On honesty (or How to be Nearly Honest)

Please, stay safe.

Honesty isn’t necessary and it’s not for everyone.

Plus…there are ways of fooling people.

All you need to do is get yourself excited and then stop. Speed down the road to your heart with your foot surely resting on the brake. When the goblin gets the okay and pokes his grinning features round the door, push him back into the dark room. Leave your phone ringer on and stay logged in…so when the danger approaches hopefully something will save you. That final push into the earth of your truth is something you should avoid, people don’t really want it and you can still make lots of friends by staying safe.

Read lots of magazines.
Listen to other people’s opinions and encouragement, they will make you feel better.
Listen to your idols! They will give you a road map straight to where you want to be.
Ignore the red hot silence that chills the world to its core when somebody really says something.

There are chains round your wrists, your fingers and your vocal chords; leave them there.
You can still produce content amounting to plenty of megabytes without unlocking them.

There are doors in the corridors of your mind which are closed; leave them that way.
Opening them will only lead to problems.

Your woman doesn’t want to hear what you really think about, your boss doesn’t either.
Revealing yourself fully to either of these parties will result in disaster.
Revealing yourself fully to a stranger could save his life.

The ties between people who do not know each other’s names are made of darkness, not light.

Feigned positivity will please those around you, but will bore those far away from you.

Please, stay safe.

And get working too, you have stuff to produce.

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L O N D O N

Image

I have realised and vindicated to myself the supposition that London and its output is, in part, beautiful because of the bleak despair and isolation of its artists and depressives – the ones who have learnt from this harsh bitch that they can and should not rely on the support or consolation of others, but continue wholeheartedly into the abyss of relentless thought, creativity and observation.

London destroys and alienates many, but upon others it forces a sense of gratitude for the everyday; the way a matrix of scaffolding catches the light from a streetlamp or the foreboding of a damp alleyway as it recedes into deepest black.

If she asks me why I came home so late, I’ll reply that I was celebrating the fact that my shoes had finally worn in…

The most attractive of London’s attributes is the knowledge that she will never miss you if you leave, will never expect a postcard and will fill your space tenfold with fresh victims even before you breach her boundaries. She is a beast, there to reward the wicked and swallow up the weak. She breathes not oxygen but booze into your lungs, leaving you with a heavy lack of energy, and before this, a fleeting gasp of transitory, futile enthusiasm which is cruelly ripped from you by the next morning. So few eyes fall upon you, therefore your own eyes grow cold, preferring to stare upwards to where the corners of her edifices meet the grey, polluted sky; one of the few gifts she gives you gratis is this twisted geometric ballet; heightened by affordable caffeine based beverages – if you are strong, if you are weak then the drinking houses become part of your weary trawl home and the cigarettes you smoke will be the healthier of your 2 to 3 fold narcotic addiction.

I stand on the train, scribbling like a maniac and thank god London, no-one cares.

Inspired by ‘London’ by Patrick Keiller:

uTorrent: http://bayproxy.me/torrent/7504213/London_(1994)_dir._Patrick_Keiller_nar._by_Paul_Scofield

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Let the bad times roll….a zeitgeist poem.

Been hearing a lot about the Irish situation recently, personally I sometimes need to see a more blatant version of my own situation in order to really feel and appreciate what’s happening around me. I remember hearing lots of radio coverage and talk about it last November (and seeing the fancy, empty buildings in Dublin!) whilst I was in Ireland and a tv show I saw spelt it all out and made it very hard to ignore. Its the same sort of incompetence, machismo and lack of regulation that’s caused massive problems here, but the results for people in Ireland are different, where it’s worse I don’t know, and I guess that doesn’t really matter.

———————————

This sky is not grey, it is silver.

Your hair is not blonde, it is gold.

There is a glint in everything you show me,

But there’s no shine in anything we’ve been told.

I see £5 notes drifting on the wind,

And they’re worthless like dead leaves in the trees.

But I don’t have to leave my room to be a prophet,

I don’t have to go outside to be set free.

 

You’ve got so many holes in the soles of your feet man,

But I love the fact you’re drunk like a fool.

I would gladly share your beer and your theories,

if it weren’t for my appointment with some man in a room.

And it’s a shame about the malaise in this city girl,

That we’re haunted by the wind and the grey,

But there’s a spring in my hip like a jack girl,

I’ll use my energy up just to hear you say:

 

Let the bad times roll….

 

I see beautiful minds wandering round in dirty jackets,

suits finally struggling to admit that they were wrong.

I hear anger on the streets like a peal of bloody thunder,

And everybody there wants to hear it in a song.

But songs are for the beautiful, the tainted and the fragile,

They can’t be used to document this war.

A song should fly through the sky like a dove girl,

This battle is rough and should be fought on the floor.

 

But I see the shrug in the shoulders of the bureaucrat,

the snide grin on the face of the accused.

They were like children that were given a pretty hand grenade,

Upon explosion, they stepped back with us and looked confused.

And I’ve kinda felt detached from this zeitgeist of fear man,

I’ve swum on the bottom of the sea catching pearls,

But when there’s better youth than me down the alley of indignation,

I’m a stickler for the documentation of this world.

 

Let the bad times roll….

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Hummingbird or Firebird: ‘Russell Joslin’ in 2011…

The life of an artist can be characterised by a constant struggle/impulse to define, and if necessary, re-define oneself – If only for the reason that things become very confused if this isn’t done; subsequently the art suffers.  This  doesn’t mean that the artist has to change, but it goes without saying that he/she must hold on to a clear idea of what he/she is doing or the conviction that one can work so hard to achieve can be lost.

This self-definition can and should take time to happen for the first time; a period of happy experimentation and care-free creativity is something no artist (or person, for that matter) should deny themselves, but once defined in some way, the artist can choose to accept the fact that he/she has become something more, and step up to that plate.

The self-definition can, and should also waver, to remind of its fragility and importance and so that the artist might become accustomed to pulling themselves firmly back onto their own path.

The artistic life, if it is chosen, could be allegorised as walking alone up a very narrow staircase, where each step you leave behind crumbles away into the void. You have two choices, always: to move forward and upwards or step off the staircase, there is no option of returning to where you came from. Thus past works become those special pictures taken from along the route of an artists journey, seldom re-made or re-done.

At the beginning of my summer 2010 solo tour I decided that for this series of gigs I needed to define what it was I was doing in some way, or the disjointed circuit round the UK I had planned would have been a lot less enjoyable to complete, and plenty less focussed.  So I decided to try and be a Storyteller – far from a novel idea, but as soon as I said this to myself I had a steadfast companion for the whole tour, it didn’t matter if the journey was long and irritating or the gig was empty, I would explain the meaning of every song I played and sing every line clearly so a complete tale or idea went across to whoever chose to listen. I felt, and still feel that this element is sorely missing from the majority of modern popular music.

The idea of ‘Folk’ music – the principle storytelling genre has been diluted for the masses in recent years by a wave of acoustic music labelled ‘Folk’, many listeners now understandably but wrongly regard any acoustic guitar or banjo wielding performer as a folk musician. It is an important genre, Folk, and a Folk musician can be one or many of a long list of things, amongst others; a revivalist, a skilled traditional instrumentalist, a champion of forgotten music. If any one of the Folk music pre-requisites are present (especially the storytelling aspect), then the method of sound projection is secondary; Folk music can just as much be played by a 5 piece metal band as by a troubadour. It is Folk if it is Folk, whether he/she plays a Hummingbird or Firebird, the presence of an acoustic guitar and/or banjo shouldn’t garner for the performer this revered classification.

It is certainly too heavy a crown for me to place on my own head, I could be a Storyteller of some sort, but I have never really felt part of the Folk community. Above all genres though, I have the utmost respect for true Folk musicians, and especially the honourable quest of theirs to keep alive music which would otherwise certainly drift into obscurity.

Back to my previous tirade…

The events of the last few months and the forming of my band could constitute a change in direction to some onlookers – and also the classic and hackneyed graduation from ‘solo artist’ to ‘solo artist with band’. This has played on my mind, if not in a particularly unpleasant way, for a while. How does this development relate to my ongoing Summer 2010 job of ‘Storyteller’, and what do I have to admit to the few listeners who will wonder about how the sound of my music changed on the surface from ‘acoustic’ to ‘electric’.

I will deal with the ‘admissions’ presently, the first one being that I am a noisy little arsehole at heart – I didn’t listen to Bob Dylan until I was 23, having absorbed a lot of classical music by the age of 13, I grew up on rather heavy guitar music quite frankly. I then moved on to Hip Hop with a spattering Drum + Bass. Folk and storytelling are fairly new to me. I want a band, I have done for a while, and I have my elderly years to sit on a stool with my acoustic guitar, let’s make some fucking noise.

Flippancy aside, it’s such a natural, organic impulse and development. I have found two of the most inspired and driven musicians I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and luckily they are up for working with me. They have made me realise and come to terms with the fact that I play two instruments; not one with backing. I feel lucky; for this, the time is definitely now.

And as for my job as a Storyteller, for this year of 2011, I will do everything I can to keep this position. The songs we are working on as a band are as dependant on narrative and bile as any of my solo acoustic outputs. The patchwork of sounds we weave around the words will serve to release sonically, the pent up feelings present in the belly of the songs. And in the live setting I will put the stories across, even if I have less time for song introductions. As I said before: Hummingbird or Firebird.

However, the fact is that I have managed to assemble a very musically dynamic band which will thrive on the tighter song structure present in some, but not all of the songs. For this reason I will be making a solo album this year, alongside the beautiful cacophony we are planning as a band, as a home for some of the more rambling pieces which are very dear to me, document very special times and trains of thought in my recent life, and fully deserve attention. The album, unless plans change, will be called ‘Harlequins’ and there will be more news on that soon….

If you got this far, thanks for reading…

RJ

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This is how we’re doing it / A recipe for a battered and happy brain.

1.       Take 1 song; this must consist of a guitar line, some kind of vocal melody and hopefully some rhetoric. Chop into pieces freely and as you see fit, make sure you do this part accurately or the rest wont work. Spread the pieces around the room. Hide the difficult parts under furniture and place the pleasant parts on the wall.

2.       Take 1 bassline (as beefy and melodic as possible) and 1 part of the song.

3.       Knead together and place on rotating plate. Spin continuously in front of drummer. If anybody begins to feel dizzy, spin them round on the spot at least 10 times.

4.       Take 1 groove out of the freezer and place it firmly underneath the rest of the mixture, shake until the bassline and drums form a sugary mesh.

5.       Cradle the rest of the song firmly on the canopy, don’t worry if it sinks a little into the structure and cant be torn free. Ignore any screams you may hear.

6.       Repeat for the rest of the parts of the song until you have 1 bowl for each.

7.       If any of the difficult parts of the mixture become pleasant, throw them onto the wall on top of the old parts you had there.

8.       Add alcohol to the room.

9.       Walk out of the room.

10.   Attempt to re-convene in the room for around 3-7 hours. Work very hard during this time, but be sure to forget what has happened immediately afterwards.

11.   When eyes glaze over and speech becomes more of a chore than a pleasure the song is ready.

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2011 >>> BAND

Im pleased to say Ive found 2 excellent musicians to work with into 2011: Rory Clarke on drums and Rolfin Nyhus on bass. We’re working good and hard, avoiding the fully primed traps of mediocrity and blind mimicry to start building a powerful and intricate sound around our pick of the songs Ive written. Im loving every minute.

As a result my gigging schedule will be slowing down considerably to rehearse, write and record; we’ll aim to bring you some sounds and events next year.

until then…

R(+R and R)

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Brain Freeze or Writers Block H (Brown Wing)

Just a little bit worried about the void in this brain,

no seeing things, few actions, through whiskey no pain.

Wishing not to make anybody sad or any people feel bad,

its just nobody cares about the gift you had.

…And if you do feel sad then I suppose you better had.

 

What do you do when you’re supposed to be a songwriter?

And you’d rather sleep a good night than pull an all-nighter?

Rather eat a good meal than starve to death,

with venom in the words and pain on the breath?

Cos thats how committed Id like to be,

But at this point im fucked if its in me…

 

Time to dig up old verses that weren’t good enough before,

find a band to back them with four to the floor.

Give it a name like a matches flame,

Make sure its weak and throwaway and spreads the blame,

between 3 or 4 or these days up to 9,

get up on stage and have a fucking good time.

Wander the streets in the snow with a flask,

nowhere to go, no crony to ask.

Find anything that nourishes a dead-end brain,

like a smiling drunk on a steaming drain.

The romance!! The romance!!! its here!!! I know it!!

 

Yes The West ends magic but the East ends gone,

to the dogs and the suits, tell the bullies they won.

I heard the word ‘money’ the other day,

got excited for the thought of running away.

To a time where I just meet the randoms,

So little to do we run puzzled in tandem.

To cellars and lofts just please! not the middleground!

…Where 9-8 is not even considered late for fucks sake.

I wanna run out in the middle of a conversation,

because I felt a bird outside attracted by the lamentation.

And never apologise to the person and/or situation.

 

I’ll take what I need and you do the same,

And if you want to, then throw me under that subway train.

Test me to see if I still have the fight left.

Remind me…

 

Today we don’t see the pictures, the spider webs, the fray,

And nobody cares when the gifts gone away…

 

I should’ve written enough by now to have this shit covered,

but I don’t, so somebody else write some, I cant be bothered.

Just somebody try to step up to the plate?

Lets go! Trip! Fall! Lose our minds on the way!

 

And if it doesn’t happen soon then its to drugs and drink,

anything that pollutes and inspires a good think.

 

They say the beatles turned to LSD,

and in this I have to say that I know what they mean.

Sometimes you just need to tear your mind to bits,

take over the world with work you know damn well is shit.

Add the substances label, turn it into a fable,

rack up hits next to lines on your glass coffee table.

 

Who CARES anyway!! its all for a laugh!!

I just wanna see some flowers along this edge of this path.

Forgive me if I want them to grow as I walk,

And see hearts float into the air when lovers talk.

 

Today is today I feel calmer and more excited in a way.

Today is today and the bottles only an arms length away.

Today is today and the temperatures a fucking joke!

Today is today and the gift’s…..

RJ

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4 days on The Emerald Isle.

2 or so weeks ago I mustered up the gusto and finances to trek to Ireland to play a few gigs supporting friends Yngve and the Innocent. The short trip left me sleep-deprived and fully infected by The Emerald Isles legendary allure. It felt sore to leave the Irish shores on a huge ferry having been thrown into the countries charming culture for such an intense and short period of time. It really is a very difficult country to leave, even after just 4 days.

From the 5am darkness of Euston station I travelled all day and into the night to meet Yngve and the boys in Cork, on the South East Coast of Ireland. Several trains led me through tiny Welsh Seaside towns including Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch and Bangor. I have to admit I didnt want to see any of them, I was deleriously tired and when not drifting into sleep I had Knut Hamsens ‘Mysteries’ as a companion (NB. its an amazing story). I began the 3 hour drive down to Cork from Dublin in my rental car and haven for the next 3 days –  a tank of a Toyota which felt like it cruised at about 140kmph, which is about 60mph I believe. This was far too nice a car for a driver of my skill to be left in control of, later events will attest to that.

I made it down in time for a gig at The Crane Lane Theatre, the crowd was luke warm due to the Saturday night free entry atmosphere but its didnt matter a jot, Cork was far more interesting than the inside of my Toyota. The pre-gig conversations with randoms made me feel alive instantly, the lack of politeness and respect for tedious conversation warmups was refreshing, nobody wanted to know anybodys name, instead they were more interested in discussing treatments for pederasts and the political situation in South Africa, I know nothing about either. After the gig Cork began to show its true colours, such a vibrant place, eye contact, smiles, different nationalities all drawn to this little town, an artistic hub of sorts I thought.

Next morning I dinged the car on a foot high bollard then we headed over to the beautiful and barren West coast of Ireland. Note to self – always buy that extra insurance when renting a tank. I beat the boys to Lisdoonvarna due to the sheer speed of my car.

The area around Lisdoonvarna is the stuff of folklore, surreal rolling hills, low, handmade stone walls, beaches so barren with seascapes so violent that they are intimidating and hypnotic. We played a great show at a tiny tavern in the village packed with German tourists, Australian cracked madmen and the most hospitable hosts I think Ive come across. Yngve and the boys played a gig which really showed their goods, the music suited the situation perfectly, characteristically tight and polished and a crafted hour and a half set which accelerated towards a pretty hilarious disco ending. The lock-in after the gig was heartwarming, free guinness and spirits til 7am plus the most incredible smoked chicken, pork and salmon from the nearby smoke house…excellent preparation for a 4 hour drive to Wexford the next day – for what I thought would be my last gig.

Thankyou Relentless Energy Drink for proving to me that I can drink all night, drive all day then play one of the best gigs Ive had in ages in Wexford. The audience here were amazing, there were only about 15 of them, but the honesty and lack of pretension made their presence mean more than that of a typical sell out group of stand-offish Londoners. Post gig drinks were hampered by the fact that my drive back to Dublin started at 5am, I had 1 hours sleep in one of the nicest hotel rooms Ive been in (Thanks Trisha) then dubiously crossed Wexford bridge back to my Toyota. They had some killer tunes on the radio that morning, the lack of pretension in Ireland definately extends to the radio playlists – ‘Nothing Compares to You’, ‘Hotel California’ – fuck sleeping when the radios this good.

Having broken myself to get the car back to the rental shop by 7:45am I arrived at the ferry port to find that my ferry home was cancelled, this made me mad. Profits go up in smoke when youre mad, all the hard work Id done selling my albums across Ireland seemed insignificant next to my tiredness, I spent 10 quid getting back to Dublin, 10 quid on breakfast, 20 quid on a bed and I knew I was going to spend a whole lot more that day getting pissed. The ferry cancellation meant I had missed a very special occasion back home which I ruminated on severly for a few hours, but after a few hours at a Dublin Hostel I rightly decided I was lucky either way to be spending another night in Ireland and stopped moping sharpish.

Chance meetings are one of the most life affirming things and they seem to happen a lot in Ireland, less people, less landmass, more freaky rendevous. I bumped into David, a friend from the night before whilst eating some hideous, delicious burger and the day started to pan out. Yngve and the boys were going to be in town that night too so I may get to play another gig – sweet.

1 very over-tired and sketchy solo set at The Workmans Club later and it was definately time to go home, I met loads of wicked people that day/night – providence, and Yngve and the boys sounded like a lounge jazz band without Demian on the drums. The ferry home was like a Rolls Royce and I slept for a good few hours. Back into the shocking fray of London, good bye Ireland and thanks x.

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Punk 101 by TV Smith

I can honestly say that before very recently I would’ve been unable to give anyone a cohesive definition of ‘Punk’ as a genre or movement, and I reckon the same is true for many kids of the 80’s who aren’t fans of ‘studying’ music from before their time. By the time we we’re born it was over, and in an age when every band playing their Telecasters slightly louder than ‘indie’, loves to attach the label to themselves, it becomes increasingly difficult to feel what punk is – you really have to be shown.

I believe I was shown all I needed to know about this most transitory and mythical of genres one night last week, in the most unassuming of music rooms, when I played a support slot to one TV Smith; lead singer of 70’s band ‘The Adverts’. This guy delivered a set of messy, angry, aware and brutally honest songs with more meaning than that of any live music I had seen in a long time. I realised very shortly into the set that TV, now in his 50’s, was showing me Punk in its most distilled and direct form.

The power for me was the intriguing apparence of brutal simplicity of melody and a deceptively ‘pop’ songwriting sensibility combining to harbour and present viciously raw emotions and a fearlessly rebellious spirit. The short inter-song diatribes which preached the meaning at the heart of each song before it was played delivered indisputable gravitas to the performance and had the mixed crowd of punks and ‘respectables’ in a kind of agitated trance.

There were messages firing towards all strata of society throughout the set, but there were two that came across to me strongest:

The first message was more a by-product of TVs delivery and said to me, along with perhaps everyone else (and the aforementioned indie bands especially) that ‘punk’ is not about the sound of the music, it’s about the sentiments within. I now feel that true punk songs could just as well be played on a grand piano or spat  A cappella as in the accepted form of scratchy guitars, simple bass-lines and pounding drums. The sound of punk is in the words – the rebellion, the non-conformity, the rejection of authority and of societys insidious control, but above all; the honesty and the bravery – to shout your complaints and scream to all who will listen about your deepest, grimmest fears.

TVs courage, I thought too, was in the seriousness of his delivery of extremely simple and some may say ‘hackneyed’ anti-establishment ideas (I wont go into which aspects of society/the government TV was speaking about, go listen to his music!) – this I feel is an extreme rarity in todays musical climate. For example the current slew of Bragg-esque ‘political’ singer-songwriters seem to want to do a similar thing, but their use of humour and pretty poetics often dilutes any message to the point that its forgettable. And herein lies the second message in TVs music – to every political performer: if you’re going to sing about it – ITS NOT FUNNY!! Why not be brave and try to put your message across directly, with the seriousness it deserves; say what a lot of your audience may really be thinking.

If you’re wondering what punk is, or if it’s still relevant, go see TV Smith play; I can’t think of many other places these days you’ll see it played with this much of one mans truth and heart.

www.myspace.com/tvsmith

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||| tour last week |||

This soap from a hotel room I stayed in last week makes me laugh, it kind of sums up the futile attempts by places to make you feel comfortable and at home when youre away. Why bother? Its not going to work, and nor should it. The loneliness is what I crave and what I re-discovered in some small way last week – constantly moving, constantly on my feet, constantly looking over my shoulder, attempting to look like I know where I am, then gathering the confidence to go play a show each night. It puts you on edge in the best way, makes you crave home whilst leaving you dis-orientated when you reach it.

I enjoyed every gig, playing 4/5 times a week makes you so sharp, until by the last show youre not even playing the songs anymore, they just career out of you, each one like a huge snowball rolling down a hill that you guide from each side with flimsy twigs.

RJx

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