Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Fear and Loathing/Loving/Leaving.


And so it goes… And so it went… And so it is…

Since I started writing music, and since I have tried (mostly, lets face it, in vain) to express that which floats around in my confused mind through the vaguely artistic medium in which I spend most of my time (be it directing, performing or writing/composing), I’ve searched for a modicum of clarity. We all have and do, no doubt. Mine, doubtless like many others, seems to have been particularly hard to find, harder to maintain and even harder to express. Essentially it doesn’t matter what that clarity is, what it pertains to or how one finds it. The only thing I know is that I need and demand it.

If I had the intellect I could envisage a sprawling Pirsig-esque or Hessian (would that be the word for something akin to Herman Hesse?….you know like Orwellian for Orwell) essay. Like the ‘Quality’ essay in ‘The Art of Zen and Motorcycle maintenance’, or the wordy Steppenwolf with its ever-reaching, never-ending self-analysis and toweringly grey critiques. As it is, my humble mind with it’s self defeating rhythms could never begin to explain the things I think and so I invite you once again to join me as I ramble through the unkempt and misinformed notions that occur to me as I sit here, once again, in the Black Cat on Brunswick street in Fitzroy, and try to collate these word into a substanceless form that at least means something to me…

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

I’ve long since abandoned my idea of trying to emulate, in however a pretentious a manner, a different author in each blog (it was fun while it lasted eh?). This is due at least in part to the fact that I can now (having become utterly obsessed) only write and think like either Jack Kerouac or myself. Having already rinsed old Jack, I’ll have to stick to writing like myself and hope that it’s not to monotonous, boring or derivative.

I’ve truly had some mad adventures in the past five months. Like I said in a recent FB (the ultimate harbinger of woe) post, some of the most brilliant and heartbreaking moments I’m ever likely to have to deal with have come to pass. I feel however that I do seem to have come through this all with at least part of my (tenuous at times) sanity intact. I’m still alive, haven’t gone completely mad, or out of my mind with depression and anxiety, and have at least enough ‘get up and go’ left to tell you all how I feel and whats been happening.

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

The last week has been utterly brilliant and very testing all at the same time. Learning to bite one’s tongue has been a big lesson for me. I have been trying very hard to be off grid, not post too much or give too much away to those who don’t need to hear it. At the same time I’ve been putting a great deal of effort into maintaining some of the wonderful connections I’ve made since I’ve been in Australia. Some of the people I’ve met since I went off on my own and my wonderfully kind and friendly crew in Melbourne have been a true source of strength and inspiration to me. It’s only really fair that I keep in touch with them. However, being online as always, has its downfalls. You’re always going to see things you don’t want to see. The connections that we have now made as a species are now so infinitely vast and manifold that it is literally impossible to stay away from every thing without being totally off grid and ignoring and worrying my friends and loved ones. Once again I refer to the ancient Chinese proverb, “Its better to be on the Internet less, than see all the totally and incomprehensibly shit stuff that’s gonna fuck me up good”. Man, the Chinese knew their stuff eh!?!?!

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

It occurs to me that you can never truly know anyone. I wish this weren’t true. I wish you could, but recent events have told me this just isn’t the case. I guess this has been what half my battle has been. Not just the gut-wrenching realities of what has occurred in my life recently, but more me simply trying to come to terms with the fact that people do change, make ridiculous decisions and fuck themselves and many others up. The middle two months of my trip away really helped me, especially on the ‘ignorance is bliss’ front, but a recent discovery (not that I’ve watched the new music video or ever will, for those in the know) has surely helped on the clarity front. I’d class myself as even more of a COMPLETE MUG if I didn’t allow this new revelation to show me the light and moreover the simplicity of my situation. How anyone in their right minds could ever think that this mindless move could benefit them or NOT hurt anyone else is just way beyond me. Clarity…..aaaaah clarity, how I have searched for your icy grip and what gloom ridden joy your presence provides. If I was searching for a sign, as I have so often beseeched the heavens for, then surely this is it. The next month or so is probably going to be properly brutal, but no longer as complex and vague as it once threatened to be. Perhaps this was the ultimate intention behind this bizarre act of non-empathy.

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

I return home in but a few short days, and to be honest I’m kind of looking forward to it now. I can’t wait to move into my new place with one of the most positive and brilliant guys I know, Matt Brooks. This dude is one of the finest musicians I have ever met and I know that his very presence is gonna kick start my musical mind back into production mode. I cannot wait to see my crew in the gnarly little punk hub of Plymouth again and I know that it’s going to be wonderful to see my supportive family again too. I have had a bunch of work related emails in the last few weeks and despite purposefully putting them all off (my sincerest apologies) I have plenty to be getting on with and sorting out upon my return to England's fair and familiar shores.

So, it would appear that we all struggle throughout our lives with the most base of emotions, fear. That shit can hold you under the water real good! It seems that it’s only as we begin to black out, our chests heaving, our starving brains pounding and our minds on the edge of resignation to our fates that we see the flicker of hope. The hand reaching to drag us roughly by our collars back to the safety of the shore. I’ve been there plenty and am about fucking done with it. Why should I let the actions of others and more importantly (more fool me for allowing this of course) my own attachments to non-existent realities drag me down repeatedly to the depths of insanity? Well I shouldn’t and from here on in my energies, as depleted as they are, are going to be devoted to seeing through that shit and writing the best music I can. Its not like I don’t have enough emotional impetus to get started eh?

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

I said many posts ago now that I wasn’t going to let myself become embittered and cynical. I’m not. I’m certainly not going to let my loathing of the situation that I’ve found myself in take hold. This isn’t a witch-hunt and I’m not doing any hunting. I’m just simply telling you all how I feel. That was the purpose of this blog and I’m sure like me (if I indeed allow myself to view it) you’ll see a change in how I’m writing and how you may think I’m seeing the world. Hate is far too strong an emotion to get caught up in and so I really will be trying to be the bigger man, to be the better person and to see the world from as wider view as possible. Of course it’s also possible that I may relapse into the blood soaked nightmares and stomach churning spite of old. I’m only human.

I think that part of my so-called recovery has been due to the wonderful energy and warmth afforded me all across this huge red land of untold beauty and opportunity. I cannot thank my Melbourne crew enough. I’ve told them all just to imagine that I’m just going travelling to the UK for a while. They’ll see me again. I have some REAL friends here. Not just friends of convenience, but real connections. My heartfelt thanks and admiration must go out to one of the best and funniest mates a little blue skink (reference) like me could have, Doug. Kept me laughinf for weeks bro! Dougs trusty sidekick and most beautiful yang to his ying, the lovely Doll (good save Dobson!...please forgive the brain mush)... without you this trip would have been far too normal and much less noisey, always there with a hug, and normally all other kinds of helpful things (phones/bikes/antidotes!). Love you. Chris (Hancock), you are a legend, comedy, talented and smart as fuck. Bromance at its finest. Albert, you drongo, you’re a special kid. That sounds patronising, but you know me well enough to know how I think of our friendship (god I’m soft eh!?!?!). Soulful and intelligent WAY beyond your years mate. Nina and Mad dog, so great hanging with you both. Kyle, Liam, Knives, Stew, Pablo, Janita, Shayli, Lexi, Ruby, Patch… you’ve made this all way easier than it might have been, my heart is with you all, we’ll see each other again in no time….Simmo Dobbo don’t forget kindness like this!

Elsewhere…. Flower Fairy Amy, Kelly, Josh (lobes), Jack (beard), Dave (Chef), Nicole (bags), Jessie-cat, Lee (dean), Vincent, Andy4, Ollie, Wreckhead Andy, Max, Celeine, Becky, Candace, Cera, Emily, Rich, Katia, Mitch, Shu, Tash, Jimmy, Melodie, Steve, Felipe (x2), Sarah-jane, Jessie-Rose, Mohawk Andy and anyone else who I’ve forgotten (please do forgive me…. that’s what six weeks at the ARTS does to ones brain!)… You’ve made the last three months so exciting and brilliant that I could never forget a single one of you. X


So…. What have I been up to? I’m sure you simply can’t wait to find out eh!? “Tell us Simmo!” I hear you cry, “Regale us with your stories of debauchery and heartbreak, do oh please do!” I hear you shout in python-esque unison across the deserts and mountains of red!
Well…I’ve been up to stuff, as it goes…

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

Since last we one sidedly conversed via the “Internet” I’ve got up to some pretty exciting stuff. Upon leaving Sydney I met my new and wonderful friend Phil Anderton. Phil is brass bander, an intelligent and kindly one too. Phil plays with and is immensely proud of the Gunnadah Shire Band, a brass band nearly in the outback up north near the border to Queenland. Gunnadah with their conductor (and old friend of mine) Jason Katsikaris have played some of my music and so Phil decided when he heard I was going to be in Oz that I should meet the players. As a composer, you don’t turn down opportunities like this. To meet players the other side of the world that have put effort and emotion into learning your music is a rare honour.

A magnificent man in his flying machine!
Phil met me in Sydney and we drove the six hours (via Newcastle) to the gliding club where he stays when he’s playing with the band. Why a gliding club? Well, good ol’ Phil has a two seater prop plane THAT HE BUILT HIMSELF!!!! On the Monday went out flying. We got to 7000 feet and 200 knots in a plane no bigger than a small car! Much fun. Then Phil said, “you wanna fly it”… “yes” I said, “yes I do!”. I took over the controls (Phil still had complete control of everything except the steering I must add) and gunned the little red and white devil across the skies and over the mountains and deserts of Australia. The feeling was like very few things I’ve ever felt! Thanks for the opportunity Phil. Another big tick on the unexpected holiday wishlist! (Incidentally, when we landed the little dirt track runway was filled with roos and we had to buzz them with our plane to get them to scatter, before attempting a second landing! Bloody roos!) That night we drank red wine in the clubhouse on the deserted dirt track runway of the little gliding club in the middle of fucking nowhere.

As I returned to my cabin I noticed the stars. Now dig, I’m from Cornwall and sometimes the stars are pretty epic there, but nothing like this. I’ve literally never seen anything like it. Iridescent and transcendent. No light pollution at all and a perfectly clear sky meant that the clarity of the night scape was just unreal. The Milky Way stretched out to form a perfect and defined white line directly across the sky and as I lay down to view it from the horizontal I felt a true feeling of connectedness and a humbling sense of my own insignificance in the greater sense. “Come on! Take me, come down and get me!” I whispered to myself, and I meant it. If they had come down right then to take me away I’d have welcomed it. I returned to the clubhouse to ask Phil if he thought it was arrogant for any one of us to presume that we are alone in the universe. He said he thought it was and I agreed. I donated money to SETI (the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) there and then and slept to dreams of worlds afar.

Roos. Loads of Roos!
When I awoke the next morning to clear blue skies I was greeted by the sight of hundreds of wild roo’s grazing on the runway. What a sight! After breakfast Phil and I flew an hour across the red desert to see one of my kindly pilots work colleagues, a wonderful aboriginal woman called Phillis. She worked as an optometrist in a town with a 70% aboriginal population. The place was amazing, she told me some more about the plight of Australia’s indigenous people and showed me the parts of the small town where people still lived in huts. Tradition is strong here. We flew back and I slipped into reveries about dreaming and the vastness of this place and its untold millenia of history prior to the arrival to its shores of the white man, with his greed for power and wealth.

Conducting the wonderful Gunnadah
Youth Brass Band.
Later that night we attended a rehearsal with the Gunnadah Shire Youth Band and I was introduced to a wonderful group of musicians and ever supportive parents, including the hugely hard working Lawrence Rowe and his son the talented youth band MD. I was lucky enough to be given a cornet and I sat ‘4th man down’ and split notes all over the ceiling for an hour or so. Later I was even luckier to be allowed to conduct the band. We had a great time! After we drank beers and made plans and schemes for the future. I’m sure I’ll see them all again. I must extend my most heartfelt thanks for the opportunity to meet this brilliant gang. Keep going! You’re doing everything right!!!!!

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

The next day I flew back down to Melbourne and into the loving arms of my crew here. Things kicked off straight away and a week of partying got me back to full flow.

Shred! Smash! Shred! Smash!
On Friday night, and in a great mood (due in part to the clarity found that day from hearing the news from home) we went to the Tote. The Tote is one of Melbourne's best live music venues with a rig the size of England AND a sound guy who knew the score. We were there to see local heroes Mesa Cosa. Mexi-thrash punk. Can you imagine? Exactly what you’re thinking is how it sounded only with ten times more mayhem and chaos. Fucking awesome! Having met a good portion of the band (Stew, Knives, Pablo and Marty) on my previous stay in Melbourne and having bought new mouthpieces that very day I ended up taking a solo in one tune. I’m not gonna say it was the neatest I’ve ever played, but it did suit. Unbridled slaying and shredding was the name of the game. I was so drunk I could only just stand, but this (I sincerely hope) only added to the sense of mayhem and unhinged energy that the band had! Nearly the whole Fitzroy crew was in the audience and most of them ended the gig either injured, vomiting or both. ROCK! I got to bed at 4am and was up at 9am to skydive. Yeah, I said it!

So so so rad! Hancock (left piece) and Heesco, killin' it!
I made my way out to the airfield almost deaf thanks to Mesa Cosa and so so hungover. Luckily it was raining like hell and I had to rebook for Monday. The weekend passed, as it often seems to in Fitzroy by simply trying to recover from Friday. On Sunday we heard tell that our good friend and uber talented street artist ‘Hancock’ had secured a previously illegal wall right next to the Black Cat, where I sit now to pen this rambling tome. We bought beers and watched a whole group of artists (most from different crews, although the mainstay were from Melbourne based ‘Blender’) paint and spray their way to artistic freedom. Hancock and Heesco (a lovely guy from Mongolia) painted the best of the bunch to my mind and created a truly epic piece featuring Skelator from He-man. These guys work on an amazing level. This isn’t just graff, this is art, plain and simple. Made even more impressive by how laid back the artists and atmosphere was. We had a great time and I retired early knowing that the morning bought with it the distinct possibility that I was going to throw myself out of a plane travelling at 300 mph and at 14’000 feet…. Fuck!

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

I actually slept pretty well and got under way in plenty of time. I have to admit that as I approached the airfield a little bit of me wished the skies weren’t quite so blue and the air quite so windless!!! “Fuck!” I thought, I’m actually going to do this!!! It kinda felt mad to be doing something like a skydive with no-one there with me, but as I’ve made obvious in previous posts the most alive I’ve felt on this trip has been when I’m alone. I turned up to the Melbourne Skydive centre and met a couple of real cool people. We were given a (very) quick brief, trained in a harness and got suited up. The guy who was my tandem partner had 5000 jumps under his belt so I felt in about as safe a hands as it were possible to be in. It’s an odd feeling when you know for sure that your life is in the hands of someone else. Considering this I felt pretty easy about it all. Jumping out of a plane really shouldn’t be that hard considering what my brain has been through in the last five months eh?!

I was in load three and so had to watch eight other jumpers come down before it was my turn to load up. Soon enough though it was time to get into the little plane. I paid an extra $50 for an outside camera man to jump and film with us (so totally worth it, if only for the oh-so-obvious profile pic moment) and after a few setup shots and interviews I was packed into the little plane. We rumbled, shaking our way across the airfield and took off. The journey up seemed to take forever. 14’000 feet is super high like! Then at 11’000 my tandem instructor said to the whole plane in a super calm voice, “Ok, everyone be real cool but we’ve just got to sort a few things out here”, at the same moment the pilot turned round and mouthed “two minutes till drop!….ALARM BELLS!!!! The instructors’ pilot chute (the little tiny thing that slows your free fall from 375 kph to 300 kph and keeps you straight) wasn’t in his pack and was instead hanging out on the deck on the plane behind him. I have to admit that all the colour drained from my cheeks at this point. The other jumpers laughed about this. Brilliant. After a hasty but measured re-pack (that had unbeknownst to me taken a further 2000 feet of climbing time) I was re-clipped to the instructor and literally before I knew it the door slid back and I was shuffled to the edge of the abyss over looking Melbourne, the surrounding areas and feeling the chill of a -15, 300mph wind!!!

Now dig, it is utterly impossible to maintain cool under these circumstances and I’m in no way ashamed to say that I was pretty scared, but before there was time to think the count had begun, “Ready, steady, jump!”, and we were over the edge! Holy Shit….I have never in my life felt anything like those first few moments of free fall. I could have been on another planet for all I knew. Complete sensory overload!!! The forces exerted on your body and mind are unreal. Suddenly, after tumbling this way and that we were in free fall, this lasted 55 seconds, or so I’m told, it could have been any amount of time! My hands instantly and instinctively found the double ‘fuck yeah’ pose and the following minute blew my tiny, fragile, warped little mind! Free fall is the most exhilarating and alien thing a human can do I think. But thank science above that I did it…. Many people will die never having felt that scared and high! What kicks!!! The canopy opened, my goggles were off and we flew, like literally flew. It doesn’t get much better than that. The instructor let me steer and we came in with a perfect landing, after which I could have almost been sick with the amount of adrenalin coursing around my veins. This as for sure one of the most brilliant experiences of my life! The rest of the day seemed pretty slow after that. Everyone needs to try skydiving once…

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…

After a slow start Tuesday happened (as I was convinced it would). I went to meet my lovely friends Kyle, Ruby and Lexi for breakfast, which included bloody marys and soon we were sat in Kyles back yard with a slab of cider tying to convince each other that we were not in fact alcoholics! We went to party in the evening and cycled along Melbourne's die straight roads with me and Doug hell drunk, trying to out stupid-cycle each other. Think the ministry of silly walks, on bikes…laughed pretty hard!

Wednesday I sat and wrote a great deal of what you see here before being met at the Black Cat by an old friend from the southwest of the UK called Chris Lane. We know all the Freshly Squeezed (my old band) crew in common and so had a great deal to yarn about. Much fun, but WAY too much coffee!!!! Wednesday night I thought I’d go to see some of the artist friends I’ve made since being introduced to the street at scene in Melbourne. My mate Hancock has just been given studio space at the famous ‘Blender’ Studios. Sick! I cycled across town, lights ablinkin’ and he showed me all the stuff he’s working on (including his plans for my denim jacket!!!!) and introduced me to some great art and artists (Heesco, you’re the boy!). Tick!

“Excuse me, another strong flat white please!”…(Ummmm…….)

Tonight I am lucky enough to be able to meet another Plymouth friend. Sally Geraghty. We’ve got a lot to catch up on and I know it’s going to be great to see her. Tomorrow there's going to be a lot of packing, downsizing and organising for me to do before I chill at the Napier Street crib for one final blow out with the Fitzroy crew….this promises to be a pretty serious party. It’s probably best if I don’t even speculate as to what might happen eh?!?!?

So, I’ve pretty much come to the end of my trip… Travelling alone and meeting the people I have has been without doubt the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve done things I never thought I would or could do. Got myself into situations that have surprised me no end and navigated through every twist and turn without a single hitch so far. I reckon after the year I’ve had I was deserved of a bit of good luck eh?!

Looking at the odd bits of news that I’ve seen from home I have to admit that I’m finding it on occasion hard to bite my tongue, but bite my tongue I will. I have realised I’m not in control and probably never have been. You simply can’t account for the actions of someone who either no longer cares about you or maybe no longer cares about themselves, despite seeming righteous to the last. Yes, sometimes you may have to admit to yourself that in order to fully devote yourself to an artistic endeavour you may have to give up a few things, but only if you don't care about them enough in the first place. We’re not all the Picasso’ we think we are, struggling and raging against an unfair and cruel world. I suppose however that level of selfish devotion to ones art should be on some level admired, perhaps I’ll not be doing the admiring though. I seem to have made it to an OK enough level (still admittedly miles from were I really want to be) without feeling the need to drop everyone and everything. I guess life is all about priorities and choices eh?

Well, I made mine! I came to a new land, had a ball, made great friends, got great kicks and still managed not to hurt anyone as far as I can tell. Hopefully I’ve learnt enough about my life, how to treat others and the art of the world in the last five months of mountainous ups and downs that I’ll be as mindful of peoples feelings as possible. Empathy is such an important thing. Isn’t it what makes us human?

One thing that is for sure is that nothing is for certain. Nothing. I’ll probably make some bad choices in my life at some point too but I’ll try damn hard not to.

As ever, my love and thoughts are with my home crew back in the gnarly little punk town of Plymouth UK, I’m putting money on the fact that it’s blood soaked gutters and booze strewn streets haven’t changed a bit! I cant wait to see you all in but a tiny sliver of passing moments. To my supportive family, thanks for everything, I’ll be home soon to tell you tales a plenty.

Goodbye Australia! I love you. It’s been epic. I’ll be back. Soon hopefully…

…And So it Goes….


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