Tuesday, 6 September 2011

After an hour and bite or two we’d found Vondelpark. It was odd though; the people seemed distant, like they were all waiting for a train to pull up, the children too seemed transient and even the bicycles had disappeared. The sky was peach above us, with silver clouds and faraway birds skimming across the treetops. I laughed. Will rolled up another joint. With such skill and care did he fold and lick and spark the thing, I was awestruck, and as he smoked the plumes of smoke rose and rose above us, flashing mauve in the eerie mist. I laughed again, lay back on the cushion of freshly cut grass and watched the kaleidoscopic light drift in an out of sight.
“What’s wrong with you?”
I wasn’t sure why, it must have been the way he said it for, out of fits of laughter, I couldn’t spit out a word.

Sunday, 28 August 2011


The (Dis)order of Time.

I can still remember the first day I set foot in the plastic amphitheater at university three years ago. I was younger and more naïve, for sure, but I had an underlying confidence in that it was a beginning, no one expected too much, there were one thousand eight hundred and twenty five days left until I had to emerge enlightened into the ‘real’ world. We were there to be educated. Things seemed simple, straightforward, organised. 
             “Don’t let the calendar fool you, guys,” Nigel, our course leader had said, “time is going to fly by.” We all nodded in disagreement, of course, for we were not stupid, we knew how long three years would really last, it was a whole seventh of the time I’d already been alive, and it felt like a lot.
But today, as it usually does, time crept up behind me, slapped me on the back of the head and whispered “Get your act together, boy, you’ve only two weeks left and a load of decisions to make.” Time has literally flown by and, if anything, I’m more confused now than when I started. I thought time would have given me answers, but instead, I find myself in the present being bombarded with questions of the future when the past seems to have all but eluded me, and I only wish I’d taken old Nige’ a little more seriously. 
I often find myself asking, “How do you measure time?” In seconds and minutes, rotations of the sun, heartbeats, sleeps, or, more simply, your consciousness’ awareness of time, how much time you feel has gone by… “It feels like forever since I’ve seen you!” “Seems like only yesterday that you were born!” … For Isaac Newton, time was a dimension, like space, in which events occur and therefore something that can be scientifically mapped and proven. 
Though, for philosopher Immanuel Kant, time is neither an event nor a ‘thing’ and thus is not itself measurable nor can it be travelled. He believed that time is merely a fundamental intellectual structure that allows humans to comprehend sense experience, an idea that helps us understand the world. 
So when I try to contemplate time and make sense of my time at university, what I have experienced, how I have changed or grown and, most importantly, where it leads me to next, I find myself flicking through an unfinished autobiography that is becoming increasingly illegible with every page.

So how do we individually understand time? When looking back over my days at university, and back I must, it is easy to say that I attended that first lecture on the 24th September 2008, or that I spent much of that year with my head over a toilet seat rather than over a desk, in fact, I could probably tell you exactly what I was doing each month until now, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be accurate because just like youthfulness, memory deteriorates over time. The ancient Greek philosophers mused that humans were walking backwards through time, forever watching what has been but never what is to come. This ancient idea is summed up by the modern concept of the Arrow of Time. We are moving forward through time but we may only see backwards, this is why we don't see a spilt glass of water jump up and go back into the glass or a broken egg reform itself. I mean, ask yourself why your childhood pet now more resembles a potato than an animal, or why that book you can’t put down got thrown out with the rubbish, or why even your dad can’t hear a word you say anymore? The answer is entropy: it’s the universal law that, with time, matter will probably fall into disorder and it is purely because we are doomed to see only the past (and that past is forever deteriorating) that we as humans allocate so many hours attempting to organize and make sense of our histories.
This is the humorlessness of the Arrow of Time; the inevitable, perpetual constant that time will move forward and not backwards, allowing us to regret things that we will remember forever. Allowing me to regret not having used these three years just a little more efficiently.
  Chronology and the past, then, are a large part of how we perceive time. I am not surprised to find myself sitting here because I can order the events that lead me to this point; I woke up this morning, I walked to the car and drove to the library. Before that I had ate tortilla wraps and watched Liverpool thrash Fulham five-nil at Craven Cottage on T.V. Before that I had to dash from university to let a meddlesome estate agent into the flat… and so on. The further I go back, however, the less detail I can recollect, only certain moments or places, and what’s more, the time that has actually elapsed seems to dissipate too.
Think about it. How long was it since you ate last night? How long does it feel? When history and memory are our only real gauge of the past and, as empires and dictators have shown us, history can be held to ransom by those in the present, and if memory too is insufficient, can the past really tell us much of time? I mean, how long does it feel like since I started university? Certainly not three years by the clock or the calendar. It feels like no time at all.

So if it is the past, then, that allows us to organize time, it is the present that allows us to experience it. Very much, in this postmodern age, our capitalist culture focuses on the individual’s experience of the present. We are taught from a very young age, urged even, through media and advertising to exist for the moment. Companies, for example, can now signify complicated emotions such as desire in sensational adverts that take only a few seconds to register, implying that these complicated emotions are as quick to achieve as spraying on the latest Calvin Klein cologne. Everything is being miniaturized, personalized and “revolutionized” to the extent that, at any point in time, we have the technology to be connected to everything and everyone else in the world. It used to take months to send word to Australia, now it’s matter of milliseconds. Globalization and consumerism have warped society’s sense of time; everything has to be quick and snappy. Fast food and online banking. Time certainly is money. If the world is perpetually moving faster, then surely so is our sense of time? And surely that’s why, so often, the old, riddled with entropy, get left behind?
For Kant time was immeasurable, and though the argument against this is painstakingly obvious, our timing system isn’t perfect. Leap years, for example and the UTC, the GMT and eastern and western time. What about all the recent confusion with daylight savings and America moving their clocks back a week early? It proves our system of mapping the light of the sun is imperfect, and thus, our concept of time is imperfect too. The present, then, lies very much in the self’s own consciousness of it. Sleeping and dreaming are the most explicit examples of our skewed perception of time. Time felt dreaming couldn’t possibly represent any amount of minutes or attoseconds[1].
Or, imagine two men who are exactly the same, one sleeps a lot and dies at sixty, whereas the second one sleeps very little and dies at fifty-five, which one will have lived the longest?
Music, to me, is one of our greatest links to the flow of time, for it illuminates, even embosses the present, and that’s because it reflects our own internal clock - the beating heart. The tempo of music is measured in beats per minute, BPM, just as the heart is and that’s why you can really feel a beat. You can predict when a song is going to break down or speed up because rhythm is inbuilt within you from birth and that’s why different music can be satisfying for different emotions, upbeat when your exited, slower when your exhausted. I’ve spent countless hours listening to music over the past three years, in all manner of situations, and its ability to affect the senses truly makes me feel the present. This is no more apparent than when I’ve been at music events or festivals. You can see people dancing, feel the pressure of the bass, and hear the rhythm and the beat, all in a single moment, and it really allows you experience the flow of time. But maybe it’s because I was enjoying the present so much, that I forgot to plan for the future. 
            So if we consider that the past allows us to organize time and the present lets us feel time, then where does this leave the future? Maybe it is how we truly understand time, for if we couldn’t imagine anything ahead of ourselves, we wouldn’t be human. The fact that we can process our thoughts into words and ‘plan ahead’ is what makes us different from all other life.
Language has taken place of instinct.

But just like the immediate past, the immediate future is not out of grasp. I can vividly picture myself walking to a shop and collecting the ingredients for a meal, then cooking and eating it, it’s as easy as walking out the front door, but it is those years ahead that we find impossible to imagine.
 How often have you wondered what your life will be like in ten years? For me this question, now (with university done and dusted), is all the more grating because I feel like I’m at the edge of precipice looking down into a chasm in which I can’t see the bottom. Should I jump straight in headfirst or lower myself down carefully, or just hang on the edge for all eternity in the same place? I have so many options in front of me that it’s becoming a double-edged sword. I could see and do amazing things, I could live a happy and fulfilling existence, but I could also make one wrong decision and end up flattened by a flatbed lorry tomorrow, or worse, get stuck behind the tills at Tesco’s for the rest of my working life.
            If we delve into the realm of religious thought however the future can be an entirely different beast. If one believes in fate or a Divine Plan, then our decisions are less important because whatever happens we will end up in the same place and the end of time. The belief in reincarnation, too, skews our concept of the future and bends the Arrow of Time into a circle, a cyclical life. Nietzsche often considered the question of Eternal Return; that the universe has been recurrently repeating itself and will continue to do so through infinite time and space, that we will relive our lives over and over again forever, like a Groundhog Day but much, much longer.
            So I come to a point where Time itself is just as illusive as it ever was. I can reflect on a hazy past but I cannot hope to predict the future. When even just looking at this piece of writing, I try to consider how long it has taken me to write it? Is it the time I’ve spent physically writing it, or thinking about it? Or is the time taken for me to go through the education system, to have learnt to process my thoughts and understand the world enough to bring me to this point in which I can write it? Whatever the answer is, time will forever be fluid. The past can be bent or confused, the present can trick us and the future is just a mystery. So all we can do is… be prepared to accept that we will never master time, I guess. Or believe in some form of eternal return, but even Nietzsche himself called the thought of it, “Horrifying and paralyzing.”           
            These three years have gone by without me realizing but when I really think about it, I’ve taken a lot from the experience, I may not have a divine plan, but at least I’ve got a choice. After seventeen years of education; GSCE’s, A levels and now a degree, it seems that overall, after all this time spent learning, I find myself highly informed, but a hell of a lot more confused.       

[1]10−18 of a second – Shortest time now measurable.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Clawing At Dreams

It’s not often that you’re granted the opportunity to ditch all your worldly responsibilities and travel Europe with a group of lads, let alone off the back of someone else. So when the invite made its way down to me in Cornwall, I reveled in the chance to go to Europe for free spend a week reviewing a European tour with the Brighton based Tall Ships, a band on the “cusp of greatness.”

It all started with Falmouth. Tall Ships, the Tour and this tall tale. Two years ago Ric, Matt and Jamie played their first gig at Falmouth University’s Woodlane Campus bar thanks to now Tour Manager Sean Clarke, their own homegrown Simon Cowell. It was at this show that they first supported Tubelord, a band they would go on to tour the UK with and share the successes of the Big Scary Monsters label. Two years and two EPs later they were preparing to set off on their second European tour, and (after losing a car along the way) I was going with them.    

Obviously the ‘quality’ time I spent with the band revealed to me a lot about their characters and it would seem unfair to review the tour without a mini-intro to each of our musical heroes-

Ric- The front man. Devilishly handsome yet admirably modest, this Arian heartthrob prevented us from taking advantage of a free bar.

Matt- He’s the leather jacket cladded, sunglass wearing rock star: A cool-as-you-like bassist whose online presence kept us connected throughout the tour.

Jamie- They called him The Princess, whether ironically or not, this drumming sensation hit the symbols hard, but the mattresses harder.

Sean- Tour Manager. A man of many talents (driving, managing, graphics), he got us where we needed to be on time, in style and with an air of creative-nonchalance.        

Grimble- At present there exist no words in the English language adept enough to describe this man. His role, however, was Vibe-Tec.

“013” Tilburg, Netherlands. - 3rd March
The early morning drive consisted of crammed equipment, bad smells and squeals of excitement from the guys whenever we stopped at a service station they had been to last tour. En route I’d asked Jamie what to expect on the whole and he replied- “Tantrums, fights, loutish behavior, good and bad performances, wanking in showers… and that’s just Grimble.” Trust me, with conversation like that the six-hour drive and ferry to Tilburg flew by. CDs plastered the outside walls of the huge, black venue giving it an amiably tacky appeal, with the likes of The National and Rise Against soon to play there. An exhausted Tall Ships defiantly opened up the stage, playing a dynamic and energetic set that whipped the locals into a frenzy, just in time for headlining act The Spokes to dazzle them with a blend of huge, post-rock, Mogwai-esque sounds.      

“Asteriks” Leeuwarden, Netherlands – 4th March
This ex-prison had to be my favorite venue. The old cellblocks had been painted bright yellow and blue and each individual cell had been transformed into an art studio; the reception was now a café and the mess hall had been turned into the music venue where Tall Ships performed. One of the most inspirational things about the place was the fact that it was run by volunteers with a passion for music. A rogue sound technician and a smoke-happy, effects guy highlighted the snags with volunteer work however. Despite this, the boys wowed an expectant middle-aged crowd with their eclectic, audio-visual performance, whilst Grimble and I watched in awe (and Sean commanded the merch stand), even managing to get a few of the has-beens to bust a step or two.

“Bazart” Den Haag, Netherlands – 5th March
“So where do you fit in then Grimble?” – “Well, imagine Tall Ships are like a beautiful puzzle of the Dutch countryside, I’m the piece with the windmill on.” Short drives between cities and venues were each mini road-trips unto themselves and the quasi-ironic lads-on-tour vibe kept us giggling and teary eyed between shows. We were greeted at the Bazaart by, quite possibly, the worst metal band ever doing a sound check… or their set… we weren’t quite sure. Opting to avoid the atrocity, Sean, Grimble and I sought out a coffee shop and greener pastures. We returned to T.S rocking an empty room (other than staff and the support acts) and so, in effect, we got our own show, with Ric even managing to slip in the lyrics “Grimble is precious” into ‘Books’ which (after the previous excursion) we appreciated, a lot.        

“Patronaat’ Haarlem, Netherlands – 6th March
Ah this one was, hands down, the best show they played. It was a free, 5 PM matinee show on a Sunday that got pretty hectic. All the locals were drunk, the tour promoter was there and an extravagant compere in slippers and pinstripe trousers was screaming “Tall Shipsh!” and “Foul Mouth!” between long rolling Dutch sentences. They absolutely killed the set; it was pulled off immaculately, in time and the acoustics of the café-sized venue were perfect. The audience were up and dancing and so appreciative of the music, which was so nice to see after the disaster turn-out of the last gig, they didn’t know what to expect and Tall Ships blew them away. At the climax of ‘Snow’ Jamie dragged the snare into the centre of the dance floor, spread a channel in the audience and started a drum roll, to which Ric hung his guitar over Matt (it all looks so unrehearsed too, as if they’re just jamming), then he continued to build up and loop the sound. By this point the crowd didn’t know where to look, puzzled and exited, then, ever so casually, Ric sits on the drum stool before crashing down eclectically on the symbols. It’s a show for sure, and the crowd loved it.

“Café Video” Ghent, Belgium – 8th March
Two sunny days in the architecturally spectacular city of Ghent rounded the tour off perfectly. We’d been hooked up with a charismatic little hotel for both nights and spent the last 48 hours in Europe ambling around the cobbled streets and sipping coffee against the background of canals and castles (wow, that even sounds like a Tall Ships song title). I recorded a little conversation with the boys that gave some audible gold, courtesy of Jamie Bush – King of the Interview. The final show had such a relaxed vibe to it, the people were young and friendly and I even signed an EP for a couple of fans who’d been star-struck spotting Tall Ships in their local pub the previous night. These boys certainly have gone from clawing at dreams, to living them.
It was an eye opening experience to say the least, but Tall Ships have certainly matured since I last saw them perform, they played every gig with a confidence and professionalism that I haven’t seen in the past and the amount of energy they create is astounding. I would go as far as saying that you cannot properly experience them, until you have experience them live, and with an album in development, a UK tour and a Bestival slot coming up in the near future, I would highly recommend checking them out if you haven’t already, because Tall Ships are going to be kicking up a storm of plate shifting proportions very, very soon.       

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

If only you could see.

This is a place where everyone should go.

 I went some places,
And saw some things.
 I drank a lot of coffee,
 And listened to a band or two.

I ate a Belgian waffle,
 And learnt some things as well.

Tour, it seems, is a pretty good place to be.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

In These People's Eyes

The fireworks in these people’s eyes light up the room. Someone jumps in, off the sofa, and steals the very thing you’ve been looking for, for an hour, right out of your hand and disappears into the hole in the room: The blind spot where people are lost and never found, forgotten (to an extent) and never remembered by anyone, least of all by the friends you think they have. A plethora of memories and thoughts can rush back at any moment and a year can pass (or be recounted) in a single breath; the depth and breadth of an active mind dosed-up, will confound, trump and triumph those of the greatest thinkers of our generation. You know everyone and all of their vices. But there’s nothing up the stairs, other than R. and A. and a whole room of people, you politely refuse and head back down (for you know what will come of this) towards the living room, and still the persistent crack-and-psssssssh never seems to cease.      

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Quick-Talking Homeless Stars

My red and white shoes flash in circles, faster and faster as I move across the canal upside-down and gunning it. Will can’t keep up. In and out and in and out, across, over, around and down and up and through, past all the magnificent sinking and bent brickwork buildings, with wide windows and never-the-same faces. I speed up, and the clicks grow louder, the buildings bigger and the mouths wider, I speed and speed until I reach the city square where, I hit a little fence, and the bike and I smash right into the floor.
‘Are you alright?’ a redheaded woman says.
I satisfy her qualms with a bloodied grin for I can't begin to vocalize how much fun I'm having. I survey as the hipsters play their cards and read Kafka and smoke cigarettes or spliffs, whilst the juggling unicyclists hassle bystanders with talk and tricks and kids play amongst the pigeons’ shit. At one side the national monument protrudes, in all its phallic glory, to commemorate this or that and some Great European War. The quick-talking homeless stars assemble at its foot, giving sexual health advice in exchange for change, or a minute of your time- they’re modest folk really, and stylish too, they give the square that resonant air of wisdom lacking from so many city centres.


Centraal Station, and blue and yellow trains lined up, electric skis, in a massive dome-tunnel with a hundred thousand eyes floating across the jutted steelwork. Boots echo louder than the trainers do, but high heels reverberate (clack-clack clack-clack) against the platform. A gang of suits fall out in single file and march, tipping their caps, and unsheathing their umbrellas, ready for an onslaught, though the pitter-patter of distant gunfire trickles down my neck as I reach the exit. It is beautiful at a glance; the water is careless and walks quietly through the scene, the buildings askew, auburn and elegant against the grey, and Spanish guitars play across the wind like a whisper from another place. What marvelous people! Though busy and concise, a nod of acknowledgment is not uncommon, and I feel should be duly received.
‘Welkom!’ Say the shiny white teeth. ‘Welkom!’  
I close my eyes and listen to the city- I hear trams crash in the distance and a drug dealer’s song, I hear, a lighter crack and the ‘ding-ding’ of a hundred thousand bells and then a voice, familiar.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


Unfathomable, irreplaceable, incalculable.

Where is it?

How do you even define it?

Eclectic exuberance or some sort of chemical ebullience.

Perpetually potent yet waveringly illusive,

Frivolous even.

More so than any narcotic-concoction.

It’s like ecstasy, just without an elegy.

One hundred percent pure,