Posts from December 25th, 2013

Collected Treasures of 2013

December 25, 2013

As the year draws to an end I am putting together my own personal ‘Best of’ 2013. Like a lot of people I know, I tend to dig back in time to discover new  things and find inspiration rather than follow current trends. So my list is really more a collection of things (not at all specific to 2013) that came into my world this year and made it a better place to inhabit. If there is anything here that you are not already hip to, maybe 2014 is the time you should get to it …

Music: The Smashing Pumpkins Gish

1GishHighResI fell in love with The Smashing Pumpkins when I was thirteen and first “borrowed” my older brother’s copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. I was sixteen when Siamese Dream took hold of me, but somehow managed to make it to twenty-four without ever having owned Gish. I corrected this in January when a friend in San Francisco played me “Rhinoceros.” It was the first time I had heard it, and quickly realised that I needed to do my homework. When you do not have the reference points of living through an era and listen to music from before your generation, the gaping holes in your knowledge that occur are quite impressive. Gish is The Smashing Pumpkins’ first album from 1991, and eventually went platinum. I think it will now always remind me of stolen time in San Francisco earlier this year, and of waiting around making notes in sleepy airport lounges.


Film: Andy Warhol’s San Diego Surf


I was in New York for a few days at the end of January, and while spending a chilly Sunday afternoon exploring the Museum of Modern Art, I managed to score a free ticket to a screening of Andy Warhol’s San Diego Surf that evening. Directed by both Warhol and Paul Morrissey, San Diego Surf was filmed in La Jolla, California in May 1968, but was only completed in 1996 and recently restored. The story centres around a couple with a fetish for young surfers, and the warped humour is brilliantly carried by the acting. I enjoyed the unexpected movie a whole lot, but must admit that most of the audience seemed to leave slightly bewildered…


Music: Mulatu Astatke “Tezeta”

A jazz-inclined friend of mine introduced me to this song back in February. I find the warm sounds and lilting melodies so comforting and inviting. For me much of Astatke is perfect night-time music, suiting the ambiance of dimmed light, candles, and late-night writing. “Tezeta” however particularly reminds me of a moment in 2013 when I had just returned from Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and in a haze of beads, bourbon, and blues, was trying to find some direction and my own little feet.


Music: The Style Council “You’re The Best Thing” 

This Spring I moved into a room in North-East London and stayed there for a few months. During this little period I listened to a lot of Style Council. I remember I heard “You’re The Best Thing” on the radio and then coincidentally found the single on 45″ the next day when rummaging for records on Brick Lane. It is a very special song indeed.


Music: Jonathan Wilson Gentle Spirit

Jonathan_Wilson-Gentle_Spirit-FrontalIn July I met Jonathan Wilson and his band in a small African bar in Pigalle, Paris. I was due to fly back to London the next day, but decided to stay an extra night when they invited me to their show the following evening. I had never heard their music at that point, but felt such a strong feeling that I should go. Maybe it was intuition, maybe it was rum, but it was certainly one of the best decisions I have ever made. I remember looking down to the stage from the upstairs balcony, glass of vin blanc in hand as the music twisted the colours of my world like a kaleidoscope. Somehow it felt as though I already knew the songs, even though it was my first time hearing them. Later in July I flew out to California for a few months, and Jonathan’s album Gentle Spirit became the soundtrack to many Amtrak rides up and down the coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles.


Film: Wim Wender’s Paris, Texas


In September I was driving out to Topanga Canyon with a true cinefile friend when we spotted Harry Dean Stanton stood outside of the Nuart Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard. In a state of disbelief and dizzying excitement we discussed the incredibly unique career of Harry Dean all the way to the Ocean, and I was prompted to finally watch a film that had long been on my list: Paris, Texas. I think it is possibly the most beautiful film ever made.

 Music: Jeff Buckley Sketches (For My Sweetheart the Drunk)

jeffWhen I was a teenager I used to receive sporadic mixtapes in the mail from my older brother while he was at university, and I was sixteen when he sent me one from his year at San Francisco State. I remember it opened with Phantom Planet’s “California,” contained Johnny Cash and Joseph Arthur songs, and had Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” at track fifteen.  After this little introduction I sought out Grace and became a devout fan of the musical saint. There is something truly magical about the album, as you feel the same warmth, tenderness, and intensity each time you listen to it. In recent years I have dug around into the slightly darker and more adult-feeling ouevre of Jeff’s father, Tim Buckley, but realised this Autumn that an unfinished version of what was to be Jeff’s second album was released in 1998. Sketches (For My Sweetheart the Drunk) is an incredible collection, with songs such as “Witches Rave” and “Yard of Blonde Girls” showing a grungier side to Jeff’s sound. You can’t help but wonder what it may have sounded like had Jeff not drowned so tragically in May 1997. 


Who knows what cultural delights 2014 has in store …

French Kiss

December 19, 2013

“I wanted to travel the world and have adventures.”

Bob Welch (1945-2012)


After reading several end-of-year lists I began thinking of all the records that have shaped my past year, marking out the moments and memories of 2013 through the music that most resonated with feelings and impulses at the time.

One notably vivid and transformational discovery for me this year has been a love affair with former-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch. It all began when I heard Jonathan Wilson cover his song “Angel” at Cafe de la Danse in Paris at the beginning of July. Digging into his story, sound, personal style, and pervasive spirit has provided me with manifold inspiration.

Though born and raised in Beverley Hills, California Bob Welch himself spent a considerable amount of time in Paris, forming bands and supposedly skipping classes he was enrolled for at the Sorbonne to hang out at bohemian hotspot le Deux Magots cafe. After various musical projects failed to take off for Welch, he joined a post-Green-Spencer/ pre-Buckingham-Nicks Fleetwood Mac in 1971 and stayed with them until ’74. In this time he contributed to their albums Future Games, Bare Trees, Penguin, Mystery to Me, and Heroes Are Hard to Find, penning stellar songs such as “Future Games” and “Hypnotised.” His time with the band is widely described as a ‘transitional’ period, and as a result Welch seems to be a slightly forgotten part of Fleetwood Mac’s history. Though this suggests a possible lack of recognition for Welch, it also oddly suits the curious musician.There is something mysterious and intriguing about the skinny 6ft 6″ Californian with natural style, a smooth, easy voice and devotion to music.

From 1975-76 Welch was a part of rock group Paris, a super trio consisting of him, Nazz drummer Thom Mooney, and former Jethro Tull member Glenn Cornick. Paris released atmospheric concept albums Paris and Big Towne, 2061 in 1976, and though the former fared pretty well, the latter nearly bankrupted Welch. In 1977 however he achieved solo success with the beautiful French Kiss, which eventually went platinum. There is much to love about the album, from the 70s rock perfection of songs like “Ebony Eyes” and “Hot Love, Cold World,” to the deliciously sordid LP cover art.

The influence of Welch’s time in Paris seems clear to me in the aesthetic feel of his solo work, with the white pants and well-dressed ladies returning for the cover of 1979′s Three Hearts. The red and black silks and chiffon, combined with full make-up, exposed skin, and sexed-up nonchalance conjure up an alluring sense of glamour and Bohemia, creating a desire to dress up in tinted shades, neck scarves, and Yves Saint Laurent. Possibly keeping it all on to make love under the high ceiling of a Haussmann style apartment in Pigalle.

bobwelch three hearts

Welch’s combination of French style and West Coast sound are irresistible to me, and I admire his adventurous spirit as much as his ability to seemingly pour everything into his music. The success of his solo career dwindled into the early 80s however, and it was only after pulling through a period of drug addiction that he met Wendy Armistead, whom he married in 1985. His career was one of dramatic highs and lows, executed with the flair and earnest intentions of an original.

I feel his tragic death in June 2012 even holds a certain dignity. After undergoing spinal surgery Welch was told that he would not recover, and, chose to end his life rather than slowly deteriorate and have his final days full of physical pain. A life that began in Los Angeles in 1945 and was full of travel, music, and adventure, eventually ended in Nashville with a gunshot wound to the chest.

He left behind a long love-letter to his wife as well as a body of music to touch the heart and soul of listeners. I find his songs effortlessly shift from lust and longing to melancholy and yearning in riffs of rock and roll attitude. A beautiful man and one of my best discoveries of 2013.

Here is a recording of him playing my personal favourite “Angel” with Fleetwood Mac in 1974 at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California.

Rest in peace, Bob Welch.

Frybros Photography

December 18, 2013

I first met Matt Fry one balmy L.A. afternoon in August 2012 when interviewing Roxane Mesquida for Dazed & Confused Magazine at the house of music producer Michael Ross.

We hit it off and I ended up modelling for him myself that September. We shot this series at the break of morning, and, due to a very strict no-visitors rule, we had to craftily sneak Matt into the run-down motel that I was staying at in Hollywood at the time.

Matt’s work and his ability to capture the spirit of his subjects is truly remarkable, and I feel so honoured that have had the pleasure of working with him.

Funnily enough, fate brought us back together that October when I was to interview Brooke Candy and Vally Girl and he was to take the pictures, again for Dazed & Confused.

You can see the full series of shots here.

Wax Poetics x Souls of Mischief Interview

December 15, 2013

SOMIn light of the twentieth anniversary of their flawless debut 93 Til Infinity, I interviewed West Coast hip-hop group Souls of Mischief for The Mavericks issue of Wax Poetics.

I first met Souls of Mischief at the Jazz Cafe in Camden back in 2010, and have had the pleasure of connecting with them several times since. Over the years I have visited the Hieroglyphics HQ in Oakland, California, seen many of their live shows in both London and San Francisco, and downed many more shots of Don Julio with the guys to boot. So, I am very excited that my first feature for the Wax Poetics print magazine will be with my Bay Area friends, Souls of Mischief.

The Mavericks issue also features Janelle Monae, Jody Watley, Todd Rungren, and Earl Sweatshirt. You can order the issue here.

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