of laughing like a loon. Paul read 'Wedding' by Alice Oswald - one of my favourite poets - like an Oscar-winning actor and Andy and I repeated our short lines and exchanged our kick-ass rings (silversmithed by friend Abi) without really taking it in. It was utterly surreal and outer-bodily. The singers tried to control themselves during David Breslin's lovely piece which contained the line 'The bridegroom is coming in! He is bigger than a big man!'. Ah, how true that is… Gosh, and then we appeared to be all married up, once Cat and Nick had signed their names next to ours. And we popped out of the door whilst the Dollies did some freak-jazz workout and into more glorious sunshine and a million hugs and kisses. Was most gleeful that everyone loved my outfit so much seeing as it all cost about £100 and my top was just a scarf from Accessorize. Hurrah!

Then we all trooped to the garden for a fantastic selection of stalls, arranged by Best Man (in so many respects) Nick. You could eat a beautifully-adorned fairy cake whilst potato-printing a flag to be stuck on bamboo cane which lined the pond, or make your own badge whilst planning your artwork for the paint-Andy-and-Kerry's-new-tent, or get your hand henna-ed whilst watching friends battle it out on the giant Connect 4, or bash the filled-sock bride and groom whilst waiting in line for the coconut shy, or get sawdust under your nails burrowing around in the bran tub if you got one of Mum's quiz questions right. In true village fĂȘte fashion, we all huddled under the yew tree whilst a brief rain shower gatecrashed proceedings, before continuing to drink the most expensive glasses of Pimm's in the whole world and watching people run around the farm on Wendy's fiendish treasure hunt.

Dinner was back in the barn, with everyone at tables named with hilarious mini-music-genres such as Latvian Art Skull Metal and Math-Rock. Was most amusing seeing my Nan, Olive, looking slightly bewildered as she sat down in front of the Gypsy Punk sign. We at the head Noisecore table got to scoff our food first; I unfortunately had regained the vomitous nerve-jangles of earlier as the speeches loomed and could hardly eat any of the (I believe) stonkingly fishy fish pie and rainbow-coloured fruit terrine. Had to slope off with Mum for a brief wailing session before recovering in time for toasts. Dad, who had been fretting about his speech for about 6 months, did a great job, giving my musical life story and saying very nice things about my love and managing to goad Stu about being a Colchester united fan, which is the main thing. Andy was up next, and delivered a brilliant, witty-cool-wordy-oh-yes-THIS-is-why-I-love-him speech, capturing me down to a tee and ending genius-like with a toast to the £10 that he paid to get on the Guardian Soulmate website. Thank GOD he didn't go for the drunken ex-stripper kleptomaniac from Sheffield that he ran away from as she puked on a tube platform after their first date and found me instead!!!!! My speech's success was all down to Harry who, ever on the lookout for a chance to add visuals to everything on the face of the earth, had suggested I use photos. This gave me the chance to make my '8 Reasons Why I Am Happy To Have Andy As My Husband' list a bit more amusing, whack in a few photos of him looking foolish in afro wigs and Up Your Art underpants. Am now slightly regretting not using the photo of him naked on the bed playing his very small ukulele which only just about covered his modesty. Nick (who, even by his standards was on magnificently beaming form the whole day) just had to stand up to inspire cheers and renditions of the cultish 'Land of Castles' song he inspired in his DJ set a few weeks ago, gave an adorable speech and made me well up all over again.

Cat had done the impossible and fulfilled my ambition of having a London landmark wedding cake by creating a four-caked masterpiece with the Globe, the London Eye, the Gherkin AND the Houses of Parliament on it. We had coffee in the conservatory and did some obligatory cake-cutting, then I costumed-changed into evening attire of back-revealing Reiss dress and boots, ready for Andy and my First Song which we'd decided to do instead of a First Dance in the Live Music Yurt. So 'Sweet Child of Mine' was performed in an all-new guitar/melodica/vocals version, though I could hardly play the melodica for lack of breath; hope it rocked a little. It went down marvelously though, which meant we kept the crowd for juice's short but sweet set. Tim, looking like 'a 70s Disco Cop' (Dannie's words), 'Nathan Barley' (one of my friends' words) or 'A Creepy Paedophile' (his sis Emma's words) with his utterly ludicrous moustache, compeered the evening in his own indominitable style (ie shouting more loudly the more high he became), giving some brilliant introductions and starting the way he meant to go on by saying 'Andy and Kerry wanted Bernard Manning to present this but the cunt's dead' in front of all my relatives. Ho ho.

Juice's ( cute set went down very well, and the Elysian Quartet ( followed with a fantastic performance of Gabriel Prokofiev stuff and a long improvised session. The farm animals outside joined in with various snortings and cock-a-doodle-doings and everyone cheered Vince's manic viola scrapings. It was so great to see the faces of some of our friends, who will have never seen a string quartet like this, wide-eyed with amazement and totally loving it. DOLLYman ( were up next, with our usual nutty contempo-jazz thing, the highlight being me singing 'Cheek to Cheek' which I introduced as my ideal First Dance song, but as I was singing Andy would have to dance on his own. Which he duly did until the grinning-from-ear-to-ear Nick joined him. They make a perfect couple… Step 13 (, most amusingly introduced by Tim as 'a band that some of you know and most of you have been in' delivered a rocking set, Ishu looking brill in his pinstripe suit, Andy rocking away in the corner on his bass and manfully resisting Steve's demand for him to take his shirt off (damn, he paid so much for it he couldn't justify its removal!). The fabulous, My-Perfect-Guest-Band, jazz hipster-hoppers Lazy Habits ( finished off the night in enthusiastic fashion, and causing much hilarity for me as I watched my mum and aunt bop away, trying to copy everyone's shape-throwing hand movements. Guttingly cut short by the evil old farm-owner, we retired to the Barn to dance to wedding-friendly soul-funk, groovy indie/kid-bluegrass, party-house and Latino super-grooves from our fabulous DJs Myco, Jim Collins and the Brokeback Mountain Ceilidh Band Soundsystem, Timothy Nuisance and Itchi. Whilst Andy and I fell, exhausted, into our super-comfortable, billowing-in-luxury Bridal Suite, the hardy campers partied on into the night and still all appeared for the marvelous cooked breakfast in the morning. I salute you!

'Three Colours Wed' at the Fleapit on Columbia Road on Sunday night was a small-but-perfectly-formed affair (if you are one of the 13 people who made it to all three Wedfest events, you have our love and extreme admiration). I showed a selection of short films and music vids from some Bjork to the Beasties, some eel-based horror to bizarre erotic animation and more, which was interspersed with Sarah, Sonic Si and my Mum's (in spirit if not in person) fabulous and fiendish Music Quiz. The Bald Britney's Tears team's knowledge of cultish American teen TV themes was not enough for the classical might (and knowledge of Bob Marley's middle name - ask my little bro Daniel if you don't know it) of team Hand Shandy who took away our main event table plants whilst the rest of us commiserated with Mum's leftover bran tub prizes of shoe polish, pastry brushes and strangely small tupperware.

Phew. And it's all, both sadly (because it was the best thing ever having all of our family and friends together under one yurt-tastic roof) and with slight relief (because the weekend called for superhuman levels of organizational strength), over. Now we look forward to honeymooning in a small bikini (me) and very very tight swimming trunks (Andy) as we lounge by our French farmhouse pool and drink copious amounts of rough red wine. Feel really quite back to normal. I get to use my Doctor title for real now, as there's no way I'm being a Mrs. and losing my surname for any man. I'm young, cool and married, you know, like Amy Winehouse or, um… sure there must be someone…


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Photo Finnish!

Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: music and drama, 2 hours
Level of conviction in own genius: 9
Hair day: needs cutting at ludicrously cool place in Brick Lane pronto

Wow. Juice went to Finland's second city, Tampere, last week for a big vocal festival which goes on there every two years, and namely to take part in the vocal ensemble competition. We flew over stretches of shimmering inky lakes and regimented pines and entered the land of impossibly pale blonde people, all speaking in more eloquent English than I. Our 15-minute performance of mad experimental histronics and spacious bluegrass harmonies went rather well seeing as we'd had about 2 hours sleep, this being the Land of No Darkness and Night-Time Drilling. Once we'd seen the standard of the other groups competing though, we thought we'd more chance of winning Miss World 2007. We had was a real insight into what we're missing - the continent, and Northern Europe particularly, is chock full of incredible a cappella groups, with a lot on the jazz and pop side but at such a high standard it's embarrassing. We watched The Idea of North, an amazing Ozzie group who were Olympic athletes of the voice, and the soothing Finnish group Rajaton, and the sweet German Calmus Ensemble. The winners were revealed the next day in a nail-bitingly drawn-out finale, and we were squealingly joyous to come second. We were I'm sure credited for doing a range of pure spare harmonies and fiendishly difficult yet funky new music that no-one else, frankly, on the planet could do, hurrah! Now that we've conquered that piece, we ar ready for anything, including running small countries and travelling through time. We were absolutely chuffed to bleedin' bits, and the guys that won, Vocaldente from Germany, utterly deserved their prize - no matter how good we are, we couldn't have had a whole room dancing sweatily to sexy five-part a capella salsa in the club night afterwards.

Compliments flowed like wine and our grins stretched wider and wider as people raved to us about how amazing we were, how we could have won, how sexy we were in our black glampuss outfits and lippy... my favourite comments were a) from a Finnish lady who said we looked just like those characters from, oh that American show - I was just hoping it wasn't 'Ugly Betty' - and when she said 'Sex and the City!' I could have hugged her b) from Canadian choral hippie supremo Stephen Hatfield who kept banging on about how we were 'feminine energy at its finest' and drew men into our alluring spell, tee hee hee. We're thinking we will spend our 2000 euros on shoes....

Gosh. So that was damned cool. Recently I've done all sorts, from recording parts of an opera by Jenni Roditi in her stonking penthouse apartment where juice also did a great recent gig, performing with DOLLYman in the Big Chill House, making my DJing debut with a great set at the Fleapit for a new 'Virgin Media' collective, auditioning for English Pocket Opera animateur work... and lots more that I am now forgetting. But I remember one thing: I AM A GENIUS!

Friday, May 04, 2007

York 1 London 0

Current amount of conviction in own genius: 10, but thwarted by workload
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: a juicy 4
Hair day: Lack of hair straighteners at Mum’s house perturbing. But in good shape following discovery of terrifying edgy Brick Lane cutters (eg, grubby, distinct lack of hair mags, owner’s dog lounging around etc).

Juice had an ace gig last night in our collective home town: it’s always so nice to be back in York’s music department, wowing our olds friends with our tuning and ensemble even more than the last time. Our version of ‘Go to sleep you little baby’ was the most electrifying yet, our visuals were slick and my ‘winkblink’ from my big music-theatre piece ‘sedna stories’, was eerie and kick-ass. Orlando Bryars came up to say hi from her dad, who apparently thinks we rock. Gavin Bryars! Nice to hear from my old tutor and composer Roger that our close-mic and closer-harmony things were the most successful, and that we are generally utter genius, hurrah. I have to say that I want to shed a tear now every time I come to York, as I reminisce on my 16-month tenure of bliss when I finished off my PhD up here, living on my own in a mini-palace in Fossgate by the river, doing yoga every morning to Radio 4, schlepping around town buying goat’s cheese and bread from the market, and having that incredibly fortunate freedom to think, wander, feel and create such big pieces. I feel terribly trapped by work and money-making in grubby, cramped London at the moment, and know that my mammoth creative prowess is smouldering deep below the surface of my fraught teacher’s mind, waiting to burst out with some new visual-music-theatre epic extravaganza based on the life of a bunch of mythological tree nymphs or something.

In brief other juice news, we’ve heard that our fight to make the Park Lane Group series at the Purcell Rooms not just about piano trio after piano trio has been successful, meaning we’ll have our South Bank debut in January. We’re going to Tampere in Finland in a month for the a cappella vocal competition (hoping some prize money will pay for our flights….) and our recording debut is now available via aforementioned Roger Marsh’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ on NMC, on which we feature fairly heavily. In scant composition news, I’m going to have two pieces published in OUP’s new easy anthem series. Which reminds me, I’d better write the second one…

Last weekend was a bookish one, gracing Cambridge Wordfest in support of Andy’s involvement in it. We heard Nigel Calder waffle on sweatily about his anti-greenhouse gas theory of ‘The Chilling Stars’, the rather vulpine Graham Swift read in part-sonorous, part-sinister tones from his new book ‘Tomorrow’ and the human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith (whom we also took tea with) speak charismatically and entertainingly about the laughable-if-it-wasn’t-so-outrageously-criminal Guantanamo Bay farce. Finally we enjoyed the sandpaperingly dry A.L. Kennedy and my current personal literary heroine, the pixie-ish Sarah Waters chatting about their WWII-set latest novels. We rounded off the weekend with an extremely competitive literary quiz, in which I proved myself surprisingly knowledgeable (reading Time Out’s Books section every week clearly of benefit) about the printed word; we had to dash off before the end but heard that our team missed out on first prize (and in a town full of nerdy nose-in-book types, this is impressive) by a mere half a point. Never again will I forget that ‘Beelzebub’ and not ‘Mephistopheles’ means ‘Lord of the Flies’, dammit.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gobsmack My Bitch Up

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity acheived today: Don't be ridiculous.
Hair day: 3 weeks ago I had a brilliant streak of deep pink in the fringe. Now it has faded to a peculiar peach/blonde. Think I will sue Zoology in Wanstead.

Man, I've been busy. Teaching aside (yawn), I've been talking to the Forestry Commission about being a possible composer-in-residence (they took me traipsing through the mud and wind in their forest in Farnham; I think it was a test. I hope I passed, my boots are ruined...). I've been to three 30th birthday parties (one more year left for me to cling onto my twenties, thank the sweet Lord.). I've been reviewing gigs for spnm like mad, allowing me my free intravenous shot of high culture, to seeing new 'semi-operatic filmspiel' live scores to Chaplin movies at the Coronet, new dance to Scanner (good) and Michael Nyman (very bad) at the QEH, and the Brodsky Quartet and crooner Jacqui Dankworth at LSO St. Luke's. The latter was enojyable but silky smooth and rathr genteel, so we messed it up afterwards by drinking at the Foundry, where the wallswere falling down, there was an unfazed artdog wandering around and a pianist and sax player spewed raucous free jazz in the corner. Proper jazz, baby..... I've checked out the Gilbert & George at Tate Modern, which I was ready to rail against but actually warmed to - they're so damned English! I've learnt how the English saw America in 'The New World' at the British Museum.

Mostly, though, my time's been engulfed with the run-up to Gobsmack, the experimental vocal night put on at one of my favourite venues, the Spitz, in East London. I curated the thing, meaning the last few months have been spent trawling through myspace for innovative vocalists to support juice or be in the open mic session. It was fabulous in the end, with a great crowd, a warm and soulful vibe and some amazing acts. The open mic session included singing to found street sounds from Japan, French singing plus sitar, the esteemed contemporary singer Linda Hirst giving us a blast of Scelsi, the 'cellist Laura Moody banging her bow against her throat and the very funky Bunty making the most of her loop station. The support acts were amazing: singer-songwriter Jenni Roditi was followed by the button-cute Jamie Woon, who frankly should have been at the top of the bill seeing as he's all over the press at the moment having put out a lovely version of 'Wayfarin' Stranger' on a grime label; we also had the earthy and playful Curious Voice Dou from Leeds/Norway and beatboxer WanDan popped up throughout, astonishing everyone. juice had a great time too, performing some of our grooviest stuff (our version of 'In My Room' by the Beach Boys can't be bettered, I say) to visual canteen's visuals and also performing with WanDan. Phew. Went so well we're starting to think about Gobsmack 2...... Rather nicely, the night was something of an Andy-Kerry double, meaning the hardest and most eclectic among us then trotted down the road to the Rhythm Factory and got down and dirty to Step 13's live drum 'n' bass....

Saturday, January 20, 2007

It's only January...

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 0
Level of conviction in own genius: 6
Hair day: most poor but am most poorly so fair enough

.. but already I may have seen one of my best gigs of the year and participated in a juice highlight.

First off, juice had their coolest experience to date by performing as part of the London College of Fashion Graduate Show at the Royal Academy of Arts. The LCF's composer-in-residence, Phillip Neil Martin, wrote for us and ace-o-rama beatboxer Beardyman in a 35-min piece made up only of vocal sounds, whether live, sampled or electronically transformed into birdsong, cicadas, whips and much more. We were thoroughly part of the show, being dressed in the first collection and made up in the same way as the models, most hilariously. This meant trying to manoeuvre ourselves into bafflingly-constructed cream cotton trousers with protruding bits, vast sleeves and hoods, as well as being given plaster-white faces (yes, remarkably even I can be made paler than my natural skin tone), a few jet-black hair extensions and heavily-accentuated eyebrows. Anna particularly looked like a terrifying Japanese banshee woman. I was most nervous not about performing on a podium in front of hundreds of industry and press three times over but about having to reveal myself in all my non-modelly glory backstage. But after a few minutes, remembering that I had extreme musical talent if not steely good looks, I didn't really care about mingling with the 7-foot tall, non-breasted boys and girls, and merrily wandered about in my pants wobbling my size 10/12 patchy cellulite-pocked thighs in their knife-cheekboned faces.

The show itself was a barnstormer, the music apparently stealing the show. juice did two of my pieces as well as panpipe impersonations in the version of 'Watermelon Man' and an ethereal piece by PNM. Beardyman was incredible, indefatigable in his renditions of scratchy dark hip hop, kinky hardcore and strutting jazz: string bass, hi-hat, muted trumpet and everything. The hardest thing was standing still on our separate blocks in each corner of the stage for so long and trying to keep our eyes straight ahead rather than on the eye-splitting colours of the outfits, the fetish-inspired gear, the incredibly tight buttocks and tiny breasts.... was very funny seeing models waft past us, still inches taller even though we were on podiums! Ha ha ha. Still, I can now say that Jimmy Choo and Peaches Geldof have heard both my music and the juicettes sing. We rule.

In a more spectatorly fashion, sighed to a glowing Joanna Newsom at the Barbican last night. We first swooned to the incredibly burrrnished burr of Alisdair Roberts' darkly original folk, before she scampered on kittenishly, looking like 70s glam country star Crystal Gale with her long gown and silky mane. She certainly gave us our money's worth, trawling through the whole of her second album with the LSO behind her, before coming back to do a few older solo numbers. She revealed another audacious change of direction with one new song, playing as a trio with percussionist/singer and tambura player, with Kate Bush-esque vocals and a very East European/Arabic slant. Live, her voice is richer and less squeaky, though just as versatile, still veering between coquettish little girl and warmer crooner, and in truth she was at her best as soloist; the orchestra swamped her mad fairytale songs and only stripped down could we really hear all the twisty lyrics and watch her hands comb over the glittering harp strings. Gorgeous.

Friday, January 12, 2007

painting the town blue

Amount of conviction on own genius: freelancing organisational genius: 9; creative genius: 5
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: oh, very very little
Hair day: neatly trimmed in cheap Tooting establishment yesterday

Ah, beautiful Wycombe. All the humdrum years of repeated groanings as the boys in blue kick yet another ball out of the ground are worth it for those sweet few moments of astonishing triumph; in 2001, it was our rip-roaring FA Cup run all the way to the semi-finals against Liverpool, getting within a hair's breadth of European football. And this year, it is our equally searing streak up to the semis of the slightly-less iconic League Cup, but equally impressive given that we've seen off Fulham and Charlton on the way.

On Wednesday we welcomed Chelsea to our humble 10,000-seater ground. Though gracing a few away games, I shockingly hadn’t visited Adams Park for about 3 years, and it was sooo good to be back, having miraculously blagged two much-in-demand tickets for my little bro and I. Strolling down the mile-long factory-lined road, casting a pitying eye to the replica scarf sellers and the 50/50 draw man, queuing for dodgy hot dogs and standing in our traditional corner of the only standing terrace with recognisable faces of old.

And it was such a top game! Happily, HILARIOUSLY, Wycombe, a motley crew of free transfers, on-loans and one £80,000 player, managed to match the glossy-haired SW elite - worth £100m - almost throughout. We fired off well, yapping at the heels of Michael Ballack ('never mind the Ballacks, we're the chairboys!' cheered our fans' site the next day), Ashley Cole, latterly Frank Lampard et al, had a few decent chances, before Chelski got a silkier grasp of proceedings. Wayne Bridge made the most of his upfront role and flicked it over our Portuguese under-21 goalie, silultaneously colliding with him in spectacularly gruesome, Mel Gibson-directed fashion, ending up not even seeing his goal through the veil of blood. Nice. We remained unbowed, manfully hauling ourselves to half-time, and came back with all guns blazing for the second half. Frankly, we had the upper hand for much of the half, with Tommy 'Captain Marvel' Mooney so ragingly passionate he had to eventually be subbed for fear of getting a red card. Kevin 'Heavens to!' Betsy left trails of DiLorean-esque fire down the wing and it was most amusing to be introduced to Wycombe's new cult hero, Sergio Torres, who, although plucked from Basingstoke, is Argentinian, and thus automatically revered for all his style-over-substance fancyfree footwork; he looked visibly chuffed to hear 'SERR-GI-OOOH' roared endlessly around the ground in unwitting canon.

Anyway, we scored. Against Chelsea. Jermaine Easter, crowned man of the tournament so far having scoring in every round (inspiring 'Easter Rising' headlines on almost every back page the next day), popped it in neatly past the keeper and we all leapt up and down in sheer, gleeful astonishment and delight. Had it been a one-off match, we could've swiped it; as it is, I'm sure Chelsea will leave only a few mangled blue limbs on the pitch at Stamford Bridge in two weeks. But I don't care: we, a jumble sale of a team, drew with one of Europe's mightiest teams, got right up Mourinho's sleek nose, and I took the opportunity to laugh gloatingly in the faces of every little Chelsea fan I could track down at school the next day in a most unteacherly fashion.