Category Archives: Uncategorized

Welcome to the party… BBC… ART ON TELLY!

I remember a meeting we had one time when I was at the Arts Council, where we were brought into a presentation about Arts Programming on the telly. It was being suggested that the rafts of crappy competitions on early evening prime time Saturday slots was a reason to be giddy about arts programming. There is was… THE ARTS… on PRIME TIME TELLY!

I have to say I was a little skeptical and I probably said as much (my voice wasn’t one which was often listened to given I wasn’t in that kind of role there). It might have got a little more collegiate since I’ve not been there but them in charge definitely are in charge in the classic sense.

I’m not totally against these shows (I hardly watch them but the dancing ones are alright I guess) but they can no more be called arts programming than that one about diving be labelled a sports programme.

When I saw the headline that the BBC will be giving the arts a central role from now on I got most excited. In a week when I read about how chastening it is to be reminded the distance most people are away from the arts, I thought it was timely that our major broadcaster be doing its bit.

A little underwhelmed by some of the suggestions of shows.. looks like the usual suspects in many ways, doing the usual stuff for the usual people… Someone needs to get the people from the shows I allude to above and FORCE them to think of an exciting arts based show which DOESN’T involve people being humiliated, or any kind of contest at all.

If they want some ideas on any music programmes they can always give me a shout.

I’m mostly very very pleased with this announcement and look forward to some of the shows!

 

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Education, networking… reveries!

I’m not really qualified to do what I do. There aren’t qualifications to do it really. There will be… as things progress there will be more and more courses which prepare folks to be just like me… but my own education at present has only prepared me to be a badass at speaking French, a bit of an expert in language and communication and WAIT! That’s what I guess I do… sometimes maybe quite well, sometimes not so well… but still – trying to get a message across.

When I first graduated I taught EFL in London. I would make the effort to identify with, to empathise with students. Often sharing an anecdote like:

“you know when you’re standing outside a shop and working out what to say to the lady in the shop and working out what she is going to say back to you and then full of the courage you’ve mustered you walk in, ask for you packet of fags or whatever, and she comes out with some kind of savage stuff you hadn’t expected and you almost run off without your fags it is so stressful and embarrassing…”

That pretty much actually happened to me in Paris on a sixth form trip – I was buying cowboy boots (honest) and the shoe shop man, after we’d got as far as my telling him I was English he said “tu es anglais d’ou?” (where are you from). I had understood “tu es anglais doux” (you’re a softy) and I was quite scared he wanted to fight me and got out of there ASAP!That kind of anecdote gets a really good reception in a language class, as there are invariably a bunch of people just shitting their pants in there feeling like they are the only folks on earth with no confidence speaking in another language. It’s a relief to discover that they’re not alone.

And so I discover it’s useful to talk about feeling a drea of having to go out and talk to people in a networking kind of way.

Recently I find myself as a visiting lecturer and sometimes guest lecturer at a couple of universities. I teach at Foundation Degree level and have spoken at BA and MA levels. Sure, there are varying levels of competence (but not as marked as you might expect). And (as you may well expect) there are varying levels of confidence among the cohorts. Some synthetically cocky and others quietly brilliant, and everything in between.

Common across all the levels however, is a real need for a network. Almost all of those I have come into contact with want to be introduced to someone. Some don’t realise it. But not many. Some – feeling like they’ve been introduced – are confident to come and speak and to ask after I’ve done a talk. I get emails after these guest events asking for work. Sometimes they don’t think to send a CV. Sometimes they’re just chatting. It’s good to know someone who works in music. And sometimes maybe I can help a bit.

I hate saying some things can’t be learned but I think networking is close to that. That’s because you already know how to do it, and you can totally get better at it cos it’s actually fun. I think *everyone* has to take a deep breath sometimes and walk into a room, knowing that it’s a bit daunting, and just go ahead and talk to some folks. If you fuck it up that’s ok too. Just go home and go back the next time.

I found this blog here by Marsha Shandur who has had a pretty decent career in music (understatement!) and talks about networking in a very exciting, interesting and cool way. She reckons she was once a shy and shrinking violet. It’s hard to believe when you see her vids and talks. She offers TRAINING in this shit. But just reading her stuff is really useful anyhow.

It’s always nice to sit in and cocoon oneself away from everyone and everything (right now it’s brill cos the weather is terrible and I can hear the rain) but it can get a bit of an overprotection from stuff you needn’t have been afraid of in the first place. Get out and about and say hi to a few folks. (he said, almost as if to himself).

 


It’s Amazing – notes

I was on this show today – listen in while reading this perhaps!?
It’s pretty tough to keep up when doing radio and so I thought I’d do a little blog to explain better what I thought about the songs.

The Joanna Gruesome song was brilliant. I only say I don’t like the name cos I think it’s a joke name, and it’s totally not a joke band. They WON too, which was cool!

Joanna Gruesome

Joanna Gruesome

I’ve done a bunch of listening to them on the various webs and they’re aces. Proper decent noisy indie stuff. I hope to see them live very soon so I do.

Goodbye Chanel – I like this name less actually. But the song is something I have started to like. It’s like Paul said on the show though, perhaps something which should have happened a few years ago in New York.

Parks Squares and Alleys – I want to qualify that I’m totally aware of how a silly linguistic couplet can very well be dead popular and be seen as some kind of simple genius – see “around the world” “the rhythm is gonna getcha” etc… I think it’d be fun to hear this in Russian still, with perhaps having the chorus kept in English – so as to help him keep the interest over here. English speakers are generally lazy about another language in music and film, but not me.

Banks – Aside from the slow build it’s not the kind of stuff I’d go for. Blockbuster film music is a comment I stand by.  I’d like to hear it with no vocals!

Ski Lodge – like Ducktails who I saw the other night, these are a US band making UK sounding music (to them) and it’s great. Loads of excellent references in there which I like and can’t put my finger on right now…

Ry-X has got me a bit moody. I had said on the show that it came close to my vote but I had meant Ski Lodge… or whatever I meant it wan’t this. I just don’t trust it! I trust it less, having taken a look at the video on the website. Someone said between Sigur Ros and Bon Iver. Well that’s a pretty tight gap these days… and I reckon it’s a very LA version of those two.

It reminds me of when someone really recommended Woodkid to me a while back and I was quite excited to listen. It’s totally stylised and self conscious and not a hair out of place. Like a Blue Man Group version of the above. The thing which makes me moody is that it seems to be making an attempt at a reality, an earthy atmospheric reality and it’s as synthetic as you can get. This is what it feels like to me right now.

Rue Royale’s song is a very good one, and I’ll be going to see them on 10 Sept. So should you! If I have a complaint here it might have been that they DID fall into the rut that everyone making this new folky stuff but this track had more, and I hope they’re able to play a bit more often with a band to thicken out the sound.

 

 

 


Arty Business Futures, Volunteers, and Perceptions of Success…

I have recently been taking my own advice and seeking to make money less from the business I run, in order to help it grow. It’s something I advise new acts I work with to do – get jobs, look for other revenue streams, pay bills, make money. Music is a very romantic game, and it’s tempting to throw everything behind your dream. I do understand this attitude and love the success stories but these are few and far between and I prefer a more pragmatic approach. There’s one “success” story here which is my point.

I love Sir Ken Robinson and his messages (one being that we can and should find what we love doing and do that), but I also love how this piece from The Onion is not so much funny, as pretty sound advice (OK it’s very funny but there’s decent enough advice in there too!).

I went to What Next‘s biggest event in London so far this Monday and came away pretty fired up and excited about a movement which could yet be a model for the way an arts council looks in this country in the future. It seemed less like something being led by a shadowy elite, and more like something which was growing organically. It was nice to feel like I had an open line with some of the finest arts organisations and leaders in the UK.

One of the most striking presentations was from a chap from Voluntary Arts. He made the point about how there are thousands of people who make art and form part of groups on a purely amateur basis and we had a chance briefly to discuss this afterwards. It reminded me of a book I own but have only half read – The Hidden Musicians, a study of folks who just make music for fun, and fulfil all their ambitions in so doing (ie not looking to “make it” – whatever that means). We are preoccupied by employment status in music and the arts (society as a whole?), and somewhat obsessed by notions of full and proper recompense for our/an artists work. What IS success?

I am very positive after listening to and taking part in the discussions of Monday last. I do feel however, that funding from government can dominate these discussions and as a result there is a danger that things become party political. I was heartened to hear more than once, a commitment to not leading this in the directions of party divisions. That said, I think there was still very much an expectation that MORE funding is necessary.

I want to suggest that arts leaders go to Maria Miller with a radical suggestion in response to her request that the Arts and Culture prove their economic value to her: Ask for LESS, and make up the difference by being smart, being entrepreneurial. Ask for a stronger bargaining position at the table next time round. I get the feeling that so many more successful business models were not at the event on Monday. From all sectors, tech as well as the arts, business, banking, insurance, property, whatever. Learning from other sectors is crucial. An awareness of how businesses can collaborate, and co-operate, using technology intelligently will serve the arts sector well. This was something of an exciting beginning I think, with the suggestion of an organic online “grid” particularly exciting, yet a good deal more needs to be done. I’ll be glad to help!


AC/DCification

A couple of things have made me write this today.

Kraftwerk and My Bloody Valentine are all over the place and am sure that’s all brilliant.

Erika Elizabeth wrote this //  John Rogers wrote this

Last week I was speaking to an oldest and best friend who I rarely see. He was telling me about how his young son can now sing along to selected Iron Maiden songs, and an AC/DC one (Run to the Hills, The Prisoner, the Trouper, and You Shook Me All Night Long if I remember correctly).

I joked that he had become a classic rock reading guitar head, teaching his kids all the rock stuff. He replied that all the shellac, slint, and even smog/palace have too much swearing for the youngun. I was pleased that this little fella would soon graduate to better stuff, as soon as his head could deal with the swears.

I’ve long berated some folks and heard others make reference to the fact that those magazines like classic rock exist, and in fact the Mojos and Uncuts of this world have your Jimis and your Vans and your Bons on the front, as a result of this failure to fully embrace the new, and only to trust the old. (I went to see the Rolling Stones too and enjoyed it very much. They did play I think TWO (count em) new songs.)

I haven’t listened to the MBV record nor did I go to see Kraftwerk at the Tate. I saw some of Kraftwerk on telly and it looked a bit daft actually. Sounded lovely. I’ll go and take a listen to my records later.

My point is that although our new generation might think being cool, by returning to the cool stuff by our OWN ageing heroes. But there is BETTER stuff being made by these NEW ARTISTS who in turn have been influenced by all the same folks as we were, and then even MORE.

We are actually wilfully BECOMING older and grumpier by indulging all this vintage stuff when we could be encouraging and supporting new stuff.


Festival Ghettos

I’m mindful of something Tanni Grey Thompson said on Newsnight a few weeks ago, in a discussion with Will Self, that athletes care little about the legacy of the games. It reminds me of a time when I became interested in the power of music (and the arts) to change lives, and to be able to see what it was I did as part of the wider arts community, rather than isolated little events for me and my peers.

Maybe this co-incided with a realisation that the music I made, and the music I loved, was hardly going to be filling any great stadium or festival any time soon. (for proof my finger’s not ENTIRELY off the pulse see Bloc Party, The National, Animal Collective, more). Perhaps it’s just a survival instinct kicking in, or more likely, the beauty of seeing something in the round.

The idea of festival ghettoisation first hit me a couple of years back when I had been invited to an (excellent) festival in France with a somewhat protectionist programming policy. All acts had to be French. This was in fact the first year that they’d allowed singing in English. This is typically French and quite funny if it’s possible to turn a blind eye to the connotations of having a policy like that. I had enjoyed the festival very much. Watching Malicorne a life highlight, plus Dominique A, countless others I forget their names. Phoenix were the headliners, and I saw Charlotte Gainsbourg too. I blogged about it here

Leafing through a magazine in the hotel foyer I saw countless ads for festivals in the different parts of France, some in Germany. Pavement was the main US headliner that summer. They were everywhere. And then there were the usual suspects all over everywhere. You can kinda guess who I mean. It wasn’t very exciting.

Last summer I went to Reading (and Leeds) for the first time in maybe ten years. Some folks were like “eeeewwww” and maintain that attitude. I thought it possible to see a bunch of bands I actually wouldn’t normally see, and maybe I didn’t like them all, but it was an excellent chance to see a bunch of stuff I knew by name but not in person. I remember seeing a gazillion people singing along to Pulp and thinking how this was a special and important event, especially for so many people who maybe go to one festival per year.

At one festival I worked at this summer, I got into a conversation with a couple of academics from a redbrick uni. I got asked what the target demographic was, and what importance it had. It’s just wealthy people isn’t it who can afford £150 or so to spend a weekend in a field watching other wealthy people and eat nice posh food right? There’s no great social experiment going on.

This summer, I worked at a couple of different festivals in London. Community, and Olympic in size and stature.

I had acts play at some of them, and they were very much for the people. Free, or dead cheap. It felt good to be doing something which wasn’t just self- ghetoisation and peer group ego boosting. Bands are in some ways responsible for the problem making the Beeline that they do to the honeypot. We all like to spend entire weekends, and more (they start Wed and finish Monday these days) in the company of our aspirational peer groups. It would do us all good to venture out of our comfort zones from time to time.


Cancer

Cancer’s all around me just now. Not just in my folks and my mates folks. It’s actually in my friends these days. It’s not just something I hear about happening to other people anymore. It’s probably because I’m now OLD. And so therefore are my mates and their wives and husbands and sisters OLD. The real OLD boy living downstairs, my nosey neighbour. He’s got it. A couple of years ago my dad had it. He had this blokey cancer: Prostate Cancer.

Prostate Man

Like a bloke he dealt with it by not really talking about it much and cracking on. This website here: http://prostatecanceruk.org/information can help blokes just keep quiet and crack on and give loads of info so they don’t need to talk about it much. The people do good work and we can support them by sponsoring MY sorry fat ass to do the Berlin Marathon on Sunday 30 Sept.

Please sponsor me here: https://www.justgiving.com/Howard-Monk

If you’re in Crouch End, the worlds actual EPICENTRE, tonight, Friday 21 Sept, you can come and listen to folks SING THREE SONGS about CANCER, and then give money to ME! Info here: http://www.facebook.com/events/468508836505031/

OK, it’ll not be all about the cancer, but it will be fun, and worthy, and good. So come down. PLEASE.

If not, then SPONSOR MY ASS!