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Monday, 30 June 2014

Alain Robbe-Grillet - Six Films 1963-1974 – A BFI Blue-ray and DVD box set release – out 30 June



Art exists to trouble - Alain Robbe-Grillet

A few months ago, some French guy from London was happy to go on and on – on FB – about how Alain Robbe-Grillet films were... crap and had no narrative... I had heard of Alain’s films but never had the privilege to watch them! I spent my childhood in Africa, two years in Paris and then London (with a glimpse in Latin America). His films were probably not screened while I was in Paris...
A few weeks ago, BFI sent me an email “A collection of films made by French writer and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet during the 1960s and early 1970s, previously unavailable in the UK, will be released by the BFI this month in a 3-disc Blu-ray box set and a 5-disc DVD box set. Alain Robbe-Grillet Six Films 1963-1974 comes out on 30 June”. The next minute, I had my fangs into BFI press officer’s neck and said “yes please” courteously (any press officer dealing with me should be entitled to a pay-rise).

Over 500 minutes of moving images to watch + four times 30 minutes of interview between mighty journalist Frederic Taddei and Alain Robbe-Grillet + booklet.
David Taylor essay on the booklet explains very well Alain’s life, him as a writer and as a film maker. This is where I’ll start. In 1961, Robbe-Grillet got involved in film making with Alain Resnais’s Last Year in Marienbad. At 40, Alain shot his first film The Immortal One (L’immortelle, 1963). He admits in the interview with Taddei his relationship with his expert crew was highly tense and he treated his actors as wooden actors. The film was not a success in any ways.

The Immortal One was then my first approach to Alain Robbe-Grillet films. The film was shot in Turkey as someone had a huge amount of money in a Turkish bank and the money could not leave Turkey... so it had to be spent on site – Monsieur Robbe-Grillet is a delight to listen to when he tells his crunchy tales. Aesthetically, the film is an absolute gem. The curves and straight lines of architectures fused with stylish dresses “catwalking” through the enigmatic opus. Driving through the mesmerising landscapes, a man N arrives at a port and asked “Excuse me. Is it far to Beykoz?” the stylish woman answers and will come on and off the screen. About narration, Robbe-Grillet says “When you abandon the entire notion of narration, of telling a story that someone is going to narrate, then the question immediately arises as to the origin of the story. What is the place, the point, from which this story is produced?”.
The man N asks at the end “Excuse me. Is it far to Beykoz?” at the same spot of the port... this time another lady answers.

With Robbe-Grillet films, there is a recurring sense of dislocation and un-associated events reflecting on un-straight mirrors, investigation, religion, justice, broken bottles, scissors, sexual games... with a bemused tone. I have had a strong sensation when watching the BFI box of Alain Robbe-Grillet Six Films 1963-1974 that the “lack” of narrative is due to the dissociation/multiple personalities that the main character “suffers”. As if all stories are told from the perspective of an individual jumping from one personality to another becoming themselves either imaginary people or dealing with imaginary friends, from one place to another without disturbing the live painting I am watching.

 Courtesy of BFI
Jean-Louis Trintignant & Marie-France Pisier

For his second film, Alain Robbe-Grillet shot in Antwerp, Belgium because money was available there (see interview with Taddei). Trans-Europ-Express (1967) welcomes on board a film director (Alain Robbe-Grillet), an assistant (Catherine Robbe-Grillet, his wife from 1957 to 2008) and a producer (Paul Louyet). Elias (Jean-Louis Trintignant, I repeat Jean-Louis Trintignant) jumps on board... or does he?
This is Robbe-Grillet most direct crime thriller film, as he somehow fetishes the genre, and yet distinguishes himself from the genre. There are indeed inspectors wearing cream raincoats, but as Alain states all along the DVD interviews, his films don’t resolve anything at the end. When most crime thrillers, at the time at least, explain all riddles in details, he says that in crimes not all clues can be explained... About his own films, Robbe-Grillet says he is happy to explain, but only what he wants to explain... Elias carries a suitcase of cocaine and we follow his journey to his obsession with SM, his meetings with gangsters, spies, a prostitute (Marie-France Pisier) while we keep coming back to the carriage where the three film makers change their script narrative, or perhaps it is Jean Louis Trintignant who controls the film?

The Man Who Lies (1968) was shot in Czechoslovakia... (some money there and around the Prague Spring) stars Alain’s fetish actor Jean-Louis Trintignant as a man escaping the Nazi. He arrives in a village where he introduces himself as Jean Robin or Boris Varissa (both names are recurring in Alain’s fims) or The Ukrainian. The character keeps contradicting his facts and when confronting to his lies, he simply seduces his court à la Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless. The Man Who Lies could be compared to some of the Czech New Wave cinema, more specifically Jaromil Jireš, but Red Psalm also comes to mind from Hungarian Miklós Jancsó.



End of Part I – Part II soon, and hopefully with some words from Catherine Robbe-Grillet

The six films are:

The Immortal One (L’Immortelle) (1963)
Trans-Europ-Express (1967)
The Man Who Lies (L’Homme qui ment) (1968)
Eden and After (L’Eden et après) (1970)
N. Took the Dice (N. a pris les dés…) (1971)
Successive Slidings of Pleasure (Glissements progressifs du plaisir) (1974)

Special features:
All six films presented in High Definition on Blu-ray, and digitally remastered in High Definition on DVD - Newly filmed introductions by Catherine Robbe-Grillet (2013) - Filmed interviews with Alain Robbe-Grillet by critic Frederic Taddei (2007) [one year before Alain’s death] - New and exclusive full-length audio commentaries for each film by Tim Lucas - Original theatrical trailers - Illustrated booklet with a new essay by David Taylor, full film credits and on-set photographs

Blu-ray product details
RRP: £59.99 / cat. no. BFIB1188 / Cert 18
France, Italy, Turkey, Czechoslovakia / 1963-1974 / black and white, and colour / French language, with optional English subtitles / 577 mins / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1 and 1.66:1 / BD50 x 3 / 1080p / PCM mono audio (48k/24-bit)

DVD product details
RRP: £49.99 / cat. no. BFIV2000 / Cert 18
France, Italy, Turkey, Czechoslovakia / 1963-1974 / black and white, and colour / French language, with optional English subtitles / 554 mins / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1 and 1.66:1 (16x9 anamorphic) / DVD9 x 5 / Dolby Digital mono audio (192 kbps)

BFI releases are available from all good DVD retailers or by mail order from the BFI Shop at BFI Southbank, London Tel: 020 7815 1350 or online at www.bfi.org.uk/shop



Friday, 27 June 2014

Garm Hava (गर्म हवा; Hot Winds; Scorching Winds). Directed by M. S. Sathyu. Part of Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014. Film projected @ ICA, SW1Y, Sunday 29 June, 3pm - £7.00 to £10.00



Garm Hava (Hindi: गर्म हवा; Hot Winds or Scorching Winds)
Directed by M. S. Sathyu
Story by Ismet Chugtai
Starring: Balraj Sahni, Farooq Shaikh, Dinanath Zutshi, Badar Begum, Geeta Siddharth, Shaukat Kaifi, A. K. Hangal
Release date: 1973
146 minutes
India – Language: Hindi/Urdu – English subtitles
18+

Garm Hava was India's official entry to the Academy Award's Best Foreign Film category, nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

I didn’t think I would dare go on my own to Polvos Azules. An immense shopping centre in Lima Centro, Peru, a cross between Westfield and a Moroccan souk. Its originality? Absolutely everything and anything is counterfeit... or stolen goods. From Scottish Whiskey to Nike shoes to DVDs. Police don’t go there. The first time I went there was with a Limenian artist, I lectured him on how it was wrong to copy artists work. I went on... and on... I guess. He took me to the roof top where we had a cheap but excellent Peruvian lunch (no, I didn’t end up with a running bottom). He then explained that no underground or rare cultural products came to his country. The only way to have knowledge and being informed were to buy cheap copies of copies (or stolen) of anything like a DVD.
As a foreigner (and a woman), it was a bit risky, but I was starving of films. I needed an injection of alternative culture and ventured to the Polvos Azules labyrinth. There were the “legal” counterfeit products and the “illegal” ones. Eventually, the guy got a plastic bag out and showed me a few DVDs. I paid three soles ($1) for Garm Hava aka गर्म हवा aka Hot Winds or Scorching Winds.

After WWII ended, India gained independence from the British Empire in 1947. India had a population mainly of Hindu, Muslims and Sikhs. The growth of Muslim separatism from the late 19th century and the rise of communal violence from the 1920s catapulted the virulent outbreaks of 1946-1947. Muslims had to decide to leave for Pakistan or East Pakistan / East Bengal, now known as Bangladesh.

Garm Hava is the story of the Muslims Mirzas’ family from Northern India, having to deal with the partition of India. At Agra train station, Salim Mirza (Balraj Sahni) waves goodbye to his sister who leaves for Pakistan.
The whole family lives under the same “mansion” with Salim taking care of the family business while his brother Halim is a political activist. The Mirza suffers internal conflicts due to their opinions divergence on staying or leaving India as well as familial and love betrayals. They are also confronted to non Muslims pressure that jeopardizes their financial wealth... Scorching Winds / Garm Hava is a way of saying that those who don’t live will be burnt.

The Mirza’s mansion also acts as a main character since its features are carefully filmed with details. A house that has witnessed births of a few Mirza’s generations.
Despite the violence of the situation, Garm Hava opts for a subtle but constant feel of threat.
It is believed that Balraj Sahni who plays Salim is his finest performance of his career, stepping somehow into Hollywoodian actors from the 60’s-70’s.


Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014 is giving a rare opportunity to project Garm Hava and I’ll take it as a privilege to see it on a big screen. I have no idea if the quality of the film images is better than my counterfeit DVD, but does it really matter?

Garm Hava (Hot Winds) - SPECIAL RARE UK SCREENING - Dir. MS Satyu, India 1973, 146mins - ICA Cinema, Institute of Contemporary Arts, 12 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH, Sunday 29 June, 3pm. Cinema 1 | £7.00 to £10.00
Co-curated with the South Asian Cinema Foundation and with an introduction and Q&A with the foundation’s director Lalit Mohan Joshi.

Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014: www.anxiety2014.org - Facebook/anxietyfestival2014 - @anxiety2014 - #anxiety2014
The Mental Health Foundation, Colechurch House, 1 London Bridge Walk, London SE1 2SX - www.mentalhealth.org.uk / www.learningdisabilities.org.uk


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy presents Matt Johnson from The The @ Classic Album Sundays. The show has sold out but you will be able to stream live on 1st July, 7 - 10pm



The great thing about discovering underground sounds as a pre-teenager was the tribe I was part of. A small clan of nerds discussing at 12 or 13 years old about whether Siouxsie was serious about the Swastika. But yes but no... But no, it’s reverse, but she is friend with Robert Smith and in that interview he says he hates fascists... the other side of my sounds research were kept clandestine. There were not politically  correct for my clan: Imagination, Eurythmics, Soft Cell, Bronski Beat, Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvre In The Dark and... The The.
The The was a funny one because as a non English speaker, I could only rely on the vibes: the voice and the melody. The voice of Matt Johnson was warm, dark and somehow flirting with “hysteria”. As for its melody, sometimes upbeat, sometimes enigmatic, sometimes nonchalant, sometimes funky tribal with repetitive rhythms made with synthesisers... these “tall pianos”.

To all ex sinful people like me listening to synthetic sounds, your luck has come to tell the world you liked The The and re-listen to it in peace... and even meet Matt Johnson. Well, sort of... the show has sold out but you can stream it J to those who don’t know The The but are in quest of discovering “new” sounds, don’t miss it!

CLASSIC ALBUM SUNDAYS LONDON & SONY MUSIC
present
THE THE 'SOUL MINING' with guest Matt Johnson

THE THE’s ‘Soul Mining’ is an album that is often requested by CAS attendees and we are thrilled to have the artist himself joining us for an intimate album session that will feature an interview with Matt Johnson by CAS founder Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy, a vinyl replay of the entire album on our audiophile hi-fi, followed by a Q&A between Matt Johnson and CAS attendees.

This event is Sold Out but we will be streamling live on www.thelineofbestfit.com. Follow @ClassicAlbumSun on Twitter for updates.

CAS London on Tuesday, 1st July, 7 - 10pm
Brilliant Corners, 470 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AE
Tickets: SOLD OUT but check out the live stream on www.thelineofbestfit.com
Presenters: Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy and Matt Johnson

Audio Menu: Dynavector D17D3 MC Cartridge, Rega P9 Turntable, Rega IOS Reference MC Phono Stage,  Audio Note Jinro Integrated Amplifier, Chord Signature Speaker Cable, Chord Signature Tuned Aray interconnects, ISOL-8 Substation Integra Power Conditioner and Klipschorn Loudspeakers

@ClassicAlbumSun  



Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Michael Essien, I want to play as you… by Ahilan Ratnamohan – a choreographed football play @ Stratford Circus, E15. Wednesday 25 June @ 2:00pm & 7:30pm. 65 minutes. £6-£8-£12

© Paulien Verlackt-S

Michael Essien, I want to play as you...
Diretcor: Ahilan Ratnamohan
Performers: Aloys Kwaakum, Jimmy Nwaose, Wemimo Osasuyi, Praise Onubiyi, John Obi Agbo
Sound Design: Kris Strijbos, Ahilan Ratnamohan
Movement Consultant: Eddie Kaay for Frantic Assembly
Kids = 12+

How many times have I missed an animated cartoon on TV because the father wanted to watch football? Far too often to my taste.
In Africa, any football matches or even better, the so-called World Cup were synonymous of late nights and spooky games as all families gathered around a TV set and we, a gang of kids were left totally unsupervised, in tune with our scary imagination.

The very few times, I actually gave football credibility was when I watched it with some music on my ears. Simply watching body movements. The agility of a body. The ball tricks. The jumps to catch a ball with a torso. The head butts. The fake and dramatic moments of pains... rolling on the floor. From my faded memory, I remember white bodies being gradually replaced by black bodies. When a black body scored for France, newspapers named him as the greatest French footballer. When he didn’t, he was mentioned in some lines as the Cameroonian who just joined the team. But, however good a footballer was, they were definitely, incredibly and... unfairly rich!

A few years ago, I came across a French documentary about selecting African players on site and the underworld of the football slave-trade. Players were inspected as... a few centuries ago!

Director Ahilan Ratnamohan (Belgium/Australia) brings together theatre, dance and football with his choreographed play Michael Essien, I want to play as you… featuring five athletes from West Africa who share a common history of giving up everything to chase their dream of playing football in the European Leagues. A common goal: fulfilling a career like Michael Essien, a Ghanaian footballer who has played with Chelsea and Real Madrid and recently signed with Milan. These five athletes tell their own stories of life beyond the limelight navigating, agents, politics, visas, extreme training and contracts. From their dreams of fame and fortune to the reality of life, there is a shocking world of exploitation, racism and no power to escape.

© Paulien Verlackt-S

Ratnamohan was inspired by the darker side of football and how it has drawn many into believing football is a way out of poverty – and created an underclass of football-aspirants in foreign lands: “When I was 19 or 20, I set off for Europe to make it as a footballer. I didn’t understand the business: I just had this romantic idea of rocking up at a club and living the dream.

Michael Essien, I want to play as you… is a body movement taken out of its football context giving a new dimension to reality with a dark edge... but charged with humour. Its music balances the moods between the harsh reality and the (re)connections of their far lands. My little advice: sit at the front row if you have a hearing deficiency, or if you have (a) kid(s)... they might want to take photos as these footballers will request.

Ahilan Ratnamohan is a performance maker working with unorthodox forms and inspired by sport, film and language. After completing a film degree at the University of Technology, Sydney in 2005, he attempted to make a career as a professional footballer in the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. Since 2007, he has been creating physical performance pieces. He has worked with diverse Sydney based companies and artists such as Urban Theatre Projects, Branch Nebula, Legs on the Wall, PACT, PYT, Theatre Kantanka, Martin del Amo and Campbelltown Arts Centre

This show lasts 65 minutes but took four years in the making due to intense research about the so-called football slave trade and also due to the flexibility the team endured as their precarious situation meant deportation for some of them.


This is part of LIFT2014.
Michael Essien, I want to play as you… is at Stratford Circus, Theatre Square, London E15 1BX Wednesday 25 June, 2:00pm & 7:30pm – £6-£8-£12 - Admin: 020 8279 1001; Box office: 0844 357 2625 info@stratford-circus.com
www.stratford-circus.com @StratfordCircus - facebook.com/stratfordcircus1- #BeautifulGame
www.liftfestival.com @LIFTfestival - facebook.com/THELIFTFESTIVAL - #LIFT2014


My little advice from Clapton: both 425 and 308 buses are really pleasant journeys. 425 goes all around the back and narrow streets of Hackney while 308 is faster and appears to be a journey in the wild confronted with industrial locations. If you are as lucky as I was last night, a DJ will play some xtra decent African tunes in the nice caf’... so... go!

To those who love art but are not necessarily into football, I’ll recommend to watch Zidane - A 21th Century Portrait by             Douglas Gordon & Philippe Parreno, music by Mogwai = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuT4Msm6s5w&list=PLenGVl2nAic_xI1f7q7YUYZcX4FVxqtZP


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Andrea Tyrimos : Roadz @ Curious Duke Gallery, EC1Y. till 28th June. Free

London Calls Me A Stranger
Oil painting on canvas
Part of the City Lights Series

“By the Griffin Pub, near the ‘graffiti street’” said Pure Evil Gallery when I asked where was the rhino saying he was a unicorn. That’s where I met Andrea Tyrimos. She was doing some Trompe L’oeil. Her canvas on the bricks and oil painting it, matching the brick colours to her painting in progress.
Andrea is a mix of traditional painting within an urban décor. Her main theatre of execution / inspiration is London East End.
I promised her to write about her... time has flown... but you still have a few days to see her work @ Curious Gallery where she exhibits till... 28 June.
Andrea pays tribute to London roadz, but remembers with humour how we all (at least the “ancient”) loved our phone boots. Those red little houses that seems to shelter us now when it rains. She also pays tribute to London vibrant night life or simply chilling out on roof tops...

Rooftop Dreamin'
Oil painting on canvas
part of the City Lights Series

Curious Duke Gallery in East London launches Roadz, a new exhibition by artist Andrea Tyrimos Roadz is a glowing tale of cities, from the crumbling decay of decadent buildings to the sparks of light that hang over the landscape after sunset.
Tyrimos' first solo show is a fiesta of colour and metropolitan melodrama.

Andrea Tyrimos graduated in Fine Art from Central St Martins in 2009, and has exhibited extensively since. Her paintings have grown in detail and fascination of urban lifestyles, with an emphasis on the emission of colour through light, most notable in her paintings of London and New York at night.

Her keen eye for the beauty of a cityscape has brought about three separate bodies of work; Notting Hill Carnival, City Lights and Brick. After taking inspiration from Charles Baudelaire's call for painters to focus on ‘depicting the fast-changing landscapes of life’, and described such an artist as ‘The Painter of Modern Life’, Tyrimos had found her niche. This oil painter does not stop at the eerie progress of a night bus though London's lamp lit streets, but sees the waiting people outside a late night off license on Brick Lane as secrets revealed by lights from shop windows; the city becomes a beacon of life no matter the time of day.

Brewery Haze
Oil painting on canvas
part of the City Lights Series

Tyrimos' latest series of works are more vibrant than ever, and her ‘Brick’ project especially has been building a huge amount of interest. The Brick project has spawned a series of live painting events, most recently at the Barbican and WXSP, with three events coming up in the realms of Shoreditch and Old Street, allowing the wealth of regeneration that butts against moss covered red brick to take on interdependent stories. The very walls that we live in, work in and walk past daily may lay dormant, but look closer and you'll find tiny details of lovers initials scratched in, and moss creeping over graffiti. Tyrimos will select three locations that she will then build a photo-realistic oil painting onto canvas that will blend into its brick surroundings. One of these events will continue into Curious Duke Gallery with a brick wall being built in the gallery space for Tyrimos to paint throughout the exhibition in June.

Curious Duke Gallery presents Andrea Tyrimos : Roadz; till 28th June; 173 Whitecross Street, London, EC1Y 8JT; Nearest Tube: Old Street (exit 6 - 2 min walk) Barbican (5mins)




Monday, 23 June 2014

Kirk Lake – Mickey the Mimic; 20,000 Days On Earth; Over & Over; kirklakeosmiroid – book and album launch = 27 June @ Orbital Comics, WC2H



Kirk Lake
Mickey The Mimic
Disco City Books, London.

What does it mean for a painter to paint in the manner of so and so or to
actually imitate someone else? What’s wrong with that? On the contrary, it’s a
good idea. You should constantly try to paint like someone else…
Pablo Picasso, 1965

It was a terrible idea. Awful. It just came right off the top of my head, one word clattering after the other like a runaway train. Audrey just stared at me. Signal raised. I switched track. “Actually, I was going to do something with comics. You know when I used to just colour in people’s faces in magazines with green paint. Remember? I used to call it “hulking”. Well I was gonna just do that... Call it the “SMASH” series after Hulk’s catchphrase.” (Extract from the novel – “Mickey The Mimic” by Kirk Lake - Disco City Books, 2014.

First, there was the Black Lights album that hit my coffee table sometime in 1996, followed by Never Hit the Ground, the book, a few months later. I have known Kirk Lake for a decade and a half, but met him three times. His emails are equally minimalist. I am pretty sure he lives as a recluse in a grotto somewhere in a West London forest. He probably comes out at times to meet those like him... like Nick Cave.

Bbldnrbtl: Between the lines. Between Never Hit The Ground and your latest book Mickey The Mimic... Have you been hiding? On the run? Else?

Kirk Lake: In terms of writing novels I guess it might look like that. I did write another short novel directly after Never Hit The Ground but then just left it in the desk drawer as I was busy with other stuff. It will finally come out either later this year or early next year. I’d kind of forgotten about it and when I looked at it again and gave it to a few people to read I was surprised that I hadn’t put it forward to be published ten years ago. Then I’m maybe a quarter through with a new novel. Other than novels though I wrote two film scripts that got made and a couple that didn’t and then a non-fiction book (There will be Rainbows: A biography of Rufus Wainwright) that I agreed to do just to see if I could do it or not.

Ghosts catcher. How do you process the writing? Is it some painful task that you write at a slow pace? A lack of ongoing inspiration?

I’m actually pretty quick once I decide to start something. It can be difficult but it’s just something that you have to work at. I really like hanging out with imaginary people. There’s no shortage of ideas but you just have to work out what’s the best way to bring them to life so that might be a song, a novel, a film script, a comic… It’s all about telling stories and choosing the best way that you can get that story across.

A few O-levels... When I read Mickey the Mimic, it felt like you were actually the hero – or anti hero. You left school at 16, but did you study art at a later date?

I went to journalism school when I moved to London back in the early 1990s when I was in my mid-20s. By that time I was a “mature student” so it didn’t matter that I left school with just a few O-levels. I’d written a few magazine articles so that was enough to get in. In recent years I’ve hung out with more artists than I have with musicians and definitely more artists than writers who I rarely ever seem to meet. But I don’t have any personal experience of the kind of art-school scene that features in the first part of the book. I didn’t go to art school. Back then I wouldn’t have even thought of it as an option. I can’t draw or paint, which of course is not really a requirement for art school, but back when I was 16 I would never have known that.

A Comics truth. Did you actually hang out with the YBA clan and all those you mention in the book? How much truth is there in all these extravagant “cartoon”?

During the 1990s I hung out with musicians mostly. A lot of the stuff that happens to the musicians in the book happened to me or to my friends. But the music we were making, though contemporary to what came to be known as Brit Pop, was too weird or obscure to be embraced by many people and so whereas Blur and the like might have been making videos with Damien Hirst or hanging out at the old Saatchi Gallery (in Swiss Cottage) we would never have been invited. There was some crossover between art/music as there always is and should be, so by chance I happened to go to a few exhibitions and events that subsequently became important when the revisionist history of Brit Pop and the YBA years was written but I never was part of that scene in any way. That said, I would say that there is an awful lot of truth in the novel though it’s a fictitious truth which, perversely perhaps, I would consider to be more accurate and more honest than the reality of it. I don’t know what the real people that feature in the book think of it. I mean they are named but it’s not really them, they are fictionalized versions of real people.

Sewing up psychological patterns. The whole book is very dark (the NME had described Never Hit The Ground as “immaculately dark”) and also violent. Mickey seems to be emotionally remote or unaffected as if being a victim of what’s going on. Yet, he is passionately in love with Audrey. How do you base your characters?

I’m not sure it’s particularly violent, at least not explicitly. I was trying to build this suggestion of latent violence and there is a darkness that runs through the book. The characters are mostly, I suppose, self-centred and somewhat amoral but that was something I wanted to address in terms of the way that artists often act. The Mickey character has a kind of fatalistic view of the world and often he is impassive when things are going on around him. He ends up doing certain things not because he thinks they are the right things to do but because he’s incapable or disinterested in finding anything else. This is reflected in his complete inability to create artwork of any worth. He falls in love and becomes obsessed with a girl who rejects him but is he really only in love with the idea of being in love? As for creating characters… I use whatever I see around me, people I meet, feelings I have for them… Each character or scenario is pieced together from all sorts of people and places and situations.

A poetical perspective. Emotions, apart from Mickey’s love for Audrey, are not over described. However, you have mastered a way to describe a painting like some old-ish masters (Matisse), nature (the roads and its landscapes) or a room (the murder scene in the art studio). Are you more at ease with describing scenery?

The novel is told via Mickey’s first person narration so everything is filtered through his slightly jaded world view. There’s a suggestion early on that the way he is telling the story might not be the way things actually happened. And his emotional responses may have been heightened or altered to suit the way he wanted to present the story. His recall of locations, of artwork, of the events that occur in the novel are the only testimony we have. So it seemed to me that to make that work there had to be some kind of poetry contained within his often matter of fact descriptions of how he felt about the people he was mixing with. In the end he is some kind of artist so he views the world with an artist’s eye.

Existentialisme. The book pays tribute to the old masters in painting and literature like Picasso, Corot, Cocteau, Sartre, Camus or Nietzsche. You also come back to the working class childhood of Mickey. I remember you telling me about your Black Lights album, that it referred to your grandfather boxing. Are you also paying tribute to those like you, autodidact and from a struggling background? And yet despite being now an intellectual human being, Mickey is struggling to find the right to have a place in the society. Is there a common denominator between the alienating background and the “academic” world?

I had a solid working class upbringing. My father was a carpet-fitter. We didn’t have books in the house unless I brought them in. I wouldn’t say it was a struggle though. And contrary to the attitude of Mickey’s parents in the book my parents were always, and still are, incredibly supportive of whatever it is I wanted to do even though they probably had no understanding of what that might be. I’m not sure why it is, though the difficulty for young people to sign on these days must play some part, but there seems to be a great imbalance these days between so called “working class” artists and those that come from comfortable middle-class backgrounds. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of years around film people and I think I could probably count on half a hand how many people I’ve met that were from similar backgrounds to me.

From underground to social media. You also pay tribute to musicians like Sonic Youth, Bee gees, The Cure, Serge Gainsbourg, Pulp, Primal Scream, Liza Minnelli and so on and you have even set up a Spotify link with all guest musicians appearing in your book (see below). Yet, your book is also an immense piss-take of major labels in the 90’s - throwing up money by signing mediocre bands and then discarding them as abject objects. Your music was released at the time in some obscure labels. Do you think if there hadn’t been such mismanagement in the business, more cutting edge acts would be in a better place today? Or do you think on the contrary that a band / a musician can be DIY on every level?

Well, I started as an underground musician/writer and just kept digging down I mean, you can hardly even see me down in the bottom of this hole now. Back in the 1990s when I had records released there was no real internet as we know it today. No social media of any kind. Therefore for people to even know that you had music released you’d have to rely on the music papers or the radio or playing gigs. Of course it’s much easier now for bands to find an audience. You can connect with the entire world within a few seconds. Put something up on Youtube and suddenly you have a potential audience that stretches from Andorra to Zimbabwe. Though the counter to that is there is just so much stuff floating around that it’s hard to pick your way through it. Another problem is that engaging with music via the internet is quite different to actually going out and buying an album. With the actual disc in your hand I’d suggest you are more likely to give it time to work on you, to gauge what the artistic choices were in creating it, to really consider the work. If you’re streaming music or watching video clips there’s a tendency to just click the next button and move on. I’m not particularly connected to social media myself but of course it has made it much easier for artists of all kinds to go DIY which, in essence, is a great thing. But whether 10 people or 10,000 people know about the work the only important thing is whether it’s any good. Just because more people know about something it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better.

From tribes to circles. London is at the heart of the book with its different tribes. It has vibrant scenes and decadence but it is also a hoover of energy – at least in the period in which the book is based on – Mickey even “runs away” from it at some point. What’s the state of London today? Do you think London has somehow lost its tribes? If you were to write in 20 years time a book describing the London scene today, on what would you emphasise?

I’m not sure I would be the person to write a novel about London today. I’m too old to really know about what’s happening out there. London belongs to the young and they make of it what they can. And good luck to them, whatever it is they’re doing with it.

Humour in shades. Mickey the Mimic is punctuated with ingenious humour – “She was so posh... that I thought she had a speech impediment”. I don’t know you as the most hilarious entertainer, but I’ve seen you about three hours over a stretch of two centuries... Alone in your grotto from your West London forest, does humour help you to survive your “solitary” life?

There’s humour in all the things I’ve ever done as far as I’m concerned. There was a review for either the last novel or one of the spoken word albums that said “Lake’s humour is so dark you wonder if it’s even supposed to be funny.” Well, it is…

Narrowing down the crap... From Young British Artists to now. You are very much a contemporary of the YBA tribe and your book is very cynical about the art world and the trend around it, at least at the time. Is there a connection with the way Grayson Perry describe the world of art today? The way it’s dictated... by the critics, the curators and the way artists play with them?

Oh, there is no real option for anything other than cynicism when looking at the contemporary art world. It is overrun with chancers and opportunists and exists as a kind of glee club for the well-heeled and well-connected. It’s incredibly dishonest. But as with any kind of creative act – music, film, literature - 99% of it is always going to be terrible and worthless. You just have to hunt down the 1% that is truthful and glorious.

Film still from Over & Over
Jack Bond & Kirk Lake
Courtesy of Powis Square Pictures

Pushing the sky away with Nick Cave, Jack Bond, Mick Jones and Don Brosnan. Your new album kirklakeosmiroid is out on 4 July on Starsdots label and you have two new films coming out this year?

Well, I'm acting in two films this year. The first is 20,000 Days On Earth which is the Nick Cave docu-drama from Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. I've known Iain and Jane for years and wrote a script for their film Radio Mania back in 2009 and then I appeared in a few promo films they made with Nick Cave. In this film I play Nick Cave's imaginary archivist. We improvised it over a couple of days in Brighton last year. The whole film teeters on the edge of fiction and documentary. Obviously I'm not really Nick's archivist but we played it out as though I was and he had no real idea of what I was going to ask him about. The film is an extraordinary piece of work. You definitely don't need to be a Nick Cave fan to get something out of it. The second film is a short neo-noir I co-wrote called "Over & Over". It's being made by Powis Square Pictures. I act alongside Jack Bond, who's a legendary maverick of British cinema and Don Brosnan who plays in The Real Tuesday Weld. The soundtrack is by Mick Jones (The Clash). It's an odd little film. Quite bold. Certainly a lot more interesting than 99% of short films you see.

Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and screenwriter. His first novel, the cult neo-noir Never Hit The Ground was published in 1997. He has written the screenplays for the kitchen-sink sci-fi feature film Piercing Brightness (2013) and the BFI commissioned art film Radio Mania (2009). He released a series of albums and EPs throughout the 1990s and 2000s including The Black Lights and London Is Swinging By His Neck. He makes his acting debut as “the archivist” alongside Nick Cave in the forthcoming hybrid docu-drama 20,000 Days on Earth (2014).
Other works include 3rd, So, You Got Anything Else? Kirk lives in London.

Mickey The Mimic is available digitally via Inkmonkey Books. A limited edition paperback will be issued by Disco City Books in July 2014.
For further information: www.kirklake.net


Triple Launch – the novel “Mickey The Mimic” // the album “KIRKLAKEOSMIROID” // the exhibition “Nobody Knows What’s Good Anymore – The Lost SMASH! Art of Mickey Dallow” //
@ Orbital, 8 Great Newport St, London WC2H 7JA - (nearest tube Leicester Square)
Friday June 27 6.30pm - Refreshments, music and the rest…

kirklakeosmiroid
 out on 4 July on Starsdots label

20,000 Days On Earth: http://www.20000daysonearth.com/
Starsdots & the New Junk (a sonic disturbance label): http://starsdotsandthenewjunk.bandcamp.com/