Monday, 28 February 2011

The King's Speech.

Having watched The King's Speech I was surprised by how much it resonated with me on a (pretty painful) personal level. Bertie's speech impediment and his agonizing and heart-wrenching attempts at addressing massive audiences in spite of it brought back memories and sensations to me that had been carefully buried: of my difficulties when speaking in class at school. Such is my vanity, and the revisionist nature of my personality, that I guess I had almost erased those experiences from my memory and self-consciously constructed a new personality at university; for when watching the film (fittingly crowned itself at last night's Academy Awards) the sharp pangs of embarrassment, shame and insecurity (although so long-buried that I had to ask myself whether or not they were actually my own experiences or things that I had, over the intervening decade, picked up and woven into the fabric of my personality from my tortuous and myriad wanderings in fiction and narrative) came back to me in a very real way.

Although by nowhere near as chronic or debilitating as the titular King's, the difficulty I had in reading aloud out of books and making presentations in front of my peers was every bit as real and agonizing to me. Possibly my appreciation of the film is that much greater as I feel I can relate to it just a little more closely because of that. Certainly I felt keenly what Bertie felt as he made that long walk to the broadcasting device at the film's denouement, to deliver the speech that signaled the commencement of the war on Hitler's Germany, and that represents the film's climax.

I know what it's like to dread a particular moment like that, as I'm sure we all do in some sense. For me it was awaiting my turn to read a page out of a novel, or to make a presentation: the desks in our English class would often be arranged in a square, so forming a ring of pupils who would read a page at a time before passing onto the person next to them. I remember with pain (and shock now) the acute nervousness and distress that would afflict me as I would anxiously count down the number of people to my left or right before I'd be called on to read aloud. I remember, when there was one person remaining before myself, the way that my heartbeat would be racing, my chest would tighten and I had genuine difficulty breathing. When it came the time to speak up it was a chastening experience: I could feel everyone's eyes on me, such was my self-consciousness, and yet I knew that each of those sets of eyes belonged to really lovely people with whom I'd interact quite normally at any other time (or as normally as these horrible performances of mine when called upon to speak aloud, and which made me feel distinctly abnormal, permitted). At it's worst, often there would be long, embarrassing pauses as I struggled with my breathing and pounding heart and it was my acute, inescapable awareness of how I sounded to those around me that exacerbated the problem.

What makes that scene at the film's climax resonate so much with me, and for which the director deserves a lot of credit, is the hallucinatory, extra-sensory way in which that long walk is depicted. Whenever I have awaited moments that hold dread for me, incidental details are intensified, and my senses feel heightened: lights feel brighter, periphery sounds and noise more audible. Perhaps the thing I remember most vividly is looking out of classroom windows and seeing someone, perhaps a man out walking his dog, and wishing I could be that person, or to put it another way, be somewhere else. Whenever I'd look upon other people in these moments, see them laughing, interacting normally with one another, unburdened by the anxiety, stress and fear I was suffering, it always served another purpose as well: that of grounding me with reality. It reminded me that there was a world outside oblivious to my own private hell; my family were out there, my brother and sister probably in another part of that very school and free of the anxieties I was going through, and this was always a source of solace and comfort to me, and served in a way of contextualizing and compartmentalizing what it was I was experiencing, making me realize just how ridiculous and inconsequential were the worries and emotions going through my head, at least to others.

These sights and sounds and the distorted way in which they reach your senses at these times of panic and fear are perfectly captured in this scene. The engineers and technicians he passes as they go about their own jobs and lives, making their final checks on the equipment that will soon be broadcasting his speech to the entire British Empire, are the people who I would see out the window, people who I would devote inordinately more thought to at these times than I otherwise would in life when not afflicted by that crippling shyness. Every object you pass seems to possess something that you've missed in it before: the creak of a door represents an anchor that you so desperately want to cling onto; somebody's friendly encouragement and platitudes are conversations you want never to end.

These are all sensations that were brought back to me in a hurry when I watched The King's Speech, and in understanding something of what Bertie must have been going through, it made the ending truly moving for me.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


I had such a vivid dream last night - all evil galactic empires, fated lovers and dashing derring-do - that I woke up feeling that my brain had done for me subconsciously what it had failed to do consciously for the last year and fabricated a brilliant narrative (or glimpses of it) for my planned novel. When I came to pick up the proverbial pen today though I've found it difficult to communicate just what made my dream so thrilling to be a part of. The ingredients and emotions so tangible in the dream have scattered like birds to leave me with just the bare bones. Typical. But it's something to work with and here's hoping that prescient helping-hand might lead to something substantial.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Desert Island Discs

1. Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.

This would be the record I'd turn to for brightness and joy. Like the liquid, ephemeral surface of a lake this record has an organic quality to me that feels like it shifts and shimmers and changes every time I listen to it.

2. Donuts by J Dilla.

I chose this record for its restless, endless creativity; had Dilla the inclination to flesh them out, each one of these thirty or so gems could have been hip-hop hits. It's a thrilling and dizzying listen and one I never grow tired of.

3. Turn on the Bright Lights by Interpol.

Probably my most listened-to album of all time: it would not surprise me if I've listened to it from beginning to end over a hundred times. This is the record I would turn to in those dark moments, when I'm afflicted by paranoia and anxiety and feel that barbarous natives are coming to tie me up and whisk me off for a ritual sacrifice.

4. Forever by Wu-Tang Clan.

I had to have one straight-ahead hip-hop record and after deliberation, settled on this one. Beating out competition from Cuban Linx, Liquid Swords and Illmatic, this double-album means a double fix of the Wu: they're all here. Meth hasn't sounded as acerbic, hungry, relevant, since; classic hardcore Ghostface raps. It's Wu motherfucker... a' Wu-TANG motherfucker...

5. xx by The xx.

This is my starlight album. Narrowly edging out Doves' underrated Lost Souls, this is my album to doze off to around the campfire, dreaming of women and civilization through Oli and Romy's sensual sparring.

Friday, 31 December 2010

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


I had to drag my friend to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) on my recent visit to New York. He is a born artistic philistine and sceptic, and I saw it as my mission to enlighten him by convincing him that MoMA, as one of the world's more famed galleries, would boast some edifying and illuminating experiences that might broaden his closed, pragmatic mind. Let's just say I was wrong, he was right. Scepticism and ignorance won the day. Notwithstanding a glorious floor of Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Klimt, Seurat, Degas, Monet, to name a selection (give me Impressionists over this modern shit any day), the collection was largely tripe.

Idiot that I am, I decided to create a game that probably nearly got us ejected we were howling so much. Borrowing heavily from Steve Merchant's old Xfm game 'make Ricky Gervais laugh' (where he'd tell Rick to prepare himself and close his eyes before passing him something that he knew would elicit raucous laughter), I'd spot a particularly vacuous, vapid, inane nonentity masquerading as a piece of 'art' (of which there were hundreds) before my mate did, tell him to close his eyes, drag him in front of it and watch hilarity ensue. My personal favourite piece was (and this is the genius of the piece, I can describe it to you with no loss of effect. You don't even need to see it. What's art about that?) a piece of A3 paper where two opposite corners had been folded over and outlined with a pencil, before being folded back. That's it.

So filled with a burning desire to be at once subversive and satirical, as is our wont, we started taking photos of each other scrutinising and meditating intently over such objects as light switches, fire blankets and suchlike, as if to invest and ascribe inordinate meaning to them. We thought we were being hilarious. We probably looked like a pair of twats.

Difference of Opinion.

On my recent visit to NYC to visit my best mate, a football discussion, as they have a tendency to, got a little bit heated over a few beers. We were in trendy Williamsburg, home of NYC's answer to the 'Shoreditch twat,' drinking our beer out of jam-jars (seriously). It was about as far from chuggin' Carling's in Catford as you can get, but this just goes to show that distance and dislocation are no obstacle for an inebriated Englishman when he is determined to convey his personal take on the national game. Boorishness, abuse and disorderly conduct are merely a bit of regrettable, but necessary, collateral damage. It's the kind of behaviour that will often irritate, sometimes disrupt and, very rarely, spoil the nights of those unfortunate enough to be near us. But in order to properly express our ideas with sufficient vehemence in a sport as divisive and polemic as football is, you cannot talk loudly enough.

Monday, 20 December 2010

'Grey Jones' Artist Bio.

Lex Jones and Grey were one-time contemporaries at school together in Slough, and it was here that they first developed a musical affinity.

Both are fascinated by the concept of personae in music, and how this opens up both musical and lyrical possibilities for an artist. For instance, the beguiling and enigmatic aura that American rapper DOOM has shrouded himself in by virtue simply of donning a mask, or the anonymity in which UK Dubstep artist Burial has operated (essentially consigning his true identity to conjecture or happenstance) have informed the way these two have approached their music.

From Jones’ perspective, this fluidity of identity affords him more creative scope to craft compelling lyrical narratives for a disparate band of characters and personalities waiting to be realised.

Anonymity is important to Grey (who eschews the attention that accompanies music production) and strongly informs his work. Fascinated by film music, the chemical interplay between audio and visual and its inordinately moving and cathartic effect when combined in the right way, Grey is equally interested in the possibilities music possesses for communicating narrative in a unique way.

For both of them, fixed identity is constrictive and would only stymie their creative output.

The duo are currently working on a narrative album that has been conceptually conceived as “a cross between sci-fi and the streets,” which is to follow their debut Grey Jones EP, due early 2011.