Thursday 17 March 2011

Q & A with Tom Pounder

(Above: "Balenciaga Bullseye Liquidity Annuciation" by Tom Pounder)

The Rebel: What is the Tom Pounder story? When and where were you born and what have you been doing with your life?
Tom: "I was born in 1978 in Lambeth. I did a Fine Art degree a decade ago but completely lost faith in the mechanics of contemporary art. I was baffled by the lack of parameters and when I was a student it was hard to work out if I was actually learning anything - at least I wasn't paying tuition fees back then! I've been working as a graphic designer since so I guess I kept using my eyes, looking at colours and composition and images and so on, and I've always kept a website ( as well as self-publishing some books. A couple of years ago I decided I didn't need to worry about 'defining my practice' and just started painting. In particular I wanted to get away from the computer screen."

What do you think of Leonard Cohen's lyrics for the song Suzanne? Are you a bit like Leonard, do you tend to fall for women who you know are a bit barmy?
"I like Leonard Cohen, but I rarely to listen to his lyrics. Actually that's true for all music. Barmy like Timmy Mallett? I don't like barmy people in general."
(Above: "Gulf War I" by Tom Pounder)
How sincere are your paintings named after the Gulf wars and Mozambique? Are you a very sincere person?
"I think we're all striving to find meaning in some way or another and maybe it's harder these days for an artist to be earnest or totally sincere, I don't know. I like to think of myself as a serious artist but I like jokes too. As for the paintings you're referring to, I wanted to approach very real and important subjects through abstraction: 'Gulf War I' was in fact my first ever abstract painting. I wanted to see if I could establish on the canvas the smallest ounce of grativas of the chosen topics, almost out of nothing. I find it quite interesting that there's not an expert available on the planet who can tell me categorically if I was successful or not. Also I actually went to Mozambique and then painted the picture a week later, so really no one can challenge my authority on that subject. However, I have never been to Ukraine. Either way I like the results."
(Above: Gulf War II)

Are there any artists that you're a bit jealous of and are there any famous artists you'd like to be great mates with?
"I guess I'm jealous of artists that have had consistently great and evolving careers that have also rewarded them financially. So someone like Gerhard Richter might be an example. The achievements of The Beatles never cease to astonish me and I wish I could have been there to witness some of that, maybe as like a cerebral figure on the scene like Barry Miles at Indica. Also George Harrison was 27 when they split up. 27! As for imaginary friends I recently saw a documentary about the composer Philip Glass and thought there's a great example of a man and an artist. He seemed like one of the good guys."

(Above: Tom's ex flatmate Rory)
I went to your house once and was surprised how many Roy Kinnear videos you had knocking around. Are you still friends with Rory Kinnear and have you been keeping an eye on his work?
"I'm basically a philistine when it comes to theatre but it so happens that my best friend since I was 3 is the finest stage actor of a generation. I cried when I saw Hamlet, not because of the performance - that would make me an insufferable cunt - but because he's my friend and I was proud. He's very talented but I want him to do movies so I can be in his entourage. I don't live with him anymore though - he left me for a woman."

Can you tell me about how long it takes to make your work? Talk me through how 'Balenciaga Bullseye Liquidity Annuciation' came about?
"I think the visual ideas emerge from my subconscious from a typical mix of art history, news stories, Wikipedia articles and high and low cultural experiences. 'Balenciaga Bullseye Liquidity Annuciation' followed an excellent fortnight in my life when I was lucky enough to visit the city of Florence and Disneyland Paris in quick succession. So I've tried to capture the contradiction but also the plain unadulterated joy of those experiences. The planning and execution of a painting is never usually longer than a couple of days. I title them afterwards but there's always themes and phrases floating around that probably affected the first stage anyway."

Are there any exhibitions or art books you've been blown away by this year?
"Visiting San Marco in Florence was extraordinary. I ordered the catalogue for the MoMA show Matisse: Radical Invention and this looks like it was remarkable."
(Above: Publicity for the 2010 Matisse at Moma show)

What are your views on Mark E. Smith? Does he still have a few good albums left in him? Did his lyrics inspire you at all?
"I like The Fall a lot but like I say I don't pay much attention to the words I just like the tunes (although The Classical makes me laugh). It's funny I have this nightmare scenario in my head where I have to hold myself accountable to Mark E Smith because I think of him as the model artist with integrity. Maybe like the MES Show Trials for Crimes Against Culture. I'd probably nervously tell him about the time I compiled a playlist called '10 Fall Bangers It's OK To Play In A 21st Century Advertising Agency' before he told me to fuck off."

How much are your artworks worth? Have you sold any yet?
"I sold a print of 'Boob Infinity' to a lawyer once for £120 but since then I keep giving my pictures away to friends. I need to find my market."
(Above: "Boob Infinity")

What's your studio like? Do you share?
"I've got a partitioned studio in a shared space, so it's my own but not entirely private. Really I'd like to play music loud and smoke but I can't do either. Ashley Bickerton described his house in Bali as 'a purposefully built total environment [that] can lead to complete solipsistic immersion' - this is the dream I think most artists pursue."

Do you tend to make your work when you're down?
"I find it hard to make anything unless I'm somewhere near upbeat. If I'm down I'd rather stay in bed or just watch tv."

What do you want your art work to do?
"I think I want to try and make beautiful objects. I suppose I'm trying to resolve the dispute between an anal retentive tendency to draws squares and neat mathematical diagrams and the expulsive urge to puke my fucking guts up (and shit myself). I guess I'd like to make people laugh and cry."

What aspects of your life are you currently most pleased about?
"I'm really pleased to be healthy and living in an interesting part of a great city. The food available in supermarkets is a constant source of wonder. Flat screen TVs also blow me away and Google Image Search."

Monday 14 March 2011

Q & A with Spencer Cobrin

Spencer was Morrissey's drummer from 1991 till 1998 and took part in the legendary tours for albums such as Your Arsenal and Kill Uncle. He co-wrote Wide To Recieve which featured on the recently re-released Maladjusted album. Spencer has composed scores to independent films such as the award winning My Child: Mothers of War. And he has also collaborated with Australian singer/lyricist Scott Matthew in a project called Eva Snow.
The Rebel: What are you up to these days? How do you pay the rent?
Spencer: “I'm still involved in the music business and wear several hats. I do A&R signing artists to a music agency in Brooklyn, NY and continue to compose music for commercial and art projects. Also some scoring the most recent being 'Roger's Number' a short film starring Krista Ayne (Penthouse). Last winter Scott Matthew (my old partner in crime) and I went on an acoustic tour of Europe to promote the re-release of the Elva Snow album on Glitterhouse Records. It was interesting going on the road again after all these years, quite enjoyable even with the flu.”
(Above: Spencer & Scott)

Are there any new bands or performers around that you rate and want to big up?

“Sure, I love Sleigh Bells, Scary Mansion, Banquets, Flotation Toy Warning, Vyvienne Long, Lux Lisbon.”

When did you start playing drums? Who were your musical heroes?
"I started when I was 18 banging around in my parents garage playing along to the Stray Cats. Later on the sound of the Jazz Messengers really caught my ear and I became fascinated with jazz drummers such as Art Blakey, Buddy Rich, Papa Jo Jones, Philly Joe Jones and sax players such as Ben Webster, but I don't play jazz just pop/rock."

When you recorded with Morrissey you worked with various big name producers. “Who did you most enjoy working with / who had the best ideas?

"I worked with Mick Ronson and Steve Lillywhite. Mick was a very sweet, quiet, humble guy. This was the first time in the studio for me, I was a total virgin, nervous but excited. He was patient with me, probably one of the best attributes for a being a music producer. Steve is an incredibly affable guy, always cheerful and a great listener. He can mold a session in a way that you wouldn't know that it was actually happening, almost like sleight of hand.”
(Above: Mick Ronson with Dame David Bowie)

What did it feel like when you co-wrote a song with Morrissey? Were you nervous/proud/excited?
“I was incredibly excited. I came to writing through a process of self discovery in my twenties. With all the tension that was growing from being on the road I felt like I needed to explore and get away from music funnily enough. I had a go at acting which was a dreadful experience. All this then led me back to music and for some reason I started to listen to classical composers, the one that turned me on to writing was Tchaikovsky. Very meekly I began to toy around with a piano and eventually that led to writing instrumental tracks. I started to put my puny ideas under the nose of Morrissey and for months nothing. I kept at it and one day he picked a track of mine which became 'Wide to Receive' on Maladjusted. I was over the moon. 'Lost' and 'Now I Am A Was' followed but sadly we fell out and that was then end of that.”

Can you remember playing the Hollywood Bowl - was that a highlight? Which other live shows stick in your head?
“I remember being on stage at the Bowl, it was quite daunting and of course very exciting. The LA Forum, major stage invasion, seeing a tsunami of people heading towards the stage, sticks down and legging it to the dressing room and lock ourselves in, outside there was a riot, again very exciting as you can imagine. But the highlight would have to be the very first show at the Bull Ring in Dublin. It was the proverbial second coming, it was just atomic, atomic, atomic.”
(Above: This photo taken from Linder's book Morrisey Shot was taken in Dallas 1991)

Are you a fan of Morrissey's art pal Linder? She has her work displayed at Tate Britain now and seems to be doing pretty well.
“I was back in London several years ago when I came across her work in a bookstore, the forward was written by Morrissey, it was fascinating reading. I love her montages which come from the punk or post punk era. Time has really done justice to her and her work.”

Did you watch the TV show "The Importance of Being Morrissey"? If so do you feel it captured what the guy is all about?
“I didn't see it.”

Did you have issues or feel uncomfortable with any of the infamous lyrics that mentioned young Asian shopkeepers "shelving their plans" or National Front Disco?
“The initial reaction I had was that of mild concern. I remember being around the stench of racism in the eighties, it was ugly and not a nice feeling. I tentatively approached Morrissey about the song but I can't remember exactly what was discussed as it was quite some time ago but it was enough to arrest any fears I had at the time. Later on of course was another matter, it took me a long time to forgive him.”

Are you still in touch with Boz and the other boys in the band? Do you know what they're up to now?
“I have not been in touch with them since Morrissey and I fell out 12 years ago. I believe that his words to them were that they were not to contact me whatsoever.”

When was the last time you sat behind a drum kit?
“Actually that was a couple of weeks ago, putting some tracks down in a writing session, but it's rare for me to play these days.”

What do you miss about London?
“I've been thinking about London lately as I don't get out there much at all these days but I miss the streets, going to old pubs, tooling around Hampstead Heath, then more pub grub!”

What ambitions do you have left?
“Ha, simple. Just to be happy and peaceful.”

What are your plans for the rest of the day?
“Going to open a bottle of vino and cook dinner for my girlfriend.”

Sunday 6 March 2011

Edwyn Collins: Nature Punk exhibition at Idea Generation

There will always be a place in my heart for the songs of Edwyn Collins and Orange Juice. Last thursday I saw the great man at his art exhibition in Shoreditch. It was a very well attended event. My favourite image in the show was of a pufin spreading it's wings. As well as buying Edwyn's new CD I bought some of his greeting cards which had a lovely drawing of a Robin on them. I got Edwyn to sign an old CD. It took him a while to write his own name and, as I waited, I remembered an evening many years ago when my friends and I went to see Edwyn sings songs of Hope & Despair at The Venue in New Cross (South London).
It was Spring 1991. Helping Edwyn on stage was a guitarist called Donald Ross Skinner. I remember Edwyn performing his song The Wide Eyed Child In Me because half way through the first verse his own lyrics gave him the giggles. The song began: "Just give me one good reason why you find me so displeasing and I'll gladly go the way I came but there's no method in your madness only unforgiving sadness and to leave right now just seems insane." I'd never seen a singer laugh at his own lyrics before. I also remembered Edwyn bringing out an 808 state drum machine to perform a new song from his as yet unreleased record Helbent On Compromise. Edwyn made many daft jokes. He pretended that his father was Phil Collins and claimed that the two of them had worked together on the track "50 Shades of Blue". The single had been a bit of a flop but Collins joshed that both he and Phil had been taken aback that it had gone on to be a worldwide number one hit record. Although the crowd loved him that night few would have predicted that 5 years later Edwyn's song A Girl Like You would be an international hit bought by more than a million people bought.
I was at the concert with several friends and we all enjoyed Edwyn's set. We were all A level students at this point. I remember Edwyn did a great version of Felicity (a track from Orange Juice's debut album.) I remember my friend Max didn't know about Orange Juice and so thought this was intended as a tribute to The Wedding Present. And, I remember, for an encore, Edwyn brought on a bearded Roddy Frame as a special guest. I think they performed "Consolation Prize" together before ending with "Place In My Heart". Donald Ross Skinner was on stage with Edwyn and Roddy for the last number and they took it in turns to make up new lyrics. Instead of: "Oh halaleuala - I'm gonna suck it to ya" Roddy sang: "Oh Mr Kinnock - I think you're gonna win it." And then Edwyn sang: "Oh Tommy Cooper I really think you're super."
Anyway, like I say, as I watched and waited for Edwyn to finnish signing these memories came flooding back.
(Above image: A photo I took of Edwyn on stage in 1991. Below: Edwyns 2011 signature on the back cover image of his Greatest Hits c.d)
I love all of the sleeves of Orange Juice singles that Edwyn had a hand in designing. Orange Juice records were released on Alan Horne's independent Postcard Records label. Although Edwyn hit the big time in the 90s he never strayed from his Indie roots. I remember when he was asked why he stayed on Indie labels and if the money he made from his come back single would change him he quoted a famous line from the Declaration of Arbroath:
"It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom -- for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself." I'm sure he had a smile on his face as he was saying it but there's many a true word spoken in jest.

It's a tragedy that Edwyn had terrible health problems and has lost the power of his right arm. But it is brilliant that he is still making records, touring and having art exhibitions. Here are three Edwyn quotes from the press release of his current show:
1) "Ornithology has fascinated me for a long time. I can't remember when I didn't love birds. when I was a boy, I could idenify every British bird, most of them on the wing."
2) "I had a stroke, a brain haemorrhage, in 2005. I couldn't say anything at all at first and I couldn't read or write. I couldn't walk to begin with. My right hand didn't work. I'm right handed. So no more guitar."
3) "But I think my real recovery began with my first bird drawing. And now I'm showing my drawings in an exhibition. I'm looking forward to seeing them like this."

Shine on Edwyn. "See you in the charts".