Sunday, 20 September 2015


To be in a band, you must be able to take good photographs.

It's no secret that at this point in time, you need to have a visual aspect to your music. Be it big boobs (check), eye-catching hairstyles (and how), or a steel spike installed in your forehead that rams in and out forty-five times per second (installed but not near forehead); you need some eye-smash that's going to “hook” the “punters” in, in the words of the “industry”.

This has been the case since many years ago some clever-head realised that Elvis, though he had good songs, didn't need good songs. Instead, he could get away with miming along to the sound of a stick disturbing a tray of bones so long as he'd continue to wiggle his hips like a bee.

If Elvis wiggled, kids would jump and scream. It didn't matter what they heard. So true was this that coins would often spill out of the kid's pockets and fall up into their mouths, whereupon they would choke and vomit out their hamburgers and Coca-Cola. This meant that a large number of the crowd at any given concert would slip over and break their backs. Soon, outside in the cold distance, appeared Presley Ambulance Services Inc. vans. These vans  would take the crooked kids from the venue, operate on their spines, and then charge extortionate medical bills. The “Elvispitals” sole staff were Elvis androids, which meant the children would be happy to receive diagnoses of false chronic conditions leading to repeat visits, and more bills. Elvis would also personally scrape the vomit-coins from the concert floor after each performance, skating around on his blue suede shoes and singing under his breath:

Elvis Presley, gonna git yo' sick-coins.

Many sheeple don't know that the living Elvis now owns the moon, and that the phases of the moon are in fact Elvis attempting to cover the moon in its Vegas suit, which blows away and then he has to start again, frustrated and alone.

You can only achieve this level of ownership if you have a good image.


While it made sense in the earliest days of recorded music, over time "image" became less a means of representation, and more a means of enhancing and/or dictating the impression an artist might have on their audience. At one point, the artists smiled and wore suits, because that's what was respectable. Then people (read: the rebellious youth) started to spend money on what was not respectable, so someone had to figure out what was going on and dress artists so the growing rebellious youth didn't miss out on having something to buy. You could even trick an audience into thinking someone was not respectable when in fact they were, using their appearance.

Then it fanned out into a million different ways of doing it. Today, we're sold cartoon characters to believe in, with surrounding endorsements and cod-inspirational sentiments, rather than things to listen to and engage with on any level other than “Yes”.

It's not the rule, but it appears to be the norm.

Thanks, Elvis.

We had a photoshoot the other evening.

It can be fun to put this stuff together; figure out what a photograph might say. Be a bit cheeky with our representation. Figure out where the line between “different” and “unmarketable” sits and then gleefully kick it away because it doesn't matter anyway, and you're making this all up just to have something to moan about. These patterns are pure invention and the result of the unhealthy influence of the Frankfurt school on your dainty little mind so many years ago.

It's a camera.



Tuesday, 1 September 2015

"That's not what I said."

While throwing eggs at a cow (I was trying to make breakfast) the other day, a woman in drab, beaten clothes approached me, handing me a pamphlet.

“Time slows down as gravity increases!” She barked.

I didn't trust her skin and clothes because they blended in to one another.

Here gives you what the pamphlet said:

The dome has a ceiling as wide and capacious as the sky.

Beneath your feet is sand, and as you look around you see many soft shaped figurines posed as walkers. Each is attempting to make its way to the centre of the dome – the direction in which you, too, are heading.

In the centre of the dome, at ground level, augmenting the impression of vastness given by the gentle golden arches that soar above you, is a large black orb that at first glance appears lost in some orgy of vibration.

The black orb spins so fast that there can be no point of contact between perceiver and object, yet any person would insist, to any interrogator, that it is there.

You make your way towards the orb, breathing in air that thins and becomes easier the closer you get.

You start to feel light, and move with great freedom.

Closer to the centre of the dome, you notice that the sculptures change their posture. At first they were proud. Some were holding hands. Now they are separate, and some of them have fallen to their knees.

You keep walking, your arms swinging.

Your brain starts to fizz as breathing becomes so easy and smooth; you feel the thrill of gliding on ice. Your feet almost hover above the desert floor, they feel so light. Your chin rises. Your chest puffs out. Your body fixes on the orb, and you continue past the sculptures. Some of them show signs of struggling under weight.

You begin your approach, and the vibrations of the orb start to affect you. You now tilt your head and wince, but keep going as something in you says you cannot stop.

Soon your easy breaths become strange as the air begins to pulse. Now you walk and you see your skin move out ahead of your bones. The air distorts as if manipulated by heat. The sculptures around you are all on hands and knees. Some have curled up into balls and some stretch out in desperate worship of the orb that now stands over you, filling up the sky.

You continue as best you can but you feel a clash in your imagination. Every movement double takes at the rate of vibration you feel from the orb. You feel that you have already taken each step when in fact you have not moved. You see the orb and you reach out to it, but your body does not. Your hand is by your side. It rests as now, and moments ago when this feeling first arose. Your hand is out in front of you as if the task were already performed.

The sequence rolls.

And you are not there, or behind, but right here, existing as a point of past and future thought. You drop forever to the ground, inhale with limitless lungs, and now forever stretch one rough hand out towards the orb.

“What in stupid hell is this?” I said.

The lady, taken aback, shrugged beneath her rotting cotton.

“Religious... it's like religious things. It's about...look...”

She wagged a finger at the pamphlet.

“Here – this bit here. In the words.”

“I haven't got time for this! I said, “My band have got an album to finish!”

Ha ha ha! What a laugh, eh readers?!


Friday, 21 August 2015

No, go on.

You don't have to make music – the notion of actually making music carries with it too much pressure and mammalian cultural baggage.

If you were actually going to make music you'd have to confront ideas of meaning, history, non-verbal communication, evolution, sociology, ethics, technology, physics, alchemy, ontology, epistemology, psychology, economics, and how a jumped up wedding DJ with an accent can become one of the country's leading taste-makers.

These things are not only ugly to think about, but they are, as I am about to show in one quick swoosh of an outlay, entirely unnecessary.

So burn your Universities to the ground, and silence your chattering minds with Chinese synthesised liquids.

No, you don't have to actually make music, dear listener – all you need do is make something that sounds like music, and all of your problems will be solved.


The beat, for example, no doubt stretches back to our most primitive states. 

  • Perhaps an accidental mutation led to us enjoying the thud of a stomped foot at some post-hunt regathering, leading to a desire to hunt more in order to celebrate more and hear more thuds
  • Perhaps the beat of some drum reminded our brains of the bodily thump of running through a clearing, again on the hunt, the synthetic memory short-circuiting our adrenal circuits and giving us some rush or other, in turn strengthening neural pathways and therefore increasing our adrenaline on a real hunt, making us better at that practical task to such an extent that those who increased their hunting ability with this ritual caught prey at the expense of other packs and survived to gave us habits that persist to this day. 
  • Perhaps playing drums just gave the most intellectually bereft a means to attract a mate, and we're all doing them a favour.

SO, like pretty much everything we do, the point of the beat is to provide a way for us to engage in the rehearsal of cultural actions more integral to our survival than these overblown rehearsals themselves. Middle-of-the-road-bland-pop with a standardised beat and fantastical sexualised lyrics? Dislike a challenge? Good music by which to work to in one of Cameron's slave cubicles, while fantasising about “a life that doesn't so closely resemble hell”.


I mean, there are of course much broader hips to this, for example




Kick on beat one, snare on three. Add some boom to that kick and some snappy high-end crunch on the snare.

Sounds like music to me. Fuck the needless theorising.

It takes the pressure off somewhat, does it not?

Of course, it doesn't. But it at least feels like it does.

Whose are the playing cards? Who cares.


Lucky you have learned that all you have to do is never, ever actually have fun, but just do things that make it feel like you're having fun.

At all times without end.

That's all you have to do.

Have fun doing that.

Summer's almost over.


P.S. We'll be giving musical lectures on these subjects in Germany this October. If you want tickets, you can win them, here (bring a notepad and an easel).

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A rebuttal.

“Look again at Trewin's room. That's here. That's home. That's us. In it: everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every worthwhile human being who ever was, lived out their career. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident riffs, choruses, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every bassist and coward, every creator and destroyer of music, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, bewildered child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt A&R rep, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our band lived there - in a room filled with dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

Trewin's room is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this room on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner; how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of booze spilled by all those musicians and drummers so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a room.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the music industry, are challenged by this cube of pale light. Trewin's room is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

Trewin's room is the only room known so far to harbor Phoria. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our band could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment Trewin's room is where we make our stand.

It has been said that studio-hunting is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of Phoria's conceits than this distant image of our tiny room. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish Trewin's room, the only home we've ever known.”

from Pale Shit Boys, by Carg Salan

The oft overlooked Carg “NASA dustbin lid champion” Salan could not have forseen how wrong he would be when he first wrote this on a Cornell toilet wall in 1994. At this time, the members of Phoria were still seven years old, and only three of the wet-kneed band had met (also in a toilet). In some ways, of course, Carl was prescient (who could forget his prediction that you'd remember him?), but of course in one way, the most important way, the only way that matters (what will henceforth be referred to as the curdsand way), he was wrong.

Even a cursory application of the curdsand way now dictates that the band are moving out of Trewin's room in Brighton and into a studio in a little town just along the South coast.

We're going to be right by the sea, in a little cul-de-sac, in a wood-type panelled room with no windows that smells like musical equipment. It reminds me of the places I used to play in years ago. It was comforting to be back in that kind of situation. When we went to look around I really did feel like I'd gone “home”.

It was nice. I haven't had that feeling in a while. It reminded me of why I'm in this business in the first place.

In the “vibrant” (read: overpriced and moribund) city of Brighton it's mainly rooms that double as living areas that double as offices that serve as creative spaces where you sit and figure out music. If you're doing this (frankly: idiotic) thing properly in this day and age, then your worldly possessions amount to a computer, a guitar, a bed, and an ashtray. You lock your door when your landlord knocks and you ignore the inevitable rise and fall of the sun. You're desperately seeking some new “thing” and trying to figure out the new way of getting to it. Admirable, I'm sure. Another middle-class martyr all too late for the scrapheap.

That's how it is. It's a tale as old as time.

After four or five years, there's something about this place in our career that still feels new (because it's fucking bonkers), but to step back in time and get back to stage one is refreshing and reinvigorating. Suddenly there's an emotion that's known that you can mould easily into something you can use, rather than having to deal with developing a perverse creative stamina on top of the panic and existential fear that is everything else you're doing.

So we're moving all the gear out next week into a sun-kissed, white-walled enclave along the blue-skied Sussex coast. We're right down on the beach. There's something in the air. We're going to finish stuff up and get it ready for the road.

It's going to be our little haven where we can get things done.

Oh, yeah...yeah of course...of course we'll invite you to the studio warming party. I was just going to...I was just going to say that.

Just...just let me reach for the invite over...over here...

Oh. Oh, my phone's ringing. No, you won't hear it because it's on silent yeah.

One second.



“Oh dear! Oh no, and it has all gone wrong has it? Oh dear and I'm the only one who can help.”

You'll have to please forgive me someone's stolen medicine from the fire brigade I'll have to sort this out by

Tuesday, 7 July 2015


You have to take your time, in life.

You cannot rush things.

You cannot constantly race the clock.

You have to take the time you are given, and more, if you need it.

You cannot run the risk of the bee you just resuscitated being trapped in the van with the five of you, should he not get out on time.

That's why I wrote the rulebook.

But Trewin didn't have time to read the rulebook.

So he picked the bee up from the tarmac at the ferryport and let it rest in the van as we waited to board, slowly nursing the little dot back to health with the caramel from a Mars bar.

I could have had that.

The bee came to life as we tumbled across the bridge thing, into the belly of the ship. We hadn't let the little thing out to rest when the call came for us to board.

We are not the types to give up on ill bees. You should know this by now.

So as it rose like a tiny sharp zombie, we all started shouting and panicking and flailing our arms. Because it's a bee. And it was flying around in the van. And real men don't cry. They flail.

We fanned it out through the open side-door (Trewin was hanging from the van – encouraging the thing out like it was a nervous fawn) just before we disappeared into the hole. We watched it buzz its way through the various criss-crosses of metal and the ship's rigging. A dot of the sky was being redacted by a pissed-up censor.

We would not have got so panicked were we not so rushed.

We needed more time to feed the bee.

We didn't have more time to feed the bee.

We didn't have time to do anything – we were due in Norway in two days.

Evidently, we had not had the time to read the booking arrangements for the hostel, either, as after a sixteen hour drive along the dizzying and never-ending tongue of the Autobahn we discovered we had not fulfilled the criteria for a late check-in.

Never mind. Laugh.

Death laugh.

Where's open?

Where will have us?

The clock hands start spinning.

There's a place. It's big.

We have to go to bed now. We have to be up in four hours.

Oh, we've already slept. Where next?

Tick tock.



What's this now where's this?

Nice people, and a nice flat down by the river. Have a brisk walk. Flick through Swedish television. Nothing's good. Give nothing a chance. Flip, flip, flip. Down your beer, don't sip it.

We have to be in Oslo tomorrow, and I don't know where I am.

Get up and get out.

What's outside the window?


What's the scenery like driving through Scandanavia?”


Where are we?

Get in. Set up. Good. Soundcheck. Nice. Everyone's nice. Hello, yes. Yes, thank you. OK, great.

Soundcheck finishedNO TIMEget onstage whoops no time sorry good luck.

Blast it. Every beat played punctually and every applause coming no more than 1.7 seconds after the end of each song. Good. We've got a schedule. Thanks to everyone for being so kind.

Where are we going? Bar. Downtown. How long? Twenty-minutes.

One hour later. Still walking.

And Norway doesn't sell alcohol on a Sunday. Did you know this? I didn't have time to read up on it before I left. I drank mine too fast.

Dry. Sobering.

So we have to get there quicker.

Jeez, get on with it, right, drink it up and laugh and spend and get into the hotel in 3 a.m. Norwegian perfect daylight. No bedsheets. They cost extra. You pay for their quality, no doubt.

So now morning and your brain's a needle on a scratched record and sprint back up to the festival site in the hot sun.

“You drive to Norway for one gig? Are you crazy?”

Don't answer him, Seryn – we've got to go. We're on a very tight schedule and if we break it we will die.

Crash, bang, wallop through to late nights in Copenhagen and Cologne (I don't have time to find the o with the umlaut) to very efficiently let good generous friends catch up with us on our race to a grim and abandoned finishing post that doesn't exist.

Quick. Up and out, again.

The ferries are on strike. The roads are clogged. Quick we have to make it.

We have to get there.

There's no time.

The sun stands still and the people walk around their dead cars, gesturing. The queues span around you in a circle and a police car slips by every second.

Time is passing us.

Our lives are bleeding out.
I can feel it.

I can feel it.

We're being crushed by a million still tyres.

Our fuel is burning.

I can feel it.

So, you have to take your time, and not rush things.

Just as soon as we hit our stride in the journey, it was time to come home.

Just as soon as we started making stories, ours was over.

So take your time with it. Rest a little, or get up and do something in the blackness.
We have nothing ahead of us, now.

One festival, close to home. And Europe...later. Much later.

The album is roasting. Slow roasting. We've covered up the timer with our pants and are drowning out the ticking by screaming.

We're doing nothing but peeping through the little window with our thumbs over our heads, pressing the button for the little yellow light.

We're taking the necessary time.

We're not rushing.

I'm going to lie motionless on the floor, hoping somebody feeds me a Mars bar.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Have we got everything?

Wake up.

These grunting, mucky bastards are your family, now. It's time for a family outing to Basel. Love your family, immediately and forever. Family delights. Family cares.

Shut up.

It's early morning and everyone's forgotten something. Grandad's forgotten his drum pads. Mum got too involved in something and left the immersion on. You aren't wearing any underwear, but you don't tell anyone.

Locked up.

Put a scrunched up bit of paper in a shoebox and shake it around. Shake it around for hours in joyless monotony. Shake the travel maraca.

Cheer up.

The hours pass like a dripping tap filling a swimming pool, but at least you're all here now. It's the Phoria-Smythington's family outing to Basel, and your first stop is some French place called Mulhouse, where you stumble out of the van and into a chrome and neon karaoke bar with a live performance of “A Whole New World”, inspiring you into wellbeing again along with a “beer”, which is a device you attach to your arm with a mechanical tongue that licks a little patch until it turns raw, which in turn tells your brain to release a new album of endorphins so your body and stuff can enjoy it all and the family can have something in common: a raw, bleeding patch on their arms that makes them feel great.

Roll up.

What's that? It might be a new day in a new country, but this family hotel has stars outside.Mum is happy she'll have a clean floor on which to do her ironing. Dad is happy he can put his slippered feet up and watch TV and pipe up intermittently about the state of the road. Little brother James has a soldering iron, two kilograms of semtex, and a behavioural problem. Grandad needs somewhere to settle in, and your room isn't ready yet. It's Room 101. This makes you happy and apprehensive, as you wonder what they're preparing for you in there. Turns out life in there is the same as life out here. Go figure.

Set up.

Out for a family meal. A day and a half of travel with sweating, grubby skin. Set-up, thunderstorms, bad packets of meaty euro-tubes and weirdness. The enveloping, soapy bubble of family in a totally new place (a whole new world), now made fine by clean and smiling hosts and a truffle dinner in one of the twisting gullets of the town. A smiling waiter who's had ones-just-like-you in all day, and sniffing clientèle who make haste soon after your arrival. Is that the ricotta, or those boys? Either way, it's blue. Eat your boeuf and let's get out of here. They're tickling each other and doing things with the breadsticks.

Mess up.

Manson had a family.

Yours barely know where they are. A square, somewhere. A growing crowd of people. You're setting up equipment that looks like a telephone exchange and one link in the chain keeps stuttering. Not now. Even the sound technicians have a nervous smile on their faces. The heat and the tiredness. You're not on edge so much as standing on the fronts of your ankles. This is new. Why do it new, now, Equipment? It can work. It will work. Do an interview with mum - moments before you get onstage - in a daze, being asked to comment on the state of inequality in Switzerland with a fresh mic and a big glass eye in your face, going out to people in their armchairs who have the option to change the channel; to change their immediate company.

You say you could do more about the issues, but right now, in this state, you don't know if that's true.You look like a hayfever-stricken frog.

You start playing – the family sings its Christmas songs – and you demand a Red Bull and chug it onstage. Your vision spins. The crowd gathers. The cameras are on and running you out of town in thick wires. Everything works, but instead of tiny keys and skinny strings there are bell-ropes and pulley systems and old mechanical workings that you have to heave and push and grind and wade through. Your performance hangs by a single thread string in a knife-throwing practice room.

Pack up.

Take it down and put it away. You did it and it all ends with a raucous cheer. Now the sun starts to set and you need that tongue-comforting thing to start licking your arm again. Head out into the cereal bowl to see what's happening and who's dancing. Another band finishes. “Thank you so much, everyone! We'd love to stay and party, but we have to go and catch our flight.” You recognise them. They're that family from down the road who puts the cover over their car and has a rotation of doormats. Their front door is spotless.

Your front door is a length of tin foil hanging from the ceiling.

Some people in the crowd suggest you're famous in this place; that Dad has taken you by the hand and dragged you onto the rollercoaster. You don't know about that. People are nice, though. Meet people and make them feel uncomfortable.

Walk across the city to a club. You don't go underground, but you regret that in the morning. Stroll back through to the hotel and watch everybody do like they do everywhere else. It's Friday, and the family takes a break from one another. The kids are in the crèche; the adults are in the lounge.

Fuck off.

Fuck off to the family home in the morning because you've all had enough. Sing a song or two and whistle up your own arse to enjoy the echo and put a plaster on your arm and on others' arms with a Nightingale smile. Sit in a chair and waggle your legs and get a boat.

Do it again.

Get some new equipment and get ready for Piknik festival in Oslo.

It's a long, long way away and there'll be other things to do.

How are we getting there, Dad?

Monday, 1 June 2015

How to live floorlessly.

“What needs doing then, lads?”

That room isn't quite an icon to me, yet. My own room, many Bridgestone spins away and which I share with the most messy and clumsy “wife” in the world, has seen so many deep cleans and give ups and accidents and covered spills and religious notes pinned to the walls and scuffs and weird collections started on unbalanced surfaces that it cannot now be changed from having had us live here. It is no longer a cave with our stuff in, but a little home carved out as a direct result of our activities. A tiny home, the size of a key cutting shop, that houses two people, two businesses, five guitars, a million feet of fabric, a mannequin, an industrial sewing machine, about five-hundred books, about two-hundred DVDs and games, my hair, and several years worth of crusted, narcotic-infused sweat.

It's also got a garden. Full of weeds.

I look around in the morning and see this place as “my house how I have it” – a symbol of two lives in the twenty-first century – rather than as a problem that needs to be fixed because the gold on the door handle has corroded, or because that un-binned empty box of luxury chocolates is hindering the passage of my hand as it reaches over faded-brown bed sheet stains for a similarly tinged shin-kicker.

Trewin's room, however, where all still has a touch of clinical purpose about it (moreso than my cave, anyway), likely for his sanity, manages to infuse any given memory I have with that feeling of “other place” – not a sense of homeliness or even familiar workliness. All this despite the number of meetings, drinkings, listenings, and other debaucherous rebellions against sensibleness that have gone on up there that should make it feel like an old friend.

Sofa bed piled with cushions, some of us perched on fold-out chairs with rusting hinges, paint peeling, and padding long since disintegrated by the sweat of a thousand arses. The twinned smells of stale white butts and yesterdays M&S yellow-sticker-reduced Platchula Bean Salad with Cuban Roasted Pecan Tudenza Leaf Puree and Fresh Chombo-Style Kale and Distilled-Water-Fed Quinoa Passata fill the room. The food looks like a half-arsed rockery and sits half on the floor and half in its plastic bowl. Trewin will occasionally turn from his computer to pick up the bowl, lick the congealed butter-death off the fork, and tuck in again. It must be good.

“We need to get the pre-mix of the album off.”

Yeah, and we need to buy some gear.”

“I don't have any of the stuff I need.” says Seryn.

“When's the next gig?”

“We need to book a practice.”

“Are we having a tech-rehearsal, later?”

Jeb's in the next room, his clicking mouse sounding like the desperate pleas of a soldier who, upon finding himself stranded in a gutted comms room, wishes he'd paid attention when his unit was learning morse code rather than copying off Neville and sneaking a peek at a cigarette card of Rita Hayworth.

“How are those videos coming along?”

“Oh...yeah...I'm's just rendering.”

“Oh, and we need to get some publicity photos done.”

Oh God, yeah.”

“Who wants a tea?”

And everybody oooooooohs and says oh, yes please – and relaxes as someone goes and boils the kettle before drying it off and putting water in it. It was stormy outside while all this was going on, so it was just right. It was dark grey at midday, the windows were streaming with rain, and I'd just had some soup and a cigarette. We all felt like cats in front of fireplaces. Droopy eyed and comfortable.

“So [yawn] that's a list of what we need to do, right?”


“Great, that's that done. So, have I shown you this video yet of a neon-painted deer riding a powerboat engine attached to a human skeleton?”