LE GUN are my fave collective of illustrators: their drawings and installations rip through urban horror like Hogarth on a bender with Hunter S. Thompson.
Getting in early on the Christmas pop-up scene, they’re strapping us into a dentist chair to inhale a Le Gun kinda Halloween in Notting Hill of the East: Clapton.*
29th November – 1st December: 33 Chatsworth Road, Hackney, E5 OLH
*Yeah – I’ve heard there’s a Hackney House opening up on a council estate…(part of the Soho House group). That’s what happens when a ‘fashion hub’ gets invented around the Burberry, Aquascutum, Anya Hindmarsh outlet. Hackney – from murder mile (other than that shooting in the butcher’s the other day) to Bicester village – how lovely.
These black ink superstars started at the RCA, before creating their own worlds as installations in Brick Lane, Red Gallery, V&A, Shakespeare and Company and far beyond – I interviewed two of the original founders, Robert Rubbish and Chris Bianchi for the book I wrote for RED GALLERY – the interviews took place in 2012, when Shoreditch’s visible colonisation by the evil overlords was nowhere near capacity…
Chris Bianchi rolls along Rivington Street with an up-all-night glide. He’s tall with humble shoulders. His eyes catch me like the wells of ink that create the tribal, post-psychedelic stories of his art. Around in the Bricklayers’ outdoor yard, the Summer 2012 Artist-In-Residence of RED tells me he sees the world in cartoons, and a ‘lil more:
Where are you from, originally?
CB: Malta, born and bred – 1977 – there was no art school there, I had to come here. I started off in a basement in my parents’ house and used that as a studio, making paintings, I had a darkroom, made music, had friends there, and it got to point where I was 18 or 19 and came here and went to Chelsea, then Camberwell, then finished at the Royal College. I tried to stay in art college for 8 years – I’m an art college whore! But at the Royal College I met the Le Gun – it was good to find like-minded people because I didn’t have an art college education at a young age. It took me a while to find myself; here in secondary school you have art classes, but not in Malta, so it came from me. My old folks helped me out because I built myself an easel, and they saw it as a sign of commitment, and they were serious, wish I still had it, probably still in the garage. My dad’s a lawyer. Mum did a bit of social work but has loads of grand-children, she plays cards and they’re all Maltese. The education’s in English over there, it’s like a suburb of England, everyone speaks English, although they’re trying to change that…it’s got a population of 250 000.
There’s an island off Malta called Gozo, there are weird things and weird people there, I’m half from there, there’s an isolation to it. They take a roundabout, and a guy will start drawing on this public place, makes it nicer, they do a lot of that. In Malta there’s a lot of rural strangeness, decorating farmhouses with old dolls and wind chimes made out of old toys, there used to be a lot more. That’s getting lost, in the fields they have machines that set-off to scare the birds. It does take over, technology. I was in Sri Lanka, and there were all these amazing scarecrows, handmade, they look like people, scary.
So from Malta you came to a bigger island?
Robert [Rubbish, from Jersey] and I always used to say: two boys, two islands, two reprobates, two drunks – it carried on like that, we’re both from small islands and wanted to escape, Jersey is about the same size as Malta, everyone knows you, we were both trying to escape that. In London you can be whoever.
Where in London did you live to start off?
I lived in a flat in Fulham and every time you took a bath it leaked into the kitchen, really crazy flat, crazy people. And I knew some people from Malta, who knew all these rich people in penthouses in Chelsea, with billiard rooms and coke, and thought: this is great! This is London! Then moved into Camberwell and my vision was shattered, ha. But five of us were living in a flat down in Camberwell, with two hundred people coming to parties, and our landlord was an E dealer, and there’d be a pile of pills outside his door upstairs where he’d pulled his keys out.
I was cagey about being at art school and the change of being here as an immigrant, so met some guys who I’m still very close with, Harry [Malt] and I stayed in touch, we got a studio together in 2008 and started Bare Bones, and did shows with RED.
With Bare Bones, I wanted to do something that was more immediate. Le Gun had a formula – we did ten issues of Bare Bones, then Harry wanted to move to the country. He lives in Walsingham in Norfolk where there’s a shrine to Mary. He grew up around there, in Hoe.
When you’re here and on your own, you start new families: your friends become your family, if you need any help, you have them, my real family are three thousand miles away and I’ve been with Steph [Von Reiswitz, also an illustrator and part of Le Gun] for 13 years. She’s pregnant: it’ll be a new chapter, inspire new thoughts, ideas, feelings, as a human, good to experience.
So Robert [Rubbish] came through Soho, did it have that much of an impact on you?
Soho was more Robert and Neil [Fox]. I used to like walking around Soho alone, and when there was stuff to discover, then Robert and Neil showed us around, it lost its mystery. It’s changed, it used to be rougher, there were more dives and social clubs – nudie dancers for a quid. The charm of it is meeting it, and Robert and Neil had a B-line of hangouts, where famous people drank. Neil’s work’s about that, and Robert did the Rubbishmen of Soho [a band]. It’s fun but not the beginning and end for me. They like olde worlde stuff.
So the Max Nog Shop, the first installation…
We wanted to make a drawing you could walk into. It took about two months, we were papering the walls, everything. I think we called it International Festival Le Gun. It was all about making then, y’know, we’ll work out what it is and what it means later, and have fun with it. Nog shop became a club where bands would play, take a few cans, he called it the Cave.
That’s what Faris’ club (from The Horrors) was called…
Maybe he came down, saw it.
Nog stood for something stupid, Nuclear Organic Graphics or something. I think [Max Nog’s] mum was married to a Visconti, so every time he got broke, he’d just go and sell a house in Rome. He had a skate park in his house, he pissed off a lot of people, he was in New York in the 80s, friends of Madonna, William Burroughs. I think he liked young boys.
I’m not really into the fame thing, if you become notorious, people are taking photos, Pete or Amy Winehouse, it’s not very nice looking at someone coming out of a club off their head. Yet, you need to be part of it – I haven’t got a Facebook account, but do have one for BareBones. And you need to tweet or you get left behind – but I think you can rebel against it – someone like Robert, he didn’t do it until a year ago and now he’s all over it. I’d rather stay away from social media and see what happens, but you need people to know about it and you get to 3000 people at the hit of button.
I found the best way: I did a show at RED and I was there from eleven in the morning to eleven at night and talking to the people buying your work, I don’t think it gets better than that. You can go global on the internet – if someone buys my art I like to talk to someone. Most collectors like to know the artist, it’s important.
I’ve been listening to Grayson Perry, the Reith Lectures. You get your art, your handbag, and your car. Sol Campbell was at Frieze.
Is it a strength that you came from illustration?
Street art, boundaries, high art, low art, whatever. Banksy setting up a kiosk, selling it for forty quid, it’s challenging, he’s playing with that, he’s concerned that he doesn’t get that freedom, he’s the papa of street art, it’s stencil art, but he’s social commentary, he’s like a Hogarth of our time.
I’d rather go to the National Gallery and go see old paintings, I see the world in pictures, that’s how I see the world, in cartoons, that’s why I did illustration. I like the primal instinctive – if you look at my paintings they’re coming from that old school – the iconography. Symbols and metaphors and making your own symbols…
I met a woman the other day, at a private view, Gaynor O’Flynn – performance artist – she said: What do you do, I said: A bit of an illustrator/artist, she made me think I’m just gonna say: I’m an artist. I make money as a commercial illustrator, but do my own art. Andy Warhol did commercial art, it’s all about adapting to your environment. I’m not an accountant, I quite like Visual Artist – I quite like the constraints of commercial work, coming up with solutions for things that aren’t your own ideas. Sometimes, as an artist, you can do anything, so it can get narcissistic. I like to make interesting images that make people think and get a reaction.
I’ve been writing for the last few years, I’m a closet writer and poet, and I was going to burn them and thought these are quite good, that’s something new, but I was dyslexic and scared of words and reading, I’d rather listen to an audiobook, because if I read, I’d jump massive sections.
Would you perform?
Performance would be too much about me, the drawings are performance. Would I do it though? If I came up with an idea I liked….
Le Gun – are you doing much now?
I took a break for the V&A show because I wanted to find myself a bit more, thought I was getting a bit lost, so wanted to do the [solo] show at RED.
And I was doing Bare Bones and Le Gun together for a while, so was doing a lot on others, not myself. I feel I can go back now, reinvigorated, and with an understanding of how I fit in the gang.
Will hipsters kill East London?
They have. It doesn’t mean that East London’s dead – the truth will always be stronger, and there’s always going to be people doing strong stuff, but that’s not the end, just got to learn how to live with them, it’s a bit annoying that rent’s getting more expensive because artists wages haven’t gone up. Maybe more support would be good. We should get the corporations to pay for studio spaces and be given more of a helping hand, stop it being so elitist: ten people making loads of money and then thousands struggling.
I think there’s an attitude of: you’ve chosen to do it, live with it…
Yeah, deal with it. I used to do a bit of teaching but there’s no part-time and the colleges are a bit broke. With Le Gun we set up a shop and have had to turn it into a business but should we, as artists, be the businessmen?
Do you think there’s space for countercultures in London?
It’s suppressed, they look at people who protest and they’re terrorists.
…I spoke with Robert about the Poverty/Organic divide…
It’s always been split, what can you do? I feel privileged, I’ve never come from a poor background, middle-class norm, I’ve never experienced it – but I struggle to pay my rent and my brother became a lawyer. He’s got the Volvo, the pool, but I do have a richer life. I dunno, when he can do what he wants – I hope it won’t be like this forever. I’ve never paid NI, I think I pay enough, you pay tax on everything you buy, on council tax, on and on. I don’t make that much so why should I pay more, and then big corporations skimming…
Consume or be consumed.
Yeah, and all they’re doing is making money.
Yarda [Krampol] and Giuseppe [Percuoco], they take me out for lunch, when I’m doing a bit of art for them, and they’re starting it from scratch – there has to be money if you’re spending money…
What do you think of the way RED runs, as a vague co-operative of ideas?
I think RED, if you explain an idea, they give you space and don’t ask too many questions. They’re supportive, and financially – they’re there for you – I did all the work in a week, for the show and they liked it – so they did the catalogue, I gave them a bit of artwork, they gave me a space. I’ve been speaking to Yarda about spreading a residency programme over Napoli, Prague, and London. Rather than an application process, I hate those people. It would be nice to approach [artists], make it more exciting.
And then speaking to Yarda about pop-up galleries, there are spaces for it – you have business rates, so if you do pop-ups, it avoids it, and the landlords, that’s in the pipeline.
So projects with me and Yarda and Giuseppe, they’re not paid jobs but there are some artists, like a Turkish guy who I really want to do a show with, I really like his paintings, and he’s sort of trying London out, it’s not easy to just come here in two years, a lot of people have to leave – it would be good to support people who are here.
I think RED do goody-goody causes, sometimes a bit too many and the graff art, it’s getting worse and worse, I think it should be controlled – it can be quite rash – it could be really important. I don’t know that scene but if that was curated better – and spend some money on getting really good people, it could be a lot better.
I live near Toynbee Street, people have moved up to Stamford Hill. I have this thing where I really like London and social problems, I don’t know if we are getting pushed out or if it’s because we’re getting older, I don’t want to move to the countryside, I think maybe it’s time for another city – I can make it in new cities, my wife likes comfort. I like the South, somewhere in the Mediterranean, or maybe as an artist, go and look at the world more. I was in Madrid recently and you go two stops on a train and it’s gypsies, and it’s wild, and no one works, I was there for this festival, San Juan, 25th June – it’s a different scene. I went there twice in a row, gypsies singing for a week. I’d like to do some work about that: belonging, and where we fit. I don’t think I could live anywhere but London and fit in. Maybe San Francisco rather than LA. In LA people buy [art] out there, it’s a bit older – we need a gallery who could do that, maybe organise doing something. We did China, Istanbul, Berlin and Paris, and it’s fun to take what you do to new places, we spend a lot of time working with the space and working it out. It’s good fun. It’s that thing of talking to people, living and breathing the space. I feel like a traveller – I don’t think I’ve found my home yet – I don’t want it stop here. But y’know, I leave my house – I can have Chinese, sushi, Thai, whatever in a very close period of time.
I like the city.
But you have to blend with your environment, in this toxic city.
That’s a good name for a show, Toxic City.
Robert Rubbish’s facial hedging swirls in puffs of dandy, tweedy smoke around us. His ebullient stature lumbers through the gates of RED Market, like a Churchill of yore. A confident statesman for Le Gun, he painted the MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING mural behind the sandpits for the shoot we did for Freestyle magazine over the summer of 2012.
Where are you from, originally?
I’m from Jersey.
And how did you end up here?
I came first off to Bristol to do a BA in Illustration in the mid-90s, although I’d lived in London in the early 90s, living with a mate, but progressively slipped into mundanity and went back to Jersey, did a course that got me to Bristol because I’d left school with an art GCSE because I’m dyslexic, eventually moved back to Jersey for a couple of years, then in 2003 I moved back to London to go to the Royal College of Art to do a master’s in visual communication…
What did you get out of that?
I got in a lot of debt but good friendships. I met Le Gun guys and we started a magazine. I went there to expand my work but ended up collaborating a lot, and it was a meeting place for all these new people, and I’ve been here since.
Where did you live to start off?
I lived in Hammersmith and moved East in 2005, we were going to Soho a lot…
That’s where I got a lot of my education…
Yeah, us too, and there was stuff going on East and after college we got a collective studio space where we worked together on Le Gun, it was near the London Fields pub on Mare Street. We’d have parties there. It was probably better around there then: it was a bit crap, and I couldn’t afford a space, but when we had a big project we’d work there together, so it was a hub of where we were hanging out, and it carried on after college, some of Le Gun are still there. There was six and now there are seven. Steph [von Reiswitz] , Chris’ [Bianchi] girlfriend didn’t go to the Royal College so she got involved later, she’d been doing other stuff…and it was around then, 2006, that we met Yarda [Krampol]. We did that thing in Brick Lane in the Max Nog gallery on Brick Lane, where Yarda was working – a black and white cave of drawings, and we did a back room. That was good for us, he was a bit of weird slippery guy, though, Max. He gave us free reign which we couldn’t quite believe, and we thought he’d come along and say he didn’t want this or that. We covered the ceiling in chequered paint, glossed the floor. We were building a world and we thought it would last a month, but it was there for longer, and it was a nice place to hang out, and made us think we could actually build stuff. It was quite immersive, you could tell it was our sort of thing and it was better than a sterile gallery.
Is it a strength that you came from illustration?
I think individually we’d worked on separate things, but together we were putting on parties to fund the [Le Gun] magazine, so we’d do a six-foot drawing to sell in the Royal College bar, then we’d hone it, and realise we could do a better by drawing and embellishing it for each other, and we sold it, and that would fund the magazine.
How does the physical process of building an installation, such as the one at RED, occur?
First off, an idea, whether it’s Le Gun, or a commercial project, we think of the idea, and then see how feasible it is, if there’s a budget we’d cost it – say here, we did a twenty-five metre room in there, which has now toured everywhere, but we need a set builder or carpenter, price up the wood, and that starts a story. With the RED one, we did a drawing of a story and the drawings turn from 2D into 3D, there’s not one person that’s good at this, people don’t go over each other’s work, but someone might shadow it, add to it.
It’s very instinctive. When it’s taken back down to a commission or a drawing it gets tighter and more annoying because they say: Can you move that? But it’s a free-for-all if it’s just us…
We did a Bare Bones show here first, then Le Gun and Bare Bones. Both times we had parties in the basement, but it all comes from parties. We got to know Yarda better because after the Nog shop, we did a Le Gun party in a block in Cambridge Heath where we had a studio, Yarda did the door for us, and he started doing stuff here, and introduced us to Ernesto [Leal].
Will hipsters kill East London?
Yeah – they have already. In my view.
I think all of London, there’s a bit of a problem. Without sounding very, very negative, the hipster thing is causing problems because it’s areas that people went to because they were cheap because other areas in centralised areas were too expensive, so cheaper areas create artist colonies out of economic reasons and it results in the trendification of East London.
I like that word: trendification.
It’s making out something is creative when it’s just capitalism.
Yeah, and it’s just all they’re doing is making money and pushing people out of areas, not just artists, I don’t understand where people go to. It might be doing some people a favour! But price wise, my experience in London: I now live in Stamford Hill which is South Tottenham which is nothing, and it’s never going to be.
Shoreditch is obviously too expensive to rent. Dalston, Hackney, wherever, they get regenerated, revived, whatever, but where’s the choice, like you get organic or nothing. On Mare St, we used to have a caff there, where you could just buy a meal but now there’s a burger place that’s dressed up, it’s got writing saying THIS IS AN EXPERIENCE or whatever but it’s just a burger place, instead of where you could get a meal, there’s either really shit fast food, or that.
Poverty or organic.
These two cultures living together, one is survival, the other is affluence dressed up as something else. You’ve got to have a certain amount to buy into that kind of lifestyle, and it’s just money driven. I don’t think it’s creative, I’d like to see artists making money from it, but it’s entrepreneurs opening up Things.
Central London will become everything up to Tottenham and parts of the South and it will be unaffordable to most people.
Y’know Shoreditch Box Park, it’s not temporary but it’s sold as a pop-up experience, but it’s just the high-street dressed up to be something else. Somewhere else, it’s just like: this is a shop. I think people are being made to buy into the mythology of recent past history.
People in London buy into areas that become a product of their success and then the real people can’t afford to be there.
I think East London was bombed catastrophically, and it’s been used as a toilet for immigration. The East London thing is not the same as regentrifying Notting Hill or Chelsea. There wasn’t a cash machine here when I first moved in the 90s, and the contrasts have always been hyperbolic.
This band I used to manage in South London have a thing called Yuppies Out, in Brixton, which is a bit misguided but they are scumlords fighting back, half of it is funny, but half of it ridiculous, that there are fromage and champagne street parties now in Brixton. The band are Fat White Family – they’re unruly, but I was managing them for a while but got my fingers burnt. The lead singer I’d been working with was in my film and we’d been working for a while, but the band had drug problems and I had this first-hand insight, everyone’s on heroin, on crack, none of them had train fare to get to the studio – and I made them a video and artwork and it got somewhere but I was giving myself to them, and I loved what they were doing but they’re so like that, they don’t give a shit about themselves or anyone else, but there was a hostile takeover from another guy and I love what they’re doing, but had to depart, and you see what you see, and you know if you go into the lions den, that’s what it is…
Is that like London?
The things that are dangerous and scary would attract me when I was younger, and London’s got a lot of it. The band were the last bastion, I found it exciting, and all the older people behind them were in Brixton holding banners around Thatcher’s funeral…London creates those people.
There are a lot of pricks to kick against here.
It’s attractive in some ways but it’s good to look at it from a distance, unless you’re bulletproof.
(We run in from the rain, resettling in the RED Market marquee.)
We’ve changed sides…so yes, inside here, the RED Gallery are willing to give people a chance, to do an exhibition, a crazy night, when I was doing that mural there, talking to Yarda and Greg [Konready], they both grew up in Communist countries and Ernesto was going on about doing a hammer and sickle but what they were saying was critical, yet they’re all doing a…
You are drawn to what you like, even though you don’t even know what that is, Greg’s view on Communism and the west, he’s harsh about communism. What’s nice about Le Gun is we share money and we work as one, and that’s the same as here, they use a bit of business…
They give this space away for free.
And they’re in the centre, I enjoy what they’re doing, and it’ll take groups of people like this…
I’m reading a book at the moment about Rebel Cities, and city centres needing autonomous places to form ideas. Chatting to Gary Means, from Alternative London, he’s like, you couldn’t replicate this where he’s from, in the Isle of Wight, because there aren’t enough people to make it diverse.
I think I was growing up in extreme capitalism, in Jersey, but in the late 80s, early 90s, they had free parties, and we’d go there to smoke weed, take acid, but all the nutters, all the druggies and no-one was fighting. Like skinheads or rockers. So it was interesting for a while. The police didn’t know what to do, but they banned it – Jersey can pass their own laws in about three weeks, so they made one where you’d get imprisoned.
The background I come from, it’s only drugs that allowed us to crossover into that world of rich people, but they can’t keep their kids away from hooligans, in the same way. We ran this club, through a grammar school, and it had a private members club, where you could sign people in, so I’ve always been interested in, I guess, collectives.
Collectives sound like a bad jazz funk band.
Yeah! It does.
It can be horrible working with people and their moods but it can be amazing, and you eat, party and work together…
I think if we tried to label what we do, it gets complicated and money has never been our driving force, so if you’re excited about something, you can worry about the money later. Money taints it. But that’s how people make money, and some will leave.
I’ve been living hand to mouth for so long…not everyone can cope with that…
I want to live a life that’s interesting. It’s more important than amassing fortune, but maybe some more balance would be good.
It’s exciting and it’s shit. The agony and the ecstasy. Throughout history I like the balance of you’re broke but partying with whoever, where the world is blurred. I used to be friends with, did you know Sebastian Horsley?
I met him in the last three weeks of his life.
An interesting three weeks…
I was quite reserved in the friendship because I thought it was going to be one that lasted…
I knew him for quite a while, and someone I considered a good friend for a while and, of course, there was bravado but genuine compassion, he was fascinated and fascinating.
He introduced me to this filmmaker once and he was like: “The reason I love him is because he’s got nothing. He’s got nothing! And I was like, what do you mean? What he was saying was that broke isn’t a badge of honour but this guy was doing what he wanted to do, whatever the consequences, and couldn’t get on in whatever world. I think if you look at the old dandy thing, of two amazing looking guys smoking in poverty…
Like Rimbaud and Verlaine, or Withnail and I…
Yes…it’s all about those ideas. London’s got a big history of that. And that is the best quality, where genuinely good ideas get attracted to it, from toffs to the people on the street, they all gravitated towards Sebastian.
Our British attitude towards culture is not embracing like France, here we don’t put creatives on a plinth. We get shat on, it encourages imperialism…
I think England is a very interesting place because of our working classness. Deep down, I think they want to be ruled and oppressed. They’ll never have a revolution, certain things will happen but they won’t connect, or think they’re the same because there’s so much suppression – my theory’s not watertight, but the British get really into football, not getting rid of poverty, not getting rid of the Tories. When Margaret Thatcher died people were saying you can’t say this or that, but she ruined whole communities and those communities are being victimised by the new Conservatives for not having jobs. She destroyed lives, industry. Now they’re supposed to feel bad about what was done to them, and media maybe works really well here, but there is not a mass uniting to save the NHS, and I think in British culture there’s an affluence issue.
Affluenza – Ernesto came up for a word for it: Arrivista – in French/Spanish, it’s a cuss in Spanish, means you think you’ve arrived and look down on others. Always looking up, hegemonic culture…
Always being ruled and being oppressed. Coming from a small island, London always feels like there’s an immense amount of freedom, some people say you’re on CCTV, the police etc. but I feel very free. I’ve walked across the city, at 5am, coming down from whatever, and I’m the only person here. I like walking across the city in Paris too but here, you’ll meet someone you know but also have the anonymity to drift across it and that feels better than walking in the hills and country. I find it has a lot of spirit. I think maybe I’m out of touch, but there will be a way for the young, as long as they aren’t victimised for being poor or living somewhere.
Could RED be replicated in Jersey?
No. Architecturally, no, you couldn’t do it – there was a funny incident when Le Gun were invited to go and do a show in an old magistrates court and the police cells, it was part of the Branchage Film Festival, my friend was organising it and I found it weird that I’d been there before with friends who had been sent to prison and we did a show in the old cells, and took this guy, Lord Bath [aka Paul Vincent Lawford, not “thee real Lord Bath”] to DJ, after the Mayor of Jersey had done his speech, playing Fuck Da Police, and it was going really nuts, like Chris was getting kids to skateboard along the parquet, and it was proper nuts, and it brought a little bit of something but then we’d probably be arrested, so for one night, maybe…
If you tried to recreate this in Jersey, they’d find something to really hate, and be negative about, and you’d get ten people and a dog there. I think this is unique but if you took these characters and gave them an opportunity there, they’d make something, but something else. I think they’ve made a lot just out of the building, from the Bare Bones show in November with no heating, freezing hands, thinking why are we doing this, then when they started to get electrics it grew, but that non-permanence…
Do you think that’s part of its appeal?
I think because it’s not going to be here, it would have to be run established as an arts space where we had charitable studios, which kinda happens. It’s like Berlin-past, a bit rough and ready. I think what they’ve done is allow people to curate their own space, and that works when you have good people involved. I think it’s an interesting thing. Out the back of my mind I always think it’s going to be turned into a hotel with a Banksy in perspex, and they’ve done so well, for what it was, it was all a bit shit. So when it changes into a hotel, you’ll think, wow, that was a good space, but London is layers upon layers upon layers. Every room in Soho has layers and things reoccur, like this was something in the 60s, it’s been everything and now it’s something similar – I mean could this work somewhere else in London?
Blue in West London, my husband’s joke. They did a successful pop-up in Ladbroke Grove…
In this space, when it began, with all the agro with The Foundry, the squat, they were looking at these guys in one way, and I think the whole of London is becoming more friendly to consumers, so Soho is like Covent Garden…
The world is like that, you’ll walk down streets in Madrid, Barcelona, Tokyo, and all the same brands’ll be on the same streets…
In Soho there are going to be some major architectural changes. City Road is changing really quick, with canalside developments. I think progress is good but having something of the past is good as well, that’s when London works, I don’t know how new flats culturally improve something. My vision of the future is that there’s a circle being drawn around London, and you won’t be able to live in it. In Paris all the estates are out of the city, it’ll be reversed here.
Do you consider yourself to be tech friendly, or a luddite? Where do you fit with TechCity?
50% luddite, 50% technology. The problem I have with technology is the same problem I have with my dyslexia, like if you showed me how to do something on Photoshop, I couldn’t remember it. I find Social Media fine, but technology to aid my art is frustrating, and I have no logic in that area, but we’re in interesting times with technology, you can do films and stuff you couldn’t have done 5 years ago, it’s bringing an affordability to making things, but the gatekeepers and distribution problems still exist. I think technology is good and empowering but frustrating and I don’t think it’s going to make anyone more creative than they are, it’s a tool. You could get the best camera ever, and call yourself a photographer…
Some people would say the democracy of the internet allows everyone to hear it, but I think it would be possible to record the best album ever and remain obscure. It may be that rising population combined with a wider access to cheapened technology means there is more content, but indie stuff is always battling mainstream distribution…
You can make a print but may spend ten years getting that money back. Or you could ask someone else to sell it, make half the money, and have more time.
I made a film, a seventy-minute psychogeographical detective story, purely narrated because I didn’t have any sound equipment, I don’t give a shit what happens with it. I went to see festival doctors, it’s not my world, but I’m fascinated with having it exist.
You have to be certifiable to work in film…
I agree, it is the nuttiest world, and there’s development money flying around, and technology has enabled it. It’s very emotionally draining.
It’s like Laura Mulvey, it gets a lot bigger than you. And £100K minimum publicity and advertising budget is essential to even remotely play in the arts cinemas. So why bother making something in that format if it’s never going to make it. Even the Netflix/HBO/Amazon series – it’s all getting sewn up by the same gatekeepers, so as indies we have to find our own way.
I was like: I’m going to make this film, and I’d have meetings with people trying to do it the right way, and they’d say, you need a crew of fifteen people. And in the end I was like, right, I can make something but it’s not the same way they’d make it. I’m with you that you can’t expect mass cinema release. There is interesting stuff, but you have to be a Social Media fanatic, it’s something I feel I should be doing more than I want to. You can get people to do that.
Technology is not going to improve creativity. It does enable it, you can make a film that looks alright that is digital, but you can make a film on a video camera and make it look good, I think if you can get a good balance with it, it’s good.
I think it’s more useful to have the internet in the country than in the city.
Yeah, John Reith saw communication as a way to educate and inform farmers.
It’s all regional, but linked. The human race will survive and adapt but technology may not be used for entertainment – Social Media was used in the Arab Spring for something amazing, and in the West it’s used for privileged entertainment to make sense of our stupid lives. Taking pictures of food. People call themselves foodies, like, we’ve all gotta eat…
I did ten years without food!
We’ve all eaten tissue paper, for our time in the catwalk, ha, but it’s fascinating I was only on Facebook this year, to promote my film, but I got suckered in, and it’s funny, that’s exactly what they’d do if you were sitting with them, so people do connect in the same way, in social entertainment, it could be used for good to help isolated people, it would have blown my mind on Jersey as a boy.
I got that through magazines, The Face, reading i-D.
I don’t know if we knew what we looking for – you’d get a record, read the sleeve notes, it was manual. I think digital is interesting but it’s like anything [is available], I’m not going to listen to stuff on a valve amp ‘cos it’s authentic, or Modern is Bad. Because we live in the modern, some of it is shit, but computers have helped me personally in some respects but can be a bit annoying if I’m there with my girlfriend, and I’m on Facebook.
I’m time obsessive and it kills me how much time it leaks.
We do like to kill time though, boredom, we have to be entertained…
IF YOU GET THIS FAR: HERE’S THE PROMISED SAMUEL JOHNSON, from 1738…
Tho’ Grief and Fondness in my Breast rebel,
When injur’d Thales bids the Town farewell,
Yet still my calmer Thoughts his Choice commend,
I praise the Hermit, but regret the Friend,
Resolved at length, from Vice and London far,
To breathe in distant Fields a purer Air,
And, fix’d on Cambria‘s solitary shore,
Give to St. David one true Briton more.
For who would leave, unbrib’d, Hibernia‘s Land,
Or change the Rocks of Scotland for the Strand?
There none are swept by sudden Fate away,
But all whom Hunger spares, with Age decay:
Here Malice, Rapine, Accident, conspire,
And now a Rabble Rages, now a Fire;
Their Ambush here relentless Ruffians lay,
And here the fell Attorney prowls for Prey;
Here falling Houses thunder on your Head,
And here a female Atheist talks you dead.
While Thales waits the Wherry that contains
Of dissipated Wealth the small Remains,
On Thames‘s Banks, in silent Thought we stood,
Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver Flood:
Struck with the Seat that gave Eliza Birth,
We kneel, and kiss the consecrated Earth;
In pleasing Dreams the blissful Age renew,
And call Britannia‘s Glories back to view;
Behold her Cross triumphant on the Main,
The Guard of Commerce, and the Dread of Spain,
Ere Masquerades debauch’d, Excise oppress’d,
Or English Honour grew a standing Jest.
A transient Calm the happy Scenes bestow,
And for a Moment lull the Sense of Woe.
At length awaking, with contemptuous Frown,
Indignant Thales eyes the neighb’ring Town.
Since Worth, he cries, in these degen’rate Days,
Wants ev’n the cheap Reward of empty Praise;
In those curst Walls, devote to Vice and Gain,
Since unrewarded Science toils in vain;
Since Hope but sooths to double my Distress,
And ev’ry Moment leaves my Little less;
While yet my steady Steps no Staff sustains,
And Life still vig’rous revels in my Veins;
Grant me, kind Heaven, to find some happier Place,
Where Honesty and Sense are no Disgrace;
Some pleasing Bank where verdant Osiers play,
Some peaceful Vale with Nature’s Paintings gay;
Where once the harass’d Briton found Repose,
And safe in Poverty defy’d his Foes;
Some secret Cell, ye Pow’rs, indulgent give.
Let —— live here, for —— has learn’d to live.
Here let those reign, whom Pensions can incite
To vote a Patriot black, a Courtier white;
Explain their Country’s dear-bought Rights away,
And plead for Pirates in the Face of Day;
With slavish Tenets taint our poison’d Youth,
And lend a Lye the confidence of Truth.
Let such raise Palaces, and Manors buy,
Collect a Tax, or farm a Lottery,
With warbling Eunuchs fill a licens’d Stage,
And lull to Servitude a thoughtless Age.
Heroes, proceed! What Bounds your Pride shall hold?
What Check restrain your Thirst of Pow’r and Gold?
Behold rebellious Virtue quite o’erthrown,
Behold our Fame, our Wealth, our Lives your own.
To such, a groaning Nation’s Spoils are giv’n,
When publick Crimes inflame the Wrath of Heav’n:
But what, my Friend, what Hope remains for me,
Who start at Theft, and blush at Perjury?
Who scarce forbear, tho’ Britain‘s Court he sing,
To pluck a titled Poet’s borrow’d Wing;
A Statesman’s Logic, unconvinc’d can hear,
And dare to slumber o’er the Gazetteer;
Despise a Fool in half his Pension drest,
And strive in vain to laugh at H—y’s jest.
Others with softer Smiles, and subtler Art,
Can sap the Principles, or taint the Heart;
With more Address a Lover’s Note convey,
Or bribe a Virgin’s Innocence away.
Well may they rise, while I, whose Rustic Tongue
Ne’er knew to puzzle Right, or varnish Wrong,
Spurn’d as a Beggar, dreaded as a Spy,
Live unregarded, unlamented die.
For what but social Guilt the Friend endears?
Who shares Orgilio‘s Crimes, his Fortune shares.
But thou, should tempting Villainy present
All Marlb’rough hoarded, or all Villiers spent;
Turn from the glitt’ring Bribe thy scornful Eye,
Nor sell for Gold, what Gold could never buy,
The peaceful Slumber, self-approving Day,
Unsullied Fame, and Conscience ever gay.
The cheated Nation’s happy Fav’rites, see!
Mark whom the Great caress, who frown on me!
London! the needy Villain’s gen’ral Home,
The Common Shore of Paris and of Rome;
With eager Thirst, by Folly or by Fate,
Sucks in the Dregs of each corrupted State.
Forgive my Transports on a Theme like this,
I cannot bear a French metropolis.
Illustrious Edward! from the Realms of Day,
The Land of Heroes and of Saints survey;
Nor hope the British Lineaments to trace,
The rustic Grandeur, or the surly Grace;
But lost in thoughtless Ease, and empty Show,
Behold the Warriour dwindled to a Beau;
Sense, Freedom, Piety, refin’d away,
Of France the Mimic, and of Spain the Prey.
All that at home no more can beg or steal,
Or like a Gibbet better than a Wheel;
Hiss’d from the Stage, or hooted from the Court,
Their Air, their Dress, their Politicks import;
Obsequious, artful, voluble and gay,
On Britain‘s fond Credulity they prey.
No gainful Trade their Industry can ‘scape,
They sing, they dance, clean Shoes, or cure a Clap;
All Sciences a fasting Monsieur knows,
And bid him go to Hell, to Hell he goes.
Ah! what avails it, that, from Slav’ry far,
I drew the Breath of Life in English Air;
Was early taught a Briton‘s Right to prize,
And lisp the Tale of Henry‘s Victories;
If the gull’d Conqueror receives the Chain,
And what their Armies lost, their Cringes gain?
Studious to please, and ready to submit,
The supple Gaul was born a Parasite:
Still to his Int’rest true, where’er he goes,
Wit, Brav’ry, Worth, his lavish Tongue bestows;
In ev’ry Face a Thousand Graces shine,
From ev’ry Tongue flows Harmony divine.
These Arts in vain our rugged Natives try,
Strain out with fault’ring Diffidence a Lye,
And get a Kick for awkward Flattery.
Besides, with Justice, this discerning Age
Admires their wond’rous Taients for the Stage:
Well may they venture on the Mimic’s art,
Who play from Morn to Night a borrow’d Part;
Practis’d their Master’s Notions to embrace,
Repeat his Maxims, and reflect his Face;
With ev’ry wild Absurdity comply,
And view each Object with another’s Eye;
To shake with Laughter ere the Jest they hear,
To pour at Will the counterfeited Tear;
And as their Patron hints the Cold or Heat,
To shake in Dog-days, in December sweat.
How, when Competitors like these contend,
Can surly Virtue hope to fix a Friend?
Slaves that with serious Impudence beguile,
And lye without a Blush, without a Smile;
Exalt each Trifle, ev’ry Vice adore,
Your Taste in Snuff, your Judgment in a Whore;
Can Balbo‘s Eloquence applaud, and swear
He gropes his Breeches with a Monarch’s Air.
For Arts like these preferr’d, admir’d, carest,
They first invade your Table, then your Breast;
Explore your Secrets with insidious Art,
Watch the weak Hour, and ransack all the Heart;
Then soon your ill-plac’d Confidence repay,
Commence your Lords, and govern or betray.
By Numbers here from Shame or Censure free,
All Crimes are safe, but hated Poverty.
This, only this, the rigid Law persues,
This, only this, provokes the snarling Muse;
The sober Trader at a tatter’d Cloak,
Wakes from his Dream, and labours for a Joke;
With brisker Air the silken Courtiers gaze,
And turn the varied Taunt a thousand Ways.
Of all the Griefs that harrass the Distrest,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful Jest;
Fate never wounds more deep the gen’rous Heart,
Than when a Blockhead’s Insult points the Dart.
Has Heaven reserv’d, in Pity to the Poor,
No pathless Waste, or undiscover’d Shore?
No secret Island in the boundless Main?
No peaceful Desart yet unclaim’d by SPAIN?
Quick let us rise, the happy Seats explore,
And bear Oppression’s Insolence no more.
This mournful Truth is ev’ry where confest,
Slow rises worth, by poverty deprest:
But here more slow, where all are Slaves to Gold,
Where Looks are Merchandise, and Smiles are sold,
Where won by Bribes, by Flatteries implor’d,
The Groom retails the Favours of his Lord.
But hark! th’ affrighted Crowd’s tumultuous Cries
Roll thro’ the Streets, and thunder to the Skies;
Rais’d from some pleasing Dream of Wealth and Pow’r,
Some pompous Palace, or some blissful Bow’r,
Aghast you start, and scarce with aking Sight,
Sustain th’ approaching Fire’s tremendous Light;
Swift from pursuing Horrors take your Way,
And Leave your little All to Flames a Prey;
Then thro’ the World a wretched Vagrant roam,
For where can starving Merit find a Home?
In vain your mournful Narrative disclose,
While all neglect, and most insult your Woes.
Should Heaven’s just Bolts Orgilio‘s Wealth confound,
And spread his flaming Palace on the Ground,
Swift o’er the Land the dismal Rumour flies,
And publick Mournings pacify the Skies;
The Laureat Tribe in servile Verse relate,
How Virtue wars with persecuting Fate;
With well-feign’d Gratitude the pension’s Band
Refund the Plunder of the begger’d Land.
See! while he builds, the gaudy Vassals come,
And crowd with sudden Wealth the rising Dome;
The Price of Boroughs and of Souls restore,
And raise his Treasures higher than before.
Now bless’d with all the Baubles of the Great,
The polish’d Marble, and the shining Plate,
Orgilio sees the golden Pile aspire,
And hopes from angry Heav’n another Fire.
Couid’st thou resign the Park and Play content,
For the fair Banks of Severn or of Trent;
There might’st thou find some elegant Retreat,
Some hireling Senator’s deserted Seat;
And stretch thy Prospects o’er the smiling Land,
For less than rent the Dungeons of the Strand;
There prune thy Walks, support thy drooping Flow’rs,
Direct thy Rivulets, and twine thy Bow’rs;
And, while thy Beds a cheap Repast afford,
Despise the Dainties of a venal Lord:
There ev’ry Bush with Nature’s Music rings,
There ev’ry Breeze bears Health upon its Wings;
On all thy Hours Security shall smile,
And bless thine Evening Walk and Morning Toil.
Prepare for Death, if here at Night you roam,
And sign your Will before you sup from Home.
Some fiery Fop, with new Commission vain,
Who sleeps on Brambles till he kills his Man;
Some frolick Drunkard, reeling from a Feast,
Provokes a Broil, and stabs you for a Jest.
Yet ev’n these Heroes, mischievously gay,
Lords of the Street, and Terrors of the Way;
Flush’d as they are with Folly, Youth and Wine,
Their prudent Insults to the Poor confine;
Afar they mark the Flambeau’s bright Approach,
And shun the shining Train, and golden Coach.
In vain, these Dangers past, your Doors you close,
And hope the balmy Blessings of Repose:
Cruel with Guilt, and daring with Despair,
The midnight Murd’rer bursts the faithless Bar;
Invades the sacred Hour of silent Rest,
And plants, unseen, a Dagger in your Breast.
Scarce can our Fields, such Crowds at Tyburn die,
With Hemp the Gallows and the Fleet supply.
Propose your Schemes, ye Senatorian Band,
Whose Ways and Means support the sinking Land;
Lest Ropes be wanting in the tempting Spring,
To rig another Convoy for the K—g.
A single Jail, in Alfred‘s golden Reign,
Could half the Nation’s Criminals contain;
Fair Justice then, without Constraint ador’d,
Sustain’d the Ballance, but resign’d the Sword;
No Spies were paid, no Special Juries known,
Blest Age! But ah! how diff’rent from our own!
Much could I add, —— but see the Boat at hand,
The Tide retiring, calls me from the Land:
Farewel! —— When Youth, and Health, and Fortune spent,
Thou fly’st for Refuge to the Wilds of Kent;
And tir’d like me with Follies and with Crimes,
In angry Numbers warn’st succeeding Times;
Then shall thy Friend, nor thou refuse his Aid,
Still Foe to Vice forsake his Cambrian Shade;
In Virtue’s Cause once more exert his Rage,
Thy Satire point, and animate thy Page.
SAME AS IT EVER WAS
AND HERE IS MR KIRSTY IN A BEAUTIFUL MEMBERS CLUB It’s the closest to our house…next to me: Danielle Kendry aka Porcelain, of Porcelain and Red – my fave vintage shop ever, next door to The Society Club. x