Field Testing a Pentax 67 120 Medium Format camera…

A few weeks ago in a blog post, I asked if anyone was up for a free photoshoot in Glasgow to give me a chance to practice with my new Pentax 67 120 medium format camera. I got a willing volunteer, more below… but on the day it arrived, I shot a roll of the stone mermaid who lives in the garden & got these two wonderful photographs with it.

That’s with the 105mm f2.4 lens fully open, shutter speed of either 1000 or 500, hand held, on Portra 400. They say this lens renders legendary bokeh and clearly, they are not wrong. The meter in the prism isn’t really TTL (because the sensor is on top of the body, so if you use an ND, you have to manually compensate) but that is easy enough and I was pretty excited by the potential shown in these early results.

The day was clear blue sky, almost too sunny, so we spent time looking for shade on the streets of Glasgow.

Here’s a pile of old mattresses, some peeling walls, a chair & an ominous hole filled with a brick, but I wasn’t trying to make Jenn seem gritty & urban. I wanted something cleaner, so we kept walking.

These first shots of Jenn were taken on my Canon 5D mkiii with a 24mm f/1.4 for metering. In real life, using the P67, I don’t think I need to meter with digital again. It’s so intuitive to use on it’s own. From the look of the mermaid, the meter seems reliably calibrated. So next time, no digital comfort blanket. I thought I’d share these here, because, whilst they are really only light tests, I like them & reckon they’ll be an interesting comparison for when the 120 stuff comes back from the lab.

I decided to us ND & pro-mist filters (1/4) on the 105mm f/2.4 & 55mm f/4 lens I had with me and do the maths on what worked given whatever the sun was doing. It was kind of a thrill. Changing film in the field is 4 times more time consuming & fiddly than with 35mm, but I’m hoping the results justify it. It’s kind of theatrical, this huge loud shutter slap then, every ten frames, setting up a miniature lab under a motorway bridge and trying to move all the bits around. Next time, I’ll unwrap the film I intend to shoot and store it in a tin so I take that step out, make it a little easier on myself. The battery lasted for the whole shoot – I had been told the light meter is power hungry, but I was shooting nonstop for a couple of hours and got through 5 rolls and it’s still testing positive. So that was a nice surprise.

Jenn was supremely patient & a wonderful subject, thanks for doing this with us & I hope the end results are something we can both use!

Jenn left us to it and the excitement of the sun & of being at least vaguely around other people was too much, so Josienne & I went to find coffee. I put the 85mm f/1.2 on my 5D and shot a few by the river. If I’d have had longer, I would have liked to have done that with Jenn, too, but you can’t push your luck too hard in these situations or nobody will want to hang out with you anymore. So, enjoy these last few and I hope you’re as excited as me to see the end results!

Thanks again, Jenn, for being such a great subject.

Glasgow! Who wants a free portrait?

I need a favour. When the world gets back to normal, I’d like to carry on taking pictures of people. Who wants to walk around Glasgow with me & let me practice shooting 120 medium format film with them?

Let me explain.

I use a Canon 5D mkiii for most things. This camera is like an extension of my arm, I can do most things I want with it without even really thinking. I use a Canon 1v for 35mm film photography. It’s a beauty and I love it, as close to the ease of digital as film could ever be.

But, it’s only 35mm. With 120 medium format photography, something special happens, photos are bigger. The kit is clunkier, weirder. Metering is odd, you have to do exposure, focal length, shutter speed maths. You get 10 photographs from a reel of film costing £20. Not as many folks develop it and it’s pricier then, too. But it has something special. The colours, the texture, the depth, the contrast.

Here’s a little gallery showing some of my favourite photographers right now – these folks are all making beautiful photographs with 120 medium format. Visit Vuhlandes, Eli Vicks, Barney Arthur, J Flynn, Andy Low, Ally Green, I could go on & probably will, one day. So, you see, 120 *does* a thing. So, I’m going to put the time & effort in & master it for myself.

And that means I need volunteers. I want someone to spend a couple of hours in Glasgow city with me, when the pandemics calmed down, who will let me take their photograph using a Pentax 67 105mm f/2.4 120 medium format camera that I will be using for the first time. Zero cost to you, the only cost to me is time, film and developing. You can you use any pictures I take that you like, and you’ll let me use them, too. You might need to be patient with me, because it’ll be my first time.

Now, I could snap a friend, but I don’t have many of those IRL, and since taking a photograph steals a tiny piece of your soul, the person I usually photograph is looking for me to branch out & give her a rest. I could hire a model, but I don’t know how to use this camera, so before I do that, which I might, one day, I want to know what I’m doing, so nobodys’ time is a wasting more than they are ok with.

Here’s a few recent shots of mine, I’ll be looking to add whatever we take to my portfolio. Of course, none of these are 120, they’re all digital or 35mm. Not that the format matters, the result does. But, see, that’s why I need to practice, to see if I can get 120 medium format integrated into what it is that I do.

Fancy it? Get in touch!

Notes On The Great Beyond

I was just starting to work out who I was & what I stood for when the pandemic hit. It takes a long time to figure that out at the best of times, and I guess nobody ever really does, but I faced a situation where I had to face that demon down double quick sharp, while there was something left to save. So I tried to use the time to try to get closer to that aspiration & sometimes, it feels like I ended up further away. I’m sure you have all this stuff going on with you, too, or your own version of it. I mean this post like a note to self, a statement of intent, rather than a nagging lecturing brag. I don’t know if I’ll manage to pull off anything other than a meaningless self-obsessed waste of pixels, but I find it therapeutic to try.

And that’s what everyone had to do. Pandemic lockdown put our humanity under a microscope, distilled it. Solitary self-examination became the order of the day. What would you do if you had all the time & nowhere to go? Our relationships became more distant & all the people that you care for and care for you got further away, contact prohibited by law. A truly fucked-up thing, that as I write, is still the case. Growing global divides, increasing political turbulence. People dying alone. No crossing county lines. Some people are on touring holidays in France while the rest of us carefully figure out which Morrisons we can go to without being fined. The gloves are off in the have versus have-not wars & the rich will win, like they do every time. Public swimming baths are closed but some folks still share pictures of them in private pools. Self-awareness & entitlement gone mad. Illegal PPE contracts, lying now just another government media engagement strategy, double-crossing gaslighting press anti-trust school shootings toxic workplace cancellations enough-is-enough resign riot & resist, or protest, purge, block, mute & report, and that’s just an hour on twitter, which is the only place we can go to be with people, the tiny potential people in our pockets are the realest other people there are and the only safe way to be part of anything.

Our actual friends, a timeline, a whatsapp group, a zoom call. And you know what? I can live with it. Feels shocking to say, but I’ve been alone ever since I can remember & being stuck in a leaking, decaying rental with Josienne is no kind of torture to me. Quite the opposite; I feel a creeping dread when everyone says how much they’re looking forward to getting back in the pub. I’m not. I have no crippling social anxiety, I love to be around people. I’m kind of gregarious, friendly, outgoing & then sometimes, I retreat into some time alone & I like to do that lots. I like the potential of the future, the idea of a live music renaissance when this is all over. Every time you meet a stranger, connect over a song, a smile, stood in a crowd, that’s never gonna be taken for granted again. But we have to get there, it’s the path that scares me. I want us all to be OK, and this thing has victims. I don’t want blood on my hands.

I’ve sat around all year, lazy in clothes I’ve not washed for months, wallowing in lengthy crime documentaries & eating so much I doubt I fit in my old clean clothes anymore & honestly, I could keep doing it. I got lucky & found some IT work with old colleagues that is keeping the lights on. That’s been great & I’m so grateful, but it challenges my own sense of self, my transformation from weak-willed spineless passenger, only useful for consumption of goods & charging electronic devices at airports into what I hoped was someone who made things, a musician, a photographer, a filmmaker. Working 9 – 5 fixing someone else’s computer makes it hard to find the time to be those things. But it isn’t impossible & I have been trying. Of course, it could be far worse. Hundreds of thousands of people have died of this virus & I hope that if you’ve been affected, you have found a way to cope. My doors always open, I have space & time around me, I’m doing ok. Reach out if I can support you.

I’ve been learning lighting techniques for digital & analogue photography & film. Light is a strange beast & I love working with it, learning to tame a thing that has no physical properties, a fundamental component of reality made neither of particles or waves. Actual magic. I built a lighting kit & learned how to use it. I’ve watched more youtube lessons on clamshell techniques than you would believe exist. I know how to do most things I want to. I just need to get out and do it. Josienne bought a car with a large boot that we can fit our whole production kit in. Josienne sometimes lets me practice on her, and I love the results I’m getting. Have a look:

I’m also writing songs again. That’s a nice feeling. Not written a note for a year, then I have 3 or 4 new tunes in a few weeks. It feels good. It’s hard to write songs about anything other than ‘the event’ and I cannot stand songs about ‘the event’. I have nothing useful to contribute to debate about ‘the event’ and so I shall continue to write songs about the same old things I always write songs about. I’m hoping to record them sometime this year. I’m hoping Josienne will help me. I’m hoping some of you will want to listen. And then I’m hoping that I can go play them live somewhere, somehow, for someone, sometime. I’ve no idea how. Will there be gigs? Will anyone want me to play one? Absolutely fuck knows, but I when & if they do, I will. Hope is all we have at times like this, eh?

Photograph by Josienne Clarke

So, I’ll end with an ask. If you’d like to work with me on an album cover, or a music video, or some promo shots / head shots / portraits, then I can help. If you’re an author, actress, musician or anyone else who wants interesting photos to promote what it is you do, then they say I have an eye for it. I’m easy to work with & I’d love to help. I love taking pictures of people.

When we are allowed back in rooms again, it would be my pleasure to work with you on your creative projects. If you book shows for a venue and one day, hope to do it again, bear me in mind. I’d love to play a song or two for you.

That’s all I ask, and in return, I will hope for you, too.

Catching Rays of Light in the Shady Social Sewer

or ‘How I Ended Up With An Oven Chip On My Shoulder’

(thanks, Matt Hill for that excellent subtitle!)

Things are different around here since I accidentally did a viral, as Luke so nicely put it. All sorts of crazy stuff goes off when you get over a few thousand interactions & it’s interesting & difficult & rewarding & maddening & doesn’t happen very often to anyone & has never happened to me before, so I thought I’d share some reflections on it.

TL;DR ~ This meme doesn’t criticise poor people or rich people. It doesn’t say hard work isn’t important or that people shouldn’t strive for success. It says the world is not a meritocracy & makes a little joke parodying the frustrating myth perpetuated by haves that have nots are lazy. They might be lazy, but they might not have access to the same resources & that makes it a bit rich to tell them that. This is what the picture illustrates. Clearly, though, it can be overshared…

It started the day before yesterday when I smiled at this stupid meme I’ve seen a thousand times already of a schoolgirl tuba player honking in her friend’s face. It isn’t the kind of content I have ever shared before, and it isn’t the kind of content I ever intend to share again. Just a bit of fun! A light-hearted dig, a good-natured prod & the affluent and their habit of not recognising their own privilege.

320k likes & 82k shares as of 09:32 on the 28th January. It’s not my picture, I didn’t make it. I just copied it from an advert because it made me laugh.

Let me explain with a story, a ridiculous nth degree example.

Consider the case of Miss Cressida De La Von Beaureguarde, grand-daughter of Sir Cecil Lancelot De La Von Beaureguarde, heiress to an old money dairy packaging fortune. Her family owns a flat in Paris & London & she grew up in a Hertfordshire house with a piano & a cello in the west wing. She studied sculpture at St Martins college & she’s now the lead singer of The Honey Ho’s, signed to Redundancy Records, leading independent record label with an HQ in E1 & a lucrative line of mugs, bags & bookmarks. Punk as fuck, they are. She works in a bar and says it “helps make the rent” which is a thing she doesn’t actually have to pay.

She got there because she had access to resources. That is not to say she isn’t talented, or does not work hard, but she didn’t have to play the skanky school tuba filled with the spit of her enemies because she had one at home. That’s a wall she didn’t have to climb, a problem she didn’t have to overcome. The A&R guy at the record company used to work for a company that her family owns. She went to school with the daughter of the manager of another band on the same label. She’s not sending out CDr demos & hoping someone picks it up & they aren’t playing her demo because she’s so talented because she can just hand it to the right person, wink, and it’ll get a play.

I’ll say it again, she has access to resources. This isn’t a crime. It’s just how that part of society works. So why mention it at all? Because the lie that ‘the world is a meritocracy & hard work is the only thing that matters’ hinders the progress of those with less access to resources. It literally damages the chances of poor people to suggest that rich people ‘just work harder’. That’s not to say that poor people don’t or shouldn’t work hard, because they can & do & might well succeed because of it. It’s simply that rich people saying ‘hard work is all that matters’ undermines the efforts of the poor.

If I had a pound for every time someone said that to me over the past few days, I’d never have to work hard again.

Cressida had a leg-up, and she has a tendency to downplay the part that leg-up played in her success.

This is the problem.

Obviously this is a classist & probably offensive caricature, but such an extreme example serves to illustrate the point – this thing does happen, I’ve seen it, and when you start seeing it, you’ll realise it, too. That new solo singer, who burst out of nowhere with promo pictures by Tom Mitchell, a band featuring members of Bon Iver & reviews in every music magazine, how did they do that? Sheer talent? That is what the industry would have you believe. That’s what the press release says. Sheer talent & hard work is how that 18 year old musician exploded into the scene, check out their sweet new single.

But, no. Sometimes, maybe. But not usually. How did they, then? Money. Access. Contacts. Education. Facilities. Resources. Music lessons at home from an early age. A record collection. Access to instruments, expertise, equipment. You can turn your hand to anything, you just have to want to & there will be an easy path, a way in. The door is already half way open. The cards are stacked, the game is fixed, some people start the monopoly game owning houses on the board already & then hide that from the rest of us.

What Cressida does is not mention any of that. She buys a song & spends 10k of her trust fund on a promotional campaign that a far better artist with less available resources simply couldn’t afford. Imagine that singer from a tower block in Govan who doesn’t have the funds. Their CD is pure original fire and we lost them all because they had no chance, no way to get a leg up, because they had no resources available to them, no cash for the press release, no radio plugger budget, no proper distribution.

Starting. From. Nothing. Is. Harder.

And all the while, Cressida does interviews and says ‘oh, yah, I just always loved music & I just worked really hard through school, learned how to play and then I got this record contract that I don’t even care or want, really…’ and we lap it up like it’s the hypnotic, inspiring truth but it’s not. We all love a rags-to-riches story, so it plays well, it’s tried & tested, a time-addled tale of struggle that leads to triumph, the down-beat, down-trodden ordinary person succeeds against all the odds. And what happens, so often, nowadays, is that this story is appropriated by the wealthy to mask the truth in their poverty-play scenarios where it’s less rags-to-riches & more riches wearing rags.

So, that’s what the tweet says. Most people get it. The tweet ratios are good. 330k likes to 300 replies is positive, means it landed, but that tweet is a fire tower in a tinder-dry forest, a lighting spike on the tallest building; come at me, I said. And my fucking word, they did.

My wife & I have been the target of violent sexual & racial insults, thousands of them. I’ve reported more tweets than I can count & Twitter say none of them contravenes the rules. All those comments were fine. The people who called me a fag & a pathetic, whining white loser, they were all fine. That Josienne is an ugly bitch is no problem. Twitter is alright with that. Just so you know. It is not safe out there, you have to look out for people. Block, a lot. Twitter does not have your back.

‘I was poor, I worked hard & I succeeded, so fuck you!’ is the most common response. I have tried to say to those people that nothing in the picture criticises or contradicts or challenges that, but it rarely works.

‘Spread love, not hate!’ is next. Yeah. Spoken like a person with at least a toe on a property ladder. I’m not stopping anyone from spreading love, go for your life. I do that too. Sorry if I’m not 100% positive, 100% of the time.

‘You’re just jealous of rich people!’ is a popular one. I thought hard about this and I decided that it’s ok to be a bit jealous of people that have things. I wish I just had things. I do have some things. I wish had other things, and I wish I had a double bass in a music room in the house I grew up in. Everyone wants things. Jealousy isn’t shameful. Rich people tell poor people that it’s shameful to feel jealous of the things they have, but they have the things so they don’t have to feel jealous of them. Know what I mean?

‘But hard work WILL help poor people to succeed!’ Of course, it might, yes! Working hard is a good idea, if you want! Nobody is denying that. The picture doesn’t contradict that. It suggests that hard work is not the only factor in success, it’s simply one of the factors, and some people start with more than others. That’s true, whether you like it or not!

‘You’re a white male filmmaker, so you clearly have things!’ Yeah, man. I do. But this isn’t personal. It’s not about me or you. You can attack me personally, undermine this message, if you have a need to do that. I can take it. I know what I am & what I am not. I’m not going to explain my circumstances to anyone I don’t know. It doesn’t change the fact that the thing in the picture happens.

‘You are encouraging victimhood!’ I’m not encouraging anything. The thing in this picture happens. If you wanna undermine it for your own reasons, if you feel like a victim, or if you’re challenged or confused at the image & the sentiment it conveys, then I am sorry, but I cannot explain the nuance of it to everyone. And I have tried, but it is not possible.

‘This image is an excuse to be lazy!’ It’s not. It really isn’t. The phrase itself ‘if you work hard you can achieve anything’ might be 100% true, but said by a person from means to a person without, it is a damaging, insulting, patronising lie. Perspective is important. Some people are just poor by circumstance & need more help than other people, that does not make them worse people.

Those responses are about 20%. The rest is people saying, yeah, this happens to me all the time. I recognise this & it’s helpful to call it out. That the world is a meritocracy is a damaging myth perpetuated by the haves to keep the have nots in their place.

I’ve had so many DMs. A girl in Somalia has broken glasses. A guy wants to show me him wanking. Will I retweet a liberal arts poster? A life coach can help my post get more views. More wanking, more begging. My little pony porn. Who knew that was a thing? I didn’t reply to anything. It was overwhelming & a bit intimidating.

Twitter became unusable after about 10k likes. I had to disable notifications, and that doesn’t stop them all. I replied to most people, up til then. I successfully explained the point to tons of people who didn’t get it, which felt like worthwhile effort. I got yelled at by people who disagreed. The shit that people let out of their mouth at a stranger on the internet! It’s well documented that it happens but damn, it’s fucked up to actually be the target of it. It was too much for one person to handle, after a while. You just have to accept that it’s all out there & you can’t deal with it, so I cherry picked what I would try to explain. I’m not complaining, it’s just such a dark place. Riven with foulness. Shot through with risk & abuse that is judged to be acceptable by the platform.

I’m not out to get anyone. I’m not a venomous anti-rich poisoner. I mean that picture to be a call for honesty. Elon’s parents owned an emerald mine. Bezos’ mum injected $200k into his failing business. They worked hard & had a little help. There’s no reason to be ashamed of that. But if we all believe that they got there without those early handholds, then we’ll all believe we are failing because we haven’t achieved what they have. But that’s not correct. Not everyone has the same access to resources. I don’t think that should be controversial & I don’t think it can be denied. Is it RIGHT? No, but it is the reality of the capitalist world we live in so let’s tell it like it is and ask others to do the same.

I’m not complaining about my lot. Just explaining & calling for honesty. I will be more careful what I share because I don’t want all of these shitty milkshakes in my yard, I’m happy with 50 appreciative likes on a photo & a handful of shares on music & stuff.

Hashtag rant over. Go about your business & I’ll go about mine. Thanks for reading.

A Bad Day To Bury Good News

One thing I get asked sometimes, is ‘can I get a print of that?’

It’s simultaneously one of my favourite & least favourite questions, a real humdinger; how can I let the cat out of the bag if it’s dead in a box?

Firstly, I don’t feel like I’m in any place to judge my own work & it’s value – if you want a print, go for your life! I just take them, try to make them good as I can, then I scurry away & hide.

Secondly, it’s a minefield, so many variations, what size, what kind of paper, what are your printing notes? What I fear will happen is that I’ll say yes, spent a hundred quid getting it done, and it won’t be right and I’ll be left with mud on my face and a damp squid in my hands.

But the question still comes, a strange, generous thief in the day. So, I got my arse in gear and looked around. I found this place called Gelatin Print who seemed to know their onions and asked them if they’d do one for me.

They did & it’s beautiful. They’re great to work with, really into the art of it, getting it just right. They were careful & professional. You can have any black & white print made in most sizes, straight from negatives using silver gelatin, on a couple of different kinds of paper. Ask me for details. If it’s really popular, I might try to make a form or something, but for now, it’s low-key; if you want one, just ask & we’ll do it!

Here’s the first one. It’s a shot I took of Josienne Clarke at Broadscope Studios in Glasgow about a month ago. I have to admit, I am pretty pleased with it. 16*20 inches on fibre. First the negative, then the print itself with a bottle of Macallan for scale. I’m bad at taking product photographs of my own photographs, but there it is, nonetheless.

If you’d like to talk to me about getting a print of any of my work, please do ask. I promise to make it as easy for you as I can… 🙂

2020, The Year We Conjured Love Among The Chaos

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t write a hopelessly selfish, self-indulgent gushing explanation of why 2020 was alright for me, despite being the worst year in living memory. I knew people who had COVID-19 and it’s a right fucker of a virus. Avoid it, if you can. Stay away from people. Wear a mask, even though they suck. But you don’t have to feel guilty if you had some good times. I did & I don’t.

I’ve been a lone wolf for so many years, I can’t remember having a supportive team of colleagues who have my back, share my problems. I always did it pretty much alone. This year, though, I made things with other people, married the love of my life & I moved to live in a beautiful new place where nobody knows my name.

So, yeah. 2020 was pretty good to me & I’m excited for the end of the global pandemic chaos so we can get back to living properly. In the meantime, I have work, love & life. Twitter friends, you are my actual friends & I love you, knowing you are out there means so much & I’ll try to be there for you, too. If I can do anything to help any of you reading this, then I have the space & time. Ask me. If I can, I will.

GUESS WHAT, here’s some photographs of my 2020. You’ve seen most of these, but here they are again, because, like I said, self-congratulatory year-end post.

I got married to Josienne Clarke, easily the highlight of all the years. Thanks for being there for me, JC x

I made a load of films & did a load of photoshoots. I can’t fit them all in here, but I have so much more coming in 2021 that I can’t wait to show you!

I bought a double bass & started playing again after a 20 year break.

I released a solo album, ‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’ and some people didn’t hate it!

We did some listening parties in lockdown, I joined Josienne on her tour of Ireland & made the cover art for her Historical Record series of releases.

I made a film with Andrew Leach called ‘Overheads’ using actual actors & one for a song of Kingsley Ravenscroft called ‘Magus’. I made a few videos for Josienne’s releases, too.

My little brother Mark got married, too & I took the photos for his wedding. What a (pre-pandemic) day! That’s me with him & our sister.

We spent a week in a recording studio. It went far better than I had feared.

Here’s some shots of us enjoying 2020.

Here’s a few things that I am working on, things that are yet to come. These things will be even better than the things that have gone. I don’t expect the pandemic to let up, or us to be able to be with each other, properly, again, yet, but I’m quietly optimistic that this will end in some way or other, because that’s what things tend to do. I’ll let the smartest man in the world explain:

‘The universe is basically an animal. It grazes on the ordinary. It creates infinite idiots just to eat them. Some people get a chance to climb on top, take reality for a ride, but it will never stop trying to throw you and eventually it will, there’s no other way off…’

— Rick Sanchez

Here’s to riding the universe until we can’t anymore, my friends. Glasses raised to 2021, I’ll see you all tonight for a drink & a final fuck-off to twenty-twenty, ya massive dickhead x

My Review of ‘Wednesdays’ by Ryan Adams

No, I haven’t listened to it. No, I don’t intend to, and I don’t really think you should, either because Ryan Adams made sexual advances towards a 14 year old girl.

He wielded his power, influence & privilege in the music industry as an instrument of emotional bribery, suggesting Phoebe Bridgers could play support to him, but only under some very specific sexual circumstances. He demanded that Consequence of Sound magazine remove an article about his behaviour & they did. Read what Mandy Moore, his ex-wife, has to say. His entire band told us that they tried to intervene but he was crazed with the power he held. He then went on, following Bridgers’ statement of what happened, to issue a defence that read something like ‘I am genuinely sorry that I got caught.’

Consider his records through the prism of these decisions & actions. I promise that either it will sound different to you or you’re thinking about it wrong. I believe in second chances, but we’re talking about someone who deserves to be in jail & he’s still gets to make records? And you’re still listening to them? Fuck sake.

The first line of his new album is (apparently) ‘I remember you before you hated me’, which tells us Adams continues to employ the manipulative, weaselling tactics & language of abuse – see how he shifts the focus of the debate onto his victims, implying their hate & lack of forgiveness is the real problem here. Just what a cunt like that would do.

To all you dickheads saying ‘yeah but its dead stripped-back, like ‘Heartbreaker’!’ ~ there’s a hundred albums came out this year like that which deserve your attention more than this one by this washed-up actual abuser.
So zero fucking stars, try Will Johnson’s ‘El Capitan’, Matt Elliott’s ‘Farewell To All We Know’ or Courtney Marie Andrews’ ‘Old Flowers’ if you want beautiful from-the-heart stripped-back emotional honesty.

There’s none in ‘Wednesdays’, we all know that. Zero fucking stars & I’ve not even played it.

A Statement Of Support And Advocacy for Josienne Clarke.

Since everyone’s issuing statements with hot takes on my wife’s recent blog post, I’m going to do the same.

Let me start with a look at Josienne’s article. What she says, in summary, as simply & fairly as I can:

  1. Josienne left the duo because Ben made her feel bad (not an allegation.)
  2. Josienne wasn’t as good at the guitar as Ben (subjective, innit?)
  3. Ben never properly told anyone Josienne wrote the songs (100% fact, in my experience.)
  4. (‘The Tangled Tree’ & ‘I Never Learned French’ – actual examples of this)
  5. Josienne once asked to be collected from a petrol station because she felt sad but was left there, alone.
  6. Josienne is making a new solo album because that’s the only way she knows how to be properly credited for her work (a reasonable assertion…)
  7. Please stop mentioning my name in the same sentence as Ben Walker (a reasonable request…)

Now, let’s take a look at Ben Walker’s statement from twitter, in summary:

  1. He has tried to stay out of it but he’s worried if he doesn’t say anything, he’ll look guilty.
  2. Says the ‘accusations’ are ‘out-of-context’.
  3. He didn’t do the things the article says.
  4. He then credits Josienne, perhaps for the first time in their career.
  5. States that her name is on the credits & she got paid fairly (she never disputed this…)
  6. Josienne can be angry & difficult, he has examples (provides none…)
  7. Josienne emotionally blackmailed other musicians to support her (no, that was me…)
  8. Josienne is ridiculous to say a thing she said (resorting to insults?)
  9. People have shared her message.

Firstly, there are receipts. Show me the youtube clip where Ben says ‘Thanks Josienne, who wrote that” in an interview or at a gig. You can’t.

Two people then issue statements in support. They both say, in summary:

‘I’ve known Ben for years and he’s never done this to me!’

(At this point, I was insulting to those people. I’m editing this post to remove that insult. It detracts from my message & I am sorry for saying it.)

This is not about you. Stop denying people their truth; however inconvenient it may be to you, does not mean it wasn’t damaging to Josienne. And for you to negate that, then make counter-allegations that Josienne is “misappropriating feminism” by describing her experience is a real specialist kind of abuse & you know it. Your words are sickening.

I can’t even be bothered to say anything to the pathetic frog-faced avatars stepping up to be all threatening apart from haha, hilarious, big man behind your keyboard. Sit down, you flaccid dickheads.

Josienne doesn’t allege anything. She doesn’t slander or defame. She doesn’t ask anyone to ‘cancel’ or ‘boycott’ Ben’s music. Quite the opposite, she suggests people should listen to his records, if they want to. Her statements aren’t out of context or conflated. I had to look that up! it means ‘two ideas put together into one’. What?!

What Josienne does do in her post is beg for her own reality to be acknowledged. She pleads to be allowed to move on with her life & career, free of the negative associations working with Ben Walker has for her. If you worked with Ben and it wasn’t shit, fantastic! Be grateful! Maybe he’s learned to be nicer, more supportive. He was not that to her. Ben made Josienne feel small & sad & scared & he still does, and THAT is a reality she is allowed to express. Like she says in the article, why would she leave the duo behind if there wasn’t a good reason? Let’s say Ben is correct & Josienne is angry & awful, she is still allowed to say the duo decimated her emotionally, robbed her of credit, and in that case, Ben, you’re better off without her, eh?

That Josienne’s story is such a resonant truth for other women is *not* an angle Josienne is leveraging for ‘increased social penetration’, but it sure is unfortunate for Ben that Josienne’s experience is so relatable. That is not her fault, it’s yours. You should have been more careful, you should have taken care of the thing you were close to. You had a duty of care & you failed. Suffer the consequences of your actions, and I hope they taste sour.

Ben Walker’s limp-wristed, lily-livered, dispassionate statement is a typical pathetic weaselly defensive counter-measure non-apology. He regrets being named but sees no wrong doing on his part. Ben’s statement is a mere negation, it doesn’t even try to say ‘sorry for the injury I caused you…’, indeed, quite the opposite – he responds to her saying she is sad & wants to be left alone by insulting her & claiming she is wrong. Which for my money tells you everything you need to know about the kind of person he is.

And he doesn’t have to apologise anymore because Josienne has long abandoned the hope that he might. But his bullying her to be silent won’t work anymore.

99% of the noise around this is an outpouring of support for Josienne, mainly women who have experienced similar at work or college or at home or in bands. Other musicians who could never put into words like she has done.

The Josienne I know today is a rescue dog, flinching at the first sign of certain types of behaviour. Kind of broken, small & sad but growing, recovering. Understandable. She survived a thing she found hard and what she needs now is advocacy, to have her reality acknowledged. Anyone trying to negate her blog post, which is not slanderous or accusatory, but simply her lived experience, will not be met with kindness by me because yes, I am angry & yes I am spoiling for a fight when people I care about are wronged. I’m not sorry about that & you are welcome to fuck off. There have been many before you & there will be many after. But you never do fuck off, do you? You just sit back & watch from a safe distance, pecking at the crumbs on the floor at our feet, feeding off the failures of others, occasionally chipping in a message to keep yourself relevant, close to the commodity, just in case one day, there’s something in it for you. You greasy parasite.

Time to choose a side. If you’re not a friend, if you didn’t start any fights, then you are an enemy. I’m sorry, but it isn’t me making this about choosing a side, Josienne’s post begs for peace & resolution. Insults are a choice. Advocating other people’s rancid behaviour is a choice. Silence is a choice. A private message of support whilst saying nothing in public is a choice. Say what you think. Have the courage of your convictions and stand beside Josienne or be gone.

Honour Josienne’s request to be taken on her own terms. Respect her right to own the truth of her experience. Leave Ben Walker’s name out of discussions about Josienne Clarke from this sentence onwards, please.

Four Days in the Centre of the World

Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. We’re all going to die. Come watch TV.

That show, Rick & Morty, is so much better than it seems. Morty is usually right, but Rick always gets his own way because he’s arrogant & intelligent, but is he happy? Is he fuck. Morty, always the pathetic, protesting victim, the small, quiet, stupid man, at least has things in perspective. Morty is a hero to anyone lacking that, & Rick, a man with far too much.

So, that show has taught me a thing or two about perspective & about how to keep things in it. So, with that in mind, Josienne & I rented a big truck from Enterprise (the only rental company who will rent to me because of my record…thanks!) and drove up to Watercolour Music near Fort William early last week with nearly all we own bungee-corded in the back of this huge Ford Transit. It was a dark & rainy drive, full of jack-knifing lorries & cars in ditches, but we walked in a straight line through all the chaos outside the window, helping where we could and arrived on time & safe as sheds.

I was nervous about this trip. Nervous about playing. Nervous about not playing. Nervous about being trapped outside closing doors. Nervous about not being good enough to play with the big kids if they let me in. Nervous about a thing that I’m inside of, close to, intimately familiar with, but can’t do myself. It’s both partly mine & nothing to do with me at all.

Thing is, others that have been close to this hypnotic, addictive magic and have fallen for the poison, swallowed the illusion that because they were in the room when it emerged from it’s chrysalis, this invisible, valuable collection of vibrations somehow belonged to them too, so they try to keep it close, chain it to their wrist so it won’t fly away. Only one thing ever happens when you do that. ‘If you’re free to leave, it’s easy to stay…’ I once said in a song, and I meant it. I understand the attraction, the appeal, the pull, why a person would want to be a part of something bigger than they think they are, but you can’t take what isn’t yours. You can’t hold too tightly. You can’t cloy, or you’ll choke the life out of the thing that you want. Don’t suffocate – nurture. Don’t overwhelm – facilitate. Don’t control – contribute. You can see how badly I overthink all this stuff, get it wrapped round my neck like a kettle cord, gasp for breath under the weight of the importance.

But in the end, it was quite transcendental. I got to do it. I lived the thing I always said I wanted. I figured out how much food to bring. Carried bags. Loaded in, set up, plugged in, made shit work, sat back, made tea, made coffee, lunch, dinner & tea, let the thing happen. Immersed myself in it, played along, observed, and got to do it myself. Gave it space to breath & breathed it in. Anyone who’s been a reader here for a while will understand just how much it means to me, that picture of me playing a note on tape. If you’re new, then you should know that it means more than the world. I’m just Morty, handed a little chance to join Rick on an adventure in his spaceship and it’s terrifying & intimidating & I’ll fail, over & again, in the most public way, feel tiny & shit & alive & enormous & proud, all at the same time. I will never regret trying and I will do it over & over, forever, or as long as I can. It was a dream come true, I am grown-up multiverse Morty, now.

This is what Rick’s counsellor said to him after he turned himself into a pickle:

The thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people … well, some people would rather die. Each of us gets to choose.”

& I choose this. With all it’s rough edges, risky moves, gambles that pay off and the ones that don’t. All the winning & the losing, with you, here. Thanks for inviting me along & trusting me to be in the room, Josienne. You’re making a beautiful, unique, powerful & meaningful thing & I appreciate you letting me be near it. Let’s do it over & over again until we can’t.

Here’s my photo diary of those few days. Thanks for coming along, everyone.

That’s the music covered. Thing about Watercolour is, it’s right at the base of Ben Nevis. So you get some spectacular landscapes, too. Here’s a few from when I went wandering.

And that’s all. An awkward Rick & Morty analogy & a handful of decent photographs. I’ll take it. Stand by for more, we’re not finished, so we’ll do it again soon xx