Not in it for the Money: Getting Aggro

I was faced with a dilemma. Back in 2008, having written a couple of largely unread music reviews on my MySpace Blog, I started writing as a reviewer for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’. It came naturally: I’d written music reviews for a few local and regional papers and so on in the past. And so before long, I was cranking out a review a day on average, and sometimes more. Landing more reviewing slots for other websites alongside, I independently built up a substantial PR network over the next few years. While continuing to receive streams and CDs and all other gubbins for review from editors and various PRs, and moving up to an average of two reviews a day, I couldn’t help but feel I was holding back on occasion. That isn’t to say I wasn’t loving my work, and the various sites are all outstanding in their ways, commanding respect and a decent readership.

But the reviews I was holding back on were more journalistic, essay-like pieces which felt appropriate for some of the releases I was receiving, but posting the 450+ word pieces I wanted to write didn’t feel entirely right even on the sites I had free reign on.

For a long period of time, I deliberated running my own site, and laid claim to Aural Aggravation in 2013 with a view to launching my own site devoted to covering the niche bands I liked but felt warranted a more specialist review space over sites that covered everything. I had a sense of how the site should look, feel and navigate. I suppose you might say I’m a control freak: I’d argue against that, but sometimes feel the need to impose my creative ideas on the world – albeit usually only a very small corner of it.

It was listening to the new Philip Jeck album while simultaneously reading Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life that spurred me to write a very different kind of review. More contemplative, academic, even. And much longer – somewhere between a longform review and an essay, you might say. I immediately realised that this was the kind of review I wanted to write. Not always, but sometimes.

And so Aural Aggravation was born and the site went live – public – with a couple of album reviews, a single review courtesy of James Wells, and a couple of audio / video streams. Boom.

I’m not ditching W&H or S4M any stretch, and I’m most certainly continuing to work in my various fiction projects and build The Rage Monologues (more of which very soon). But I am branching out in the reviewing world.

Aural Aggravation won’t be for everyone. And I’m happy with that. It will never reach a huge audience, either. The aim isn’t to be a mainstream site, either in the music if covers or in the way it covers it. Both aspects of the site are purposefully niche, and the fact that reviewing difficult music in reviews that will take more than a minute and a half to read, and don’t even use any kind of rating system runs completely contra to everything that’s going on in the media right now, from the ‘net to the debased print version of the NME. And that is precisely why I’m doing it. There’s a gap in the market, so to speak. Small and specialist it may be, but it’s one that I’m looking to step into in some way – for the love, not the money.

Aural Aggravation Website: http://auralaggravation.com/

Aural Aggravation on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuralAggravation?fref=ts

Aural Aggravation on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AAAAggravation

Here Comes Success: How I Came to Terms with Being a Minor Cult Author

Success is all relative, but it’s the intangible pretty much everyone seems to aspire to. Hardly surprisingly, given that, at least in Western culture, we’re taught from a very early age that failure is the worst thing that can happen to a person, and really, it shouldn’t be considered an option.

The danger of this type of polarised thinking, of course, is that it fosters a fear of failure so great that many would rather not bother trying than face the consequences of failure. And what are those consequences, precisely? In some instances, where the venture requires capital, then there’s the risk of losing everything. Again, that’s based on a very capitalist definition of ‘everything’: even those who lose their homes and wind up with their careers in tatters and barely a penny to their name in the UK, US and many parts of mainland Europe still have more than those in many so-called Third World countries.

More often than not, the primary consequence of failure is disappointment and a loss of face. Is that such a big deal? Arguably, winding up somewhere safe and uninspiring, having taken no risks whatsoever, would be more disappointing than winding up in a similar place while reflecting ‘at least I tried’.

Writing is all about risks and potential rewards, and while it’s likely the popular consensus would be that you need to be Stephen King or JK Rowling, George RR Martin or EL James, or perhaps Karin Slaughter, Lee Child or Stieg Larsson to be considered successful, it generally helps for anyone involved in writing or any arts-based field, to have rather lower ambitions. You’re less likely to have your dreams crushed and therefore be faced with agonising disappointment and the word ‘failure’ echoing through your mind at all hours. Or at least, so I’d like to think.

In my capacity of music critic, I’m more than pained by the way bands regurgitate the mantra ‘we make music for ourselves, and if anyone else likes it, it’s a bonus’, but at the same time, I’m conscious that when I write, I close out the notion of audience or readership, because those spectres hanging over my shoulder make me feel self-conscious and ultimately lead to self-censorship. And ultimately, my work is more about artistic success than commercial success. And given the sales figures for my books to date, this is perhaps as well.

Nevertheless, I’ve built, over time, a small but seemingly devoted and appreciative readership. Expanding it isn’t easy, though: whereas with music, the immediacy of hearing a song played live is enough to influence a CD sale at the merch stall, convincing someone to commit to buying and reading a book is much harder.

Bands always sing about success as defined by big tour busses, big riders, cruising in limos, playing stadiums and being mobbed by groupies. Truth is, I know I would hate that. Not that it’s really an issue: none of it’s going to happen.

I started out on the spoken word circuit because I thought it may help sell books, but keeping an audience’s attention while slogging through a story at an open mic poetry night isn’t easy, and nor is finding a story that sits comfortably in a five-to-ten-minute time slot.

Hence, in some part, the evolution of the Rage Monologues. My prose fiction has often detoured into rant sections, and those pieces had proven to be fairly successful in a live setting, although the fact my fiction isn’t really plot or character based does make it difficult to perform in an accessible way.

So I ditched the narrative and cut to the rants. Initially I incorporated these early pieces into my set, and while divisive – to the extent that people would leave the room – people seemed to find them, oddly compelling. So I wrote more, until I had enough to fill a set. And then enough to pick a set from a fairly substantial catalogue. I decided that using spoken word performances to sell books was rather obvious and smacked of struggling commercialism. So I decided to pursue the idea of making art for the moment, visceral performance art with no product.

Weirdly, while there are still people who find my performances uncomfortable, overall, the reception has been extremely positive. And people have actually been asking for print books, hence a limited, numbered ‘tour edition’ of the Rage Monologues, available only at performances. I’ve sold more of these in three or four performances than I’ve sold works in print in total through the twenty or more performances I’ve done in the preceding year and a half.

So what have I learned? First and foremost, it seems people who attend spoken word nights like poetry, aren’t too fussed about prose or narrative, but many of them find a man screaming his lungs out with expletive-laden tirades most compelling. Clearly, people appreciate the sentiments, and I’m tapping into some undercurrent of anger. And perhaps, like the rush of seeing a band play a great live show enthuses people to buy CDs, so my performances – which border on public breakdowns – are infectious enough to achieve the same kind of response.

Weirdly, whereas people used to avoid me after reading excerpts from my novels, seemingly thinking me a bit strange, I’m often rushed by people wanting to talk to me after completely spilling my guts on stage. By coming across as more of a psychopath, it seems I’m actually more approachable.

Does this mean I’m suddenly successful? Hardly. But it does mean that by ditching the established model of touring to sell product and instead focusing on the immediate experience, I’m achieving success of a different kind. It’s no longer about shifting units, it’s about having an impact and reaching and audience.

 

 

Meanwhile, I might have expected more footage of my performances to have started cropping up on-line, but no. However, rather than be disappointed, I like the fact that my readings remain a largely unknown quantity, clandestine – you actually have to turn up to experience it. For me, this is much more rewarding than the knowledge my work is drifting around in the mainstream and received passively, without response. A small but enthusiastic crowd who actually appreciate the work for what it is – at least from an artistic, creative perspective – infinitely preferable to being big-bucks wallpaper and mental chewing gum. It may not be everyone’s idea of success, but I’ll take it.

Me and My Generic Features

So, walking through town around 1pm, a large woman probably in her 50s or early 60s caught my attention. She was looking in my direction, waving excitedly, a huge grin on her face, shouting, “Paul! Hey, Paul!” The street was busy, so I reasonably assumed Paul was somewhere behind me, and carried on walking, thinking little of this. Similarly, I paid no mind to her as she crossed the road toward me, still waving and calling, so consequently visibly jumped when she appeared around a foot away from me saying, “Hey Paul!” …before trailing off and explaining that I’m ‘’the spitting image” of her friend, Paul.

It’s an easy mistake to make. I do have an extremely generic face, and the hat and tinted eyewear make me even less unique. I mean, I’m practically interchangeable with half the world’s population, as the street heckle I received from one bozo with the shout of “Trevor Nelson!” only last week demonstrates….

A Night off with Viewer, Muttley Crew, The Wharf Street Galaxy Band, and Sherbert Flies at The Fleeting Arms, York, 15th May 2015

I spend a significant amount of time writing about music. So much so that recently, my literary work has taken very much a back-seat position on account of my reviewing work. What can I say? I’m drowning in CDs, downloads and streams, and I hate turning things down, especially free gigs.

Tonight was about taking a night off. I could use one. Recently, I’ve been working beyond fatigue. But sleep’s for wimps and eating’s cheating and who needs drugs when you’ve got sleep deprivation? Anyway. Not only am I a huge fan of Viewer, but I’ve also known front man AB Johnson, who I was proud to feature in the last Clinical, Brutal anthology I edited, for some 21 years now. The fact they were set to play alongside a cracking collection of artists I also know and admire in varying capacities, at a pay-what-you like event at a venue I’ve been meaning to check out for a while made it a night I knew I really ought not to miss.

And yes, about the venue: The Fleeting Arms, as the name suggests, is a pop-up pub, a venture whereby a collective have taken on a former venue on a short-term lease with a view to making it available for all things arts and more. It epitomises boho chic, not out of some hipster fetish for retro and artisan, but out of necessity, and the assorted freecycle furniture, coupled with the various old-school consoles situated in the bar (MarioKart on the N64, anyone?) is integral to the easy-going, community spirit of the place. It feels welcoming on arrival, and the fact it isn’t Wetherspoons or in any way designer and more resembles someone’s living room is perhaps the reason why. It’s also pretty busy by the time I arrive shortly after 8pm, just as Sherbert Flies launch into their lively set.

If writing about their ‘slacker’ style and suggesting they’re heavily influenced by Pavement smacks of lazy journalism, so be it. I was supposed to be taking a night off after all. But their casual demeanour (at one point singer Elliot Barker announced that they’d probably be releasing a track as a single tomorrow, adding, “If anyone wants to hear it, I’ve got it on my iPhone”) and wonky riffage has a definite charm, and made for a thoroughly enjoyable set.

The Wharf Street Galaxy Band are something of a supergroup, comprising members of Neuschlafen / Orlando Ferguson and Legion of Swine / Inhuman Resources. Donning some bad shirts and wielding an array of shakers, wooden blocks and a cowbell they crank out some repetitive grooves and shards of dissonant guitar noise by way of a backdrop to Dave Proctor’s off-kilter ramblings about puffins and selfie sticks. I could write at length about their semi-improvised avant-garde performance style or highlight the all-to-obvious similarities to The Fall circa 1979, but instead, the 7-song setlist that found its way into my hands after the set is likely to be just as illuminating and more amusing. It also reads like a piece of abstract poetry in itself: ‘Shoreditch / Puffins / We Can Help / Sergio / Walking / Selfie / Bellends’.

While I’ve seen Muttley solo a few times, this is only the first or second time I’ve seen the full Muttley Crew lineup, and it’s immediately clear that they’re a band who understand that less is more. The songs are built around simple, repetitive three-chord repetitions, at which they bludgeon away for six, seven, eight minutes, building layers of sound into hypnotic swirls overlayed with squalling noise. But it’s all about the rhythm section: bass and drums are impressively tight and forge an instinctive groove, and their drummer is my new hero. You want motoric, mechanised and metronomic? You got it. There’s nothing flamboyant or fancy about his style, no big fills or flourishes. Instead, he plays like a machine, plugging away at a relentless rhythm and holding the maelstrom of guitars together perfectly.

Viewer are all about a different kind of groove: thumping techno provides the backdrop to Johnson’s sneering monotone in which he couches acerbic socio-political comment. With the visuals playing up, Tim Wright is rather more active on stage than usual, although you couldn’t go so far as to describe him as twitchy. On this outing, the songs seem to have been tweaked, giving a more stripped back and direct sound that inches toward Factory Floor territory at times. The last track of their set, which I didn’t catch the name of, was dark and pounding, and accompanied by grainy images of riots and Anonymous masks, hinting more toward the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Test Department. Like the other acts on the bill, they sounded great, and Johnson’s reversible bodywarmer is something special.

 

Viewer

Viewer: a groove sensation

 

There’s a lot to be said for simple rectangular spaces when it comes to sound, and in keeping with the Fleeting Arms ethos, this event was very much about people coming together and doing stuff, no budget, no agenda other than being creative and getting it out there.

The fact there were so many people present I knew only made it all the better on a personal level, but there’s a broader resonance to emerge from this microcosmic experience. It shows that we don’t need to smash capitalism, and while Cameron’s post-Thatcher is capitalism seems intent on crushing the country’s collective spirit (not to mention its pub trade and heritage), after the music industry as we knew it already succeeded in facilitating its own demise, there are people doing what they do for the right reasons, and there are people who appreciate it and will happily support it. It’s not about money. It’s about art, and community. This is exactly what we need right now.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Rage Monologue #4 – News

The Rage Monologues was devised as a spoken-word project built around an in-progress and expanding collection of pieces that would evolve over time, developed and adapted to suit different audiences and settings and, where necessary or appropriate, tweaked to be up-to-the-minute current. It was never about producing a fixed body of published work. However, sometimes events overtake plans, and this piece I began performing a few months ago is probably more relevant now than it ever will be again, so I’ve decided to share  it with the world as it’s currently written.

 

News

 

It still seems to be a fact little acknowledged outside certain domains – media studies, sociology and the world of Charlie Brooker, for example – that the news media is biased. It seems to be even less understood how the mainstream media – the big providers, like the BBC and Sky – is highly selective as to what it covers. The post-election ‘Fuck The Tories’ protests, like Occupy’s pro-democracy protests over in Parliament Square before them, were largely ignored in favour of, well, everything. The revolution clearly won’t be televised. It will be suppressed, ignored out of history until it ceases to exist. How do you fight back against the international media?

If the mainstream news media were to be believed, things are once again quiet in Gaza, and the Ukraine situation is altogether more settled. There is peace. There is calm, but we can’t get too comfortable because the terror threat is as high as it’s been since 9/11. It’s all a strategy. Keep the people on edge. Keep them compliant.

All of the new legislation is for our safety, about preventing terrorism. It’s not about control. Oh no. Only a conspiracy theorist would suggest that. Keep the public’s focus on the things that keep them scared. Keep them indignant. And keep them distracted with entertainment. Give them the news they want. But wait.

Sports news is not news. It’s news about sport.

Celebrity gossip is not news. It’s gossip about celebrities.

So you’re wondering what’s happening in Syria while shitting yourself silly over ebola. The next time you’re reading OK! Magazine, Heat Magazine, People magazine, Grazia, The Mail, The Sun, The Mirror, Metro or any other wretched tabloid arsewipe, take a moment to think and consider this:

X-Factor is not news.

Strictly is not news.

The Voice is not news.

The Beckhams are not news.

Harry Potter is not news.

Big Brother is not news.

Celebrity Big Brother is not news. Most of the contestants aren’t even celebrities.

Dr Who is not news.

The weather is not news.

I’m a former D-List Celebrity, Get me Out of Here! is not news.

Britain’s Got Talent is not news. And if anything, this programme proves the precise opposite of what the title states.

Simon Cowell is not news.

Rhianna’s pierced nipples are not news.

Katie Price is not news.

Made in Chelsea is not news.

The Only Way is Essex is not news.

Joey Essex is not news. He’s just an idiot who can’t tell the time.

The love life of some slapper off The Only Way is Essex or some cretin off Made in Chelsea is not news.

Footballers’ wives – the TV show or actual footballers’ wives – do not constitute news.

Suzannah Reid’s short skirt is not news.

Diet fads are not news.

A nip-slip or so-called wardrobe malfunction is not news.

Frankie Boyle saying something offensively un-PC is not news.

Bruce Jenner’s sex change is not news: give the guy some peace.

Justin Bieber is not news.

Miley Cyrus is not news.

Myleene Klass is not news.

Robert Pattinson is not news.

Daniel Radcliffe is not news.

Kristen Stewart is not news, affair or no affair.

Emma Watson’s hair is not news.

Somebody parking badly is not news.

How some comedian deals with a heckler or someone whose phone goes off during their performance is not news.

Eastenders / Emmerdale / Hollyoaks actors and actresses scrapping outside restaurants is not news.

Naomi Campbell being a bitch is not news.

Kate Moss sunbathing topless / on coke / being a bitch is not news.

Katy Perry and Russell Brand are not news. Never were.

Bickering celebrities regardless of their status is not news.

Pete Doherty on / off / on / off / on drugs is not news.

That little tosser with the bouffant hair from One Direction: whoever he’s dating / shagged is not news. Nothing he does is news.

Kim Kardashian’s oiled buttocks are not news.

Kate Middleton’s disappointing breasts are not news.

The opinions of the masses are not news.

Facebook comments are not news.

Katie Hopkins is not news.

Madonna posing topless again in her 50s or falling off a step is not news. Madonna is yesterday’s news. Let’s be honest. More like yesterday’s news 20 years ago.

My Big Fat cunting Gypsy Wedding is not news.

Whatever bigoted bollocks spills from the mouth of Jeremy Clarkson is not fucking news.

‘Celebrities’ bickering on Twitter is not news.

What people have said on Twitter in response something somebody people follow on Twitter said is not news.

Miley fucking Cyrus, I repeat, is not news.

Sleazy, corrupt MPs are not news. Apart from when they’re murderous paedophiles, in which case you won’t hear about it, so it’s still not news.

 

Fuckthetories

This is not news. Nothing to see here, people. Move along, now, and fast, or you’ll feel the strong arm of the law hefting a baton at you. Pic: Mail Online.

 

Essex

Now this, this is news. Look at his lovely white teeth and tended eyebrows. What a wholesome, sincere lad. No, it’ doesn’t matter that he’s a fuckwit, he’s the salt of the earth. He’s got a new haircut, too. Don’t you feel much calmer and happier knowing about that rather than worrying about those ultra-left brutes who are trying to bring anarchy to the city’s street with their offensive placards and dungarees?

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

Election Aftermath

In the immediate wake of the shock election result on Friday, there has, predictably, been a tsunami of commentary and debate, and I’m largely inclined to steer clear of it, not because I’m apolitical, but because I’m no political commentator. However, as a writer, I am an observer of people and social interaction, and politics, and perhaps this election more than ever, has shown that politics does affect everyone, whether they like it or not.

As such, my observations that politics in Britain is extremely divisive and extremely personal on individual levels may seem banal, but are nevertheless particularly important.

I live and work in the York Central constituency, a red spot in an ocean of blue, and so it’s perhaps not surprising that only one of my colleagues has openly aligned himself with the Conservatives. I might describe this guy in his early as a hipster, but given his ever-changing appearance, it would be more accurate to describe him as a fashion victim, and to hear him qualify his support of the party by citing Cameron’s ability to speak well in public and how he’s well-presented and professional-looking and less ‘freakish’ than any of the other contenders for the position of Prime Minister correspond with the chameleon-like fashion victim’s focus on style over content.

Friday morning saw the hipster swagger into the office with a jaunty step, and before long he was crowing about the emerging results. When pressed as to why he was so happy, he held forth with confidence: “We’ve got the best economy in the world, and I want more of that. We’ve got safe jobs, look, well, relatively safe anyway, I’m doing alright, get to go on holiday, buy stuff, why would I want to vote another party in who are going to stuff it all up when things are going good? They got us out of the trouble Labour left us in, it’s all good. Keep on with it, I say.”

Which, of course, is pretty much what Cameron’s been saying. Only surely a gullible idiot would swallow the slippery schmoozer’s fabrications or buy the fact that the Labour government were alone responsible for what was a global financial meltdown

The irony here is that we work for a major financial company, and this hipster deals with complaints about how poorly investments have been performing. His job involves explaining to disappointed investors how volatile stock markets worldwide have meant returns haven’t been so great, how the recession led to commercial property values and rental returns slumping. And yet he really seems to believe – or happy to regurgitate arguments churned out by the slick Tory propaganda machine, fronted by that slick, smooth-talking propagandist representing them – that somehow, this was all the fault of the previous government.

None of this sat too well with the woman who sits a few desks away from this trend-influenced lippy bozo: a mother of two children under 11, her husband recently lost his job. A family man who’s not workshy and has been in the same job for some eight years, he’s vowed to take any job going to pay the bills, but has so far been rejected by a cleaning company on the grounds that he’s male, and is being kept in suspense – three weeks and counting – over whether or not he’ll be entitled to any benefits. It doesn’t feel like the world’s best economy to her, it doesn’t feel like business is booming and that there are jobs readily available for those who are willing to take them.

Perhaps that’s because it’s all a myth. By making many benefits much harder to claim, meaning that many who would have previously received benefits illegible, and by making the process to stressful that people feel compelled to simply quit, or by declaring half the disabled populace fit for work and thus stripping them of benefits, the Conservatives have shown that it’s possible to slant the statistics and cut the welfare budget in one fell swoop. By farming out investigations into benefit claims to private, third-party companies (doubtless selected for their low-budget tenders rather than their efficiency and ability to operate fair and efficient systems of investigation, a process I’ve found myself on the wrong end of in recent months), they’re again able to cut costs and produce more favourable figures.

But people prefer to believe good news than bad. The fashion victim bozo has got it good: he’s young enough, doesn’t have any children and is in good health and a job that pays ok in relative terms. He’s also of the age to have parents who’ve done well out of the boom years, and probably bought their house for a tenth of its current value and retired at 55 on a final salary pension.

This microcosmic and extremely personal scene is emblematic of the contrasts between the haves and have nots are precisely the social divisions on which the election ran. The Conservative way, the espousal of laissez-faire capitalism and a privatisation is all about giving it all those who already have it, is great for big business and the wealthy.

Those at the lower end of the fiscal spectrum are hardly going to be leaping for joy at the prospect of the new government raising the threshold for inheritance tax to £1M, and when you’re looking at a family of four whose breadwinner has been tossed out of work because employers are downsizing and cutting costs to maximise profits (on which they’ll pay reduced tax under a Conservative government), it’s hard to see how raising the personal income tax threshold will help if they can’t claim any benefits (working tax credits and child tax credits for example require both parents to work at least 16 hours a week – and how is a parent supposed to apply for jobs and be available for interviews at limited to zero notice when they’re looking after a child?).

As the protests on the streets of London demonstrate, Britain is a nation divided, and a nation with an extremely flawed election process, one whereby a ‘majority’ government clearly does not represent the majority of voters (let alone those who didn’t vote, for whatever reason).

And yes, I am angry. I’m angry because I didn’t vote for this 9and let’s be clear, I most certainly did vote). And maybe I would still b angry even if we did have proportional representation: as much as I’m angry about the outcome of this election, I’m angry at the electorate. Because what the actual voting figures show is that we live in a country where half the population have empathy and a desire to support one another in times of need, to provide free healthcare and welfare, not just for the needy, but for all. Because they – we – understand that it’s i8mpossible to predict when you may need this support. Public transport, general public services, from libraries to road maintenance – benefit everyone, regardless of status.

We understand that immigration is a two-way street and that freedom of movement within the EU is a good thing, and appreciate that it’s the wealthy who usually retire to sunnier climes and accept that’s their prerogative. Because while they’re tanning themselves to leather in Spain having quite work at 55, the eastern Europeans who serve us excellent coffee and maintain the well-stocked, open-all-hours off-licence on the next street work had and provide excellent service. And pay their share of tax.

I’m angry that the selfish rule the country, not just in parliament, but in the street. And I’m angry that we live in a society where the idiots who don’t actually consider the ramifications of their selfish votes get to screw everyone else over. It’s the ‘I’m doing ok’ attitude that is precisely what seals I for the Tories: moreover, the attitude that as ‘I’m ding ok and I couldn’t care less about anyone else.’

And while the majority of the people I keep company with on social networking sites share my views (I chose my (virtual) friends carefully, this is exactly the spirit of the Facebook generation: the endless selfies, the snaps of your luxurious holiday, your plush house, pampered pooch and posh dinner, which say ‘my life is better than yours’ and shamelessly rub the noses of your friends in the shitness of their ordinary, poor and inferior existences.

Shame on you all. And I hope the beds provides by your private health plans are comfortable and that you enjoy long and prosperous retirements funded by your private pension plans and vast inheritances which also provide enough to pay off your childrens’ university debts, because otherwise we’ll have all endured this austerity agony for nothing.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk

It’s All About the Stats!

We live in an age obsessed by figures and statistics. The corporate, capitalist world of business has seeped into every corner of our lives and our achievements are all about quantity. You have a blog: how may hit does it get? You posted something on Facebook: how many likes and shares has it had? How many friends or followers have you got, how many retweets?

My brain is predisposed to counting pointless things, so this really does bring out the worst in me. So how am I doing? What have I been doing?

For me, April 2015 looked like this:

Music reviews written / published: 51

Books read: 4

Book reviews published: 1

Live concerts attended: 6

Hand-dryers photographed: 5

Rage Monologues written: 4

Rage monologues spoken word performances given: 0 (3 booked, all cancelled for various reasons, none of my doing)

Words added to novel-in-progress: 3,512

May 2015: must try harder.

Rage Monologue #9–Neighbours

So the plan had been that The Rage Monologues would be a purely live project during 2015, that I would build a set over the course of the year with material that was intended primarily for performance, before ultimately – perhaps – producing a pamphlet or chapbook collecting the pieces I had done in 2016.

The cancelation of a number of events, coupled with a simple lack of openings for a writer whose pitch is to stand in front of people and bawl obscenities in a way that will make them feel shit about their sad pathetic little lives (not an easy sell, believe me) compelled me to reconsider my strategy.

The number of monologues ready to go is expanding weekly. the number of places to perform them seems to be reducing at a similar rate. So as a taster, here’s a monologue I am yet to perform, due equally to a lack of opportunity and a lack of guts.

Enjoy. And of you’ve got a spoken word night in need of some live rage, get in touch.

 

 

Neighbours

Hey, you! Yeah, you! Can you hear me? Yeah, me, banging on your wall? I guess not, since you didn’t hear me banging on your front door or window earlier. It’s me! The guy next door! The quiet, friendly guy you sometimes nod to in the street, usually if we’re arriving or departing at the same time. Yeah, howdy, neighbour, nice to meet you. Only, I wish I never had. Because right now, your racket’s causing me considerable stress. Could you please just keep it down a bit? Please? Just a bit? I’m not even expecting you to stop, although that would be nice. But c’mon, have some consideration, would you?

Do I keep you awake? I doubt it? Does my racket mean you can’t hear your TV, your music, that you can’t hold a conversation over dinner? Are your walls and floors vibrating on account of anything I’m doing?

Listen, we all make noise. I play music, watch TV, do DIY. All the normal stuff. But I watch my volume and I watch the clock. I never vaccum clean after 9pm. You know why? Because I don’t want to disturb the old lady on the other side, and in truth, I don’t wan to disturb anyone. I keep myself to myself, you know? I’m not saying I’m a model neighbour, but all I’m asking is that you have some consideration, you know?

Do you hear me? Are you listening? Hey! Yeah, you! Motherfucker! Can you hear me? Will you please just shut the fuck up? I’m sane and I’m sober, but you’re driving me to a place I don’t wanna go! You hear? You hear? I’m telling you, you’d better listen up! Motherucker!

If I ever get round there you’ll regret you ever moved in with that fucking stereo and that fucking awful dance music. You’ll regret you were ever fucking born. I wanna smash that fucking stereo to smithereens. I’m guessing you don’t have any vinyl and probably don’t even have CDs, so I’m gonna have to smash your iPod or whatever the fuck else you’ve got, and your laptop, but not until I’ve deleted all of your fucking Spotify lists and ripped your fucking cable and phone lines out and stamped your router to bits.

But it’s not the equipment’s fault, is it? Venting my rage on inanimate objects is pointless isn’t it? A temporary solution. And complaining to your landlord or making your life hell to the point you’re evicted or move of your own accord, it doesn’t solve the problem. The problem that is you. That’s why I wanna cave your skull in with your fucking speakers and kick your broken body down the fucking stairs. Kick it out back and boot it around the yard for a bit, like that night when you and your fucking idiotic mates got pissed up and played football with various random objects like tin cans and milk cartons from your recycling box – after you’d lost your ball over another neighbours’ wall at 2am. Yeah, you’re such big tough guys, no fear of scrambling over to fetch it till the dog came after you. It’s jut a shame it didn’t get you and chew your fucking balls off, ‘cause as much as I’m sick of your shite music, I’m sick of your loud shagging at all hours too. No, I’m not envious: your half-witted girlfriend’s a fucking skank and what’s more, you disgust me and don’t deserve to get laid. And regardless, who doesn’t hate the sounds of someone else’s sex?

And so, I want you to be silenced. I want to do you damage. I want to break you. Demolish, annihilate you. And when I’m done I wanna fucking skin you. Sit your throat and fucking skin you.

I need to be clear. I don’t hate you. I just hate your behaviour. The way you stand at the front, and the the back of your house, smoking cigarettes with the smoke blowing in through my windows as you talk loudly with your housemates and your friends. I don’t actually mind your existence, and actually expect occasionally to hear sound, sneezing, coughing. I’m a reasonable kind of guy. But you don’t need to be slamming every door in the house every time you move between rooms. The fact you insist on cranking up your console gaming to such a volume I feel as if I’m in the room, yes, I hate that. I hate your coming home drunk and bawling all the way down the street at 4, 5, 6 am, then spending an hour yelling up and down the house, tramping up and down the stairs, banging and crashing against the walls.

I hate your mid-week parties that start at four in the afternoon and run for 12 hours straight. I hate your fucking shitty club music. That despicable, shitty club music. That endless, repetitive, dum-dum-dum-dum, the same fucking tempo for what feels like an eternity and more. Those endless fucking beats, that monotonous rhythm that drives into my brain at all hours, relentlessly, relentlessly, dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum…. die you bastard, die!

The Jinx

You often read that projects are or were ‘ill-fated’ and I’m starting to get that feeling about my latest project, ‘The Rage Monologues’.

I’d written a couple of pieces that seemed well-suited to spoken word nights, not because they were exactly accessible, but because they weren’t stories, but fiery rants that straddled poetry, prose and performance art. I read them at a few spoken word nights, and they were successful (at least by my standards), and so the concept of ‘The Rage Monologues’ was born.

In short, I devised to write a collection of pieces that were designed with performance in mind. I’d take them on the road, do as many spoken word and open mic nights as I could get to, and maybe when I had enough, end it all with a one-man show where I did maybe 40 minutes of ranting and publish the pieces as a pamphlet / chapbook.

Things started well enough, with a well-received slot at Speakers’ Corner at The Golden Ball in York, and an even better received turn at Platform Thirsk a week later. I decided it was time to build momentum and hit every night going, and with a slot secured at ThreeVerse at Nevermind in York, I delivered another successful performance with some new material at Speakers’ Corner.

Alas, the ThreeVerse slot was cancelled due to several of the other performers cancelling. I got my slot rescheduled, but the week before I was due to perform, ThreeVerse got pulled by the venue.

Then I got news that Spokes, a night I had performed a number of times, and probably the best spoken word night in York due to its curated nature, announced it would be calling it a day in June.

The Leeds events I had previously attended seems to have stalled, but keen to maintain some kind of momentum, I decided to try my luck at the open mic might at City’ Screen’s Basement. I was revved, but anxious – open mic nights are a major gamble, especially for a fringe performer like me.

I arrived ten minutes before doors – just as the poster stating that the night was cancelled due to the venue flooding went up (seemingly a problem with the drains).

After three successive attempts to perform have been foiled and two regular nights have called time, I can;t help but feel that I’m something of a spoken-word night jinx, destined not to bring The Rage Monologues project to fruition.

But I’m not done yet. And if I have to resort to bellowing on a street corner before I get beaten up or moved on by the police, so be it. But if you’ve got any spoken word slots going and want to give a platform to an angry man spouting stuff in a fashion that may captivate or clear the room, give me a shout.

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk

Record Store Day Rebellion!

I would always class myself as a record collector. I got my first 7” single aged 3, and grew up with vinyl. And while the ages of cassette, CD and MP3 have seen me adopt the new formats, I’ve always stuck with vinyl alongside them, for all the reasons any diehard vinyl fan will tell you they prefer vinyl. And I do prefer vinyl. But this year, for the first time in a long time, I passed on Record Store Day.

RSD has become quite divisive in recent years, with many complaining about the way greedy so-and-sos who don’t care about the music will buy up everything they can get their hands on and cash in by flogging it on eBay at insanely inflated prices. And people will pay the prices because they don’t want to miss out. It’s what collectors do.

And yes, I’ve done it myself, and been on both sides of the transaction: I’ve paid overinflated prices for releases out of desperation, and I’ve also bought items knowing they’ll be worth a packet in no time because the supply is nowhere near correspondent to the demand. Limited editions will always have that special appeal to collectors.

But people do have a choice, and this year, I opted to exercise my choice not to go and buy a stack of vinyl, despite very much wanting to.

It isn’t so much that RSD has been hijacked by greedy capitalists, and I’m not even entirely averse to queueing for stuff if I really want it. But I feel that RSD has lost some of its appeal, and moreover, sight of what it was all about in the first place.

As I understand it, RSD was about celebrating independent record stores. Sellers of vinyl. And s such, it was also a celebration of vinyl, the format, and what the format offers as a holistic musical experience. The medium is the message, in a way.

Most people queueing outside stores on RSD probably don’t frequent record stores on any other days of the year. Personally, I’d much rather celebrate record stores all year round, by dropping in and picking stuff up when the mood takes and finances allow. And for me, the record store experience is about the browsing, the mulling, and the milling. Charging in to buy stuff with a shopping list in hand and jostling for an item before it’s snatched from under your nose is not an enjoyable or even remotely pleasant shopping experience. Being pressured to grab goods – especially when you know the items have their pieces fixed high but not to the benefit of the retailer – really kills the buzz.

 

RSD queue

People in Leeds ‘Crash’ the RSD scene in 2014

But this year, above all, the releases themselves simply haven’t inspired me. It’s a perfectly personal thing, of course, and I expect that my working as a reviewer has only further jaundiced my outlook. The more bands I’m introduced to, and like, the less possible it is to obsess about owning every release by every band on every format. In my teens and early 20s, I would purchase single releases on 7”, 12”, Cassette, CD and whatever numbered / coloured / poster sleeve limited editions were going. Now… I’d rather buy five releases by five different artists, rather than the same release by one artist five times. In short, I’m still a collector, but not a completist.

And while I’m by no means averse to going out and paying for a physical copy of an album I’ve been given in digital format ahead of release to review, can I really justify doing so in the name of Record Store Day? Again, the frenzy that RSD has become pressures the decision to be made on the spot or even in advance.

This year’s list of releases features a bewildering number of reissues. I have no problem with reissues per se, but I’m not about to purchase yet another copy of something I already have on original black vinyl and CD with bonus tracks just because it’s on red vinyl, or a picture disc. I just can’t get excited about queueing up for ages to fork out £20 for an album I already have, and if I don’t already own it, chances are I could pick up a second hand copy of the original for the same price or less.

The same applies tenfold for singles lifted from albums that have been out for donkey’s years. And similarly, can I really justify parting with £6 for a limited 7” of a track I already have on album because it has an exclusive B-side? At any other time, a band could release a single in a run of, say, 500, and it would still be available a month later. Of course, it’s great for labels to be able to put something about and recoup their costs much more quickly, but it seems absurd that because a record is released on a certain say, it’s going to sell out before lunchtime.

Clearly, I can’t stop the madness, and RSD still does a great job of raising awareness of record stores and vinyl, and I still applaud that. But it’s because I so love vinyl and the whole record store experience that I jumped the RSD ship this year. I’ve still got another 364 days of the year to show my appreciation and support record stores by buying from them in more sane and sedate circumstances.

 

 

 

And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk.