Andrew Eldritch moves in with Mountain Goats

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Of all the strangest headlines for my blog, that is currently in the lead. This is the story that an American indie-folk band, the aforementioned ‘Mountain Goats‘, have recorded a new album entitled Goths. The launch was promoted with the release of the track ‘Andrew Eldritch is moving back to Leeds’.

Frontman John Darnielle explained the bizarre title, telling Stereogum:

This song began its life on a 1973 Guild while I was at the beach a couple of summers back; I wrote the first verse and the chorus and then I put it away. In the darkness of my desk-drawer it gathered strength and plotted its return to the surface …

In the lyric, I imagine one of my teenage heroes, Andrew Eldritch, returning to the town where the band worked and played when they were young. His friends give him a hard time about ending up back where he started, but not because they’re mad: it’s good to see an old friend wearing the marks of time on his hands and face like well-loved tattoos.

So shall it be in these times: your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions, and Andrew Eldritch, whose music has reached spirits in every corner of the globe, will move back to Leeds.

As any dedicated Sisters fan/stalker will tell you, Eldritch never truly left Leeds – at the last General Election, the sporadically updated website of the legendary Goth-apologists had a message urging those in Leeds to vote Labour, as the band would be doing so.
The green-biro brigade swear blind he still keeps a base of some description in the People’s Republic despite his long-held affection for The Mainland – no doubt only enhanced in these post-Brexit times.
Still, I liked the reference to ‘old friends in Motorhead jackets’, I’m sure even the Paramount Leader would approve of such awareness.

fronthighdiscAny factual inaccuracies aside, the song – and the album – seems to refer to what bassist Peter Hughes calls those “whose gothic paths were overtaken by the realities of life”. As I’m still merrily two-stepping down my own dark path, I’ll consider this a bizarre artefact that shows just how widespread the influence of bands like The Sisters of Mercy is – and what unusual results can emerge!

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Illamasqua Antifa

julian1Rather suddenly, everyone has woken up to the fact that politics affect us all, especially with the bizarre emanations from the White House. And when Teen Vogue starts putting out some cutting political analysis, it should come as no surprise that make-up companies with a strong ethical agenda should start nailing their gorgeous colours to the mast as well.

Illamasqua is a long-time ally of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and its range of cosmetics has high popularity with the alternative crowd. I met Julian, the company founder, at Whitby Goth Weekend a few years ago and found him a warm, friendly, entertaining and engaging man who cared very deeply and strove to put his moral code into his business operations.

So it is no surprise that the company has adopted a bold pledge:

As such, we will never knowingly sell our products to people who support President Trump’s values. To be part of our community, and to buy our products, you must first pledge to Human Fundamentalism values:

  • Never discriminate against race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion

  • Accept responsibility on challenging social and climate issues

  • Speak for those who cannot speak up for themselves

  • Uphold the principles of the S.O.P.H.I.E. charity to stamp out prejudice, intolerance and hatred.

ila1So far, it’s been interpreted as a ‘ban’ or some kind of strange ‘reverse-discrimination’, that Trump supporters feel they are being singled out and treated differently because of how they voted.
Aside from the irony of this outrage emanating from people who have enabled and endorsed the greatest discriminatory force to occupy the most powerful political position in the world, Illamasqua’s statement is simply not that combative!

It’s the final request that means so much to me:

So please, if you don’t agree with the above DON’T BUY US

A simple request, a heartfelt plea. Just don’t buy the products if you don’t agree. 

Ilamasqua describes how they feel, how they align, and simply asked people not to take part if they don’t feel and align themselves the same way. 

Judging by the outpouring of bile, abuse and scorn on social media – which the implacable Julian is fielding with unaffected glee – it’s been a completely successful operation in smoking out the kind of discriminatory hatred no company would ever want to associate with in the first place.

I wonder how many people frothing and raging on Twitter actually publicly state they do discriminate, or that they do deny climate change is a human artefact. Because criticising Julian’s pledge indicates you’re very much against what it says.

What do you think? Do you admire and applaud a company that adopts such a brave pledge?

Or are Illamasqua guilty of the same discrimination they are protesting, and risk alternating customers not interested in politics, just makeup? Let us know in the comments below! 

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The Death of Discworld

Over the weekend I settled down to watch Back in Black, the docu-drama about Sir Terry Pratchett on the BBC. Curiously containing a strange amalgamation of actor Paul Kaye with the appearance and sound of Britain’s finest fantasy writer (YMMV), it was a touching, gentle history of the Discworld’s ultimate Creator.

It was also saddening, of course, as grief always is. The reactions of Rhiannon, Sir Terry’s daughter, and many of his fans, were honest and human and generated immediate empathy, that shared experience of loss and absence.

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For me, the most painful moment was the interview with equally renowned author Neil Gaiman. Terry’s collaborative partner on the darkly witty Good Omens – soon to receive a TV adaption – Neil has been closely involved with much of the remembrance and memorialisation. I had to leave the London Memorial early sadly, so I particularly appreciated seeing some of Neil’s recitation to the audience.

In a quiet little restaurant, Neil spoke personally about his grief surrounding the very early passing of his friend. It was very difficult for Neil. He cradled his face in his hands and mourned. He said very honestly, “I miss him so much.”  It was like a punch in the chest and a knife to the brain for me.

Image grab courtesy of BBC

Image courtesy of BBC

I’m an Englishman, repressed emotionally, possessed of a stiff upper lip, and uncomfortable around death. To see another, even more archetypal Englishman, publically display his grief was… liberating, as well as being deeply upsetting.
With all the skill every writer longs to muster, Neil connected me to my own grief, helped me experience and evaluate my own sense of loss around a childhood hero, a venerated figure, an idol and example I’ve tried to follow.

Everyone has strange catalysts for strong emotion, experiences and tools that help us to manifest and ultimately, hopefully, deal with significant feelings like grief. For me, it was seeing a distant and public figure suddenly act very like myself, in a very personal way.
I’d had a hint of it when Terry first passed, back in 2015, and Neil’s wife Amanda Palmer tweeted a very brief but personal message, which I wrote about at the time. Seeing it in almost real-time, there on the screen, magnified the experience a hundredfold.

It is still very upsetting. Grief always is. Grief shared is, however, a little easier to deal with.

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No Shoes, No Shirt, No Soul – No Service!

g-mnkiby

Click through to Black Friday on Facebook!

It is disappointing to read, so soon after positive action against discrimination in the UK, of the uncomfortable experiences of a Goth abroad.

YouTube sensation Black Friday was visiting Paris, but was asked to leave the world-famous Musée du Louvre by security before even getting in, according to media in Black Friday’s home of New Zealand.

The Louvre’s security reportedly told the couple their clothes and hair would cause too much attention to be drawn to them, and people would want to cluster around and take photographs with them.

I am sure it’s very flattering to be perceived as more attractive than the legendary artwork and artifacts held in the Louvre, but this seems a spectacularly bizarre issue for museum staff to have.

bf1The issues did not stop there. When attempting to visit the famous Père-Lachaise cemetery, Black Friday and her partner were confronted with even more hostility.

This chimed with me very much, as I visited Paris for the first time a couple of years ago, and like many, made a pilgrimage to Père-Lachaise and the final resting place of icons like Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Here I am by the grave of the original gothic-rock singer.

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Tim, and Jim.

Did I encounter any hostility in the cemetery? Anywhere in Paris? No.
Perhaps this is because I’m not half as elaborate as the beautiful Black Friday – but the ugly suspicion there is that we must modestly comport ourselves to avoid upsetting conventional, mainstream people.

My personal attitude has always been to reserve my gaudiest finery for clubs, environments guaranteed to be ‘safe spaces’ – just call me the blackest snowflake! Obviously my opinions are just that, opinions, and certainly not binding on others. Black Friday deserved in no circumstances to be made to feel unwelcome or even afraid, and should be allowed to attire herself however she feels, insofar as she at least complies with the law!

Everyone should. As a Goth, I’ve always resigned myself to some unusual public reaction – across Western Europe, this has differed from place to place. The Italians regard me with askance query, the Germans with friendly fascination, the French and Spanish barely registered me. The rest of the world, I have yet to visit.  England, however, has always felt like the most hostile, ironically enough.

I’d be fascinated to hear from any foreign Goths who’ve traveled to the UK, and their experiences in public as a result.  Because so far, the safest I’ve felt as a Goth, has been abroad.

UPDATE: Whilst browsing the /goth subreddit, I noticed an interesting comment from a French citizen that I think provides some balance to this story.

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Sophie Lancaster Foundation to receive Government Funding

The Department for Communities and Local Government, part of the British Government, has awarded £50,000 to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. The grant is part of a larger fund given to four groups that have historically faced challenges in reporting and preventing hate crime – £375,000 in total.

bsi_soplc01The Sophie Lancaster Foundation was set up in 2007 by Sylvia Lancaster, whose daughter was murdered in 2007. Her killers were described as being motivated by Sophie’s Goth appearance at their trial. The case was widely discussed as an extreme and tragic example of intolerance and violence directed towards the Goth subculture.

In a statement on the Foundation’s website, Sylvia stated:

“For this funding to be granted in Sophie’s 10th anniversary year is validation of our work in my daughter’s memory. Sophie was murdered in a hate motivated attack and I have spent my time since the day she died trying to ensure no one else suffers because they are expressing their individuality”

“The UK Government have long recognised that hate crimes damage our communities and are supporting work to strengthen the education that is needed to challenge and prevent intolerance and prejudice.
We start with primary school age children while also training police and other professionals. We are grateful for this funding that will support us to develop resources that raise empathy and encourage the celebration, not fear, of ‘difference’.”

32419276615_2a9356e373_zA spokesperson for the Foundation added “We intend to develop educational resources around the film Black Roses and reach new geographical areas”. 

Secretary of State for Communities Sajid Javid described the groups who will receive the financial package as those that include race and faith groups, and those working at challenging the prejudice towards people from alternative subcultures.

In launching the funding at The Anne Frank Trust Annual Lunch to mark Holocaust Memorial Day in London, Mr. Javid is quoted as saying

“These funds build upon what government is already doing through the Hate Crime Action Plan to challenge the misperceptions that lead to hate crime and support victims from marginalised communities to stand up and report incidents.

Let me be clear. Hate crime has no place whatsoever in British society. We will not stand for it. All communities must be able to live their lives free from fear of verbal or physical attack.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Communities and Local Government described their long and fruitful relationship with the charity, stating “We’ve had a relationship with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation for a while and we identified an opportunity to fund their valuable work. This wasn’t a bid process, but rather the recognition of the need for certain groups to receive extra support.”

s300_hmd_logo_white_space_large_960x640Responding to queries about government recognition of discrimination against people of alternative subcultures, they added “The fact that we are funding [the Foundation] alongside other charities shows that we do treat this kind of discrimination as a concern.

As Sajid Javid says in our press release, Holocaust Memorial Day is a time of the year that reminds us of what can happen if we sit back and let hatred grow without tackling it, and without thinking carefully about what kind of groups need extra support to help them raise awareness and to stand up to intolerance and prejudice.”

The other groups receiving funding are:

  • True Vision: the police reporting portal for hate crime. New funding will help encourage groups that face challenges in reporting hate crime including Sikh and Hindu communities and recent arrivals from Eastern Europe; True Vision will also work with National Churchwatch, an organisation which works to counter hate crime against the Christian community
  • The Traveller Movement: a charity that aims to improve reporting rates for hate crimes against the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities
  • Show Racism the Red Card: a campaign to unite young people of different backgrounds using professional footballers and their clubs to educate against racism

Additional funding will go to National Hate Crime Awareness Week that takes place each October to develop the scope and depth of the programme and to encourage collaboration between anti-hate crime charities across the country.

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MUMU 2017: Still No Masterplan

k2-hire“Ladies and Gentlemen, KLF have now left the building”

Or so we thought. After much frenzied discussion of an appropriately chaotic YouTube clip, an “official” statement has been released. By released, of course, we mean someone happened to spot this poster whilst out for a walk in Hackney. That someone happened to be Billy Drummond’s manager, adding a suddenly discernible veneer of truth to what seemed to be a collection of “happens”.

Which likely means Britain’s strangest Justified and Ancient art-music-duo is due to return. What bearing could this reunion, of the weirdest dance-electronica-hiphop anarchists, have on Goths?
Well, the KLF have always been up there with Carter USM and Pop Will Eat Itself for me as those mad, fringe artists that nevertheless have a solid following in the Goth scene, and still guarantee a dancefloor success, whilst not even being close to wearing the G-tag – not even in a dismissive-denial status, such as the Sisters.

I reached out to veteran DJ Mister Vodka, generalissimo of Carpe Noctum gigs and club nights, who traces his legacy back to that cradle of Leeds Goth, Le Phono, and has been running live events for Goths and allied trades since 1999. When I put my observations to him, he said

“‘Music that Goths like’ forms a classic Venn diagram with ‘Music called Goth'”.

“Back then, remember, there wasn’t much in the way of goth clubs, so we tended to go to rock clubs and indie/alternative clubs, so had exposure to “music that makes us bounce around the dancefloor like idiots and spill our snakebites”.

There’s a lot of other stuff from that sort of era that broke into the collective goth consciousness (Therapy?, Prodigy, Levellers, Pulp, Suede, JAMC, Curve, Smiths, etc.) alongside the earlier equivalents of Depeche Mode, Bowie, Iggy, Adam Ant, Motorhead, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell … all of which were cool outsiders.”

sdr

A gorgeous sign in a Newcastle drinking hole I saw just weeks ago.

It’s an exciting reminder of the fluid and flexible nature Goth first arose in, before self-appointed Elder-Police decided to lay down the obsidian tablets containing the commandments of What Is Goth. In doing so, we lose sight of the laudably challenging behaviour of the most critically acclaimed band of 1992 – winning a BRIT award – turning up to the ceremony with a crust-punk band in tow, firing blanks from an automatic weapon at the audience, and fucking off to delete their entire back catalogue.

The re-emergence of bands of this vintage, even bizarre if treasured anomalies like The JAMS, is an exciting link back to those heady, drunken days when everyone was aboard the last train to Trancentral, and nobody was arguing in YouTube comments threads.
The difficulty of defining Goth is one of its virtues, and its delightfully transgressive appreciation for music that seems to lack any relevance is wickedly ironic and amusing.

So come climb aboard these ice-cream vans and crank up the pyramid blaster. 2017 is the year to find out just what the fuck is going on.

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Whitby Goth Weekend: Winter 2016 Part Two

We’re riding hell for leather into our second set of reviews of Whitby Goth Weekend, Winter 2016, having covered Friday previously. What better way to sound the call to battle, than with veterans of 2015 – Chasing Dragons!

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Tank crushes microphones with her bare hands to relax

These metallers are aggressive, fun and very polished. They’re spearheaded by the very confident, very talented Tank, who has a voice like a cruise missile – heavy, deadly and powerful. The whole band have an infectious energy, crucial for getting a half-frozen audience at a blustery WGW into the action.

This author isn’t a metal fan by any easy definition of the term, yet there’s something very vital about this skilled lineup, who deftly move between heavy and light rhythms, all wrapped neatly around Tank’s staggering vocals. They draw out the fan of engrossing music in everyone – then scare them to death with howled and screamed vocals of pure passion.
They’ve won fans at the top echelons of this festival, and when you look about, you see there are even more in the rows and rows of tight-packed fans crowding the stage. Chasing Dragons have earned the respect of a lot of discerning punters, in a field crammed with competitors. Credit to them.


cos1

Neil spots a smiling Goth, and demands his five quid

Truly delivering to the fans, next is a welcome visit from an equally veteran outfit, Children on Stun. These boys rock that Nineties sound something wicked, and it’s a delight to have them perform what is a relatively new gig so soon after their 2015 reunion.  But for Neil Ash, it’s like no time has been spent away. He wants to connect with the dedicated fans that follow his band like a religion, and from the sounds of it, he’s still connecting six or eight rows back! A vocalist with a wireless microphone is like a kite without a string.

Ash is brimming with passion for this gig, and his exuberance is exciting, for all it’s ironic a a Goth festival. He never forgets that though, and on some songs he utterly bears his soul and pours real, hard emotion into every lyric. The band’s newer songs can be slower and very raw, a hazard of their joint tragedy in recent years.

Even so, there is a mesmeric two-way relationship between band and fan. They chant the words they know, surge along to the beat, and deliver thunderous applause as Ash expertly weaves a close-knit community around them all. Children on Stun have given us some classic, hypnotic goth rock tunes that regularly rock nightclub dancefloors, and live they are no exception. Grab the chance to see these guys if you can.


sf1

Anne-Marie here stressing to other singers the importance of taking some time out for yourselves.

We’re really escalating the threat tonight though. If you like your Goth classic, look no further than West Yorkshire of course – and the irrepressible, unstoppable, Skeletal Family. Incapable of ever calling it a day, Anne-Marie Hurst and her merry men continue to remind us they were on the bleeding edge of this thing we called Goth back in the day – and also, they aren’t willing to rest on their laurels!

The band start like they’re fired from a gun, crashing in effortlessly and stylishly. They really are red-hot professionals, and it’s a bloody joy to see them laying down polished ebony goth-rock class*. Anne-Marie remains a commanding and tantalizing singer, powerful and sly in equal measure as she teases and roars her way through the songs.

And what songs they are – it’s a credit to bands like Skeletal Family that Goth music remains so invested in its past. Rolled out, punched up and belted out to a new wave of fans, the band effortlessly fills the cavernous Spa with beautiful live takes on beloved classics.
Of course, it can’t all be black roses and sweetness – the band have some technical issues, arriving and departing the stage in a jarring silence. And occasionally, I struggle to hear Anne-Marie in the mix, other times hearing her signature banshee wail loud and clear. The Spa is no forgiver of imperfect sound balancing, and perhaps this was one of those times.

But I can’t rob them of the strength of their performance, built on cruel menace and sassy style, played to an absolutely rammed hall of besotted fans.


* I have written this exactly as I noted it down at the time.

miss1

“Anyone fancy a guitar? Going (definitely not) cheap, one less-than-careful owner…!”

And so, faithful friend, we come to the last door on this dark advent calendar, and lurking behind is a fearsome Frankenstein’s monster of The Mission, circa 1986 and The Mission, circa 2016. Which is which? Let’s delve in and find out.

Hussey and his heavies have just finished terrorizing the English speaking world, and will go on to conquer the rest of the planet after Whitby. The dust has been well and truly shaken off, and a polished performing outfit stand before us, led by Goth’s leading silver fox. This gig is a high-water mark for their tour promoting Another Fall From Grace, their new album, and it’s going to be interesting to see what they sound like live…
Well one thing’s for sure, they aren’t The Sisters. The band deliver Garden of Delight, a version many of us have heard Hussey’s old bandmates demo years and years before – but The Mission’s version is a snarled, angry remastering that slams the door on any Eldritchian comparisons.

Which is no bad thing of course. Indeed, Hussey demonstrates human traits of compassion when a missing child – no, really! – is reported to venue staff. The Mission’s main man orders the lights turned up until the trespassing toddler is retrieved. All’s well that ends weird!

Returning to the scene of the crime, we are rewarded with His Master’s Guitar. That classic twelve-string strum defined a brace of Mission albums, and Hussey still has it in spades. At the back of my ear, however, I can hear the sound dissolving into the hungry corners of this intimidating venue. Sound techs will struggle in vain against this voracious beast. To calm tempers, the talented Evi Vine adds a Regan-esque ethereal aura that glitters against the goth-rock gloom of The Mission.

Oddly enough, the audience hasn’t fully engaged beyond the hardcore at the front. Even Wayne observes how relatively collected the crowd has become, and even the intro to Severina doesn’t seem to stir a shout as I would have expected. But, then, a defiant tower of the dedicated rises, defiant, and I wonder if venue security might be somewhat to blame for matters…

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Simon’s mic stand lost out in the eternal war with his omnipresent hat

Maybe. Tower of Strength suddenly hits home with a hammerblow of rock and roll. Every instrument is a perfectly balanced and perceived sound, whirlpooling around a roaring Hussey at the heart of it all.
Now the crowd are fully complicit, waving banners and stacking one another like it’s the mid-Eighties. Another Fall From Grace is a beautiful remastering of that classic Mission sound, but for these hardcore, long-term fans, they really want to hear those tunes they heard, brand new, all that time ago…

The Mission depart the stage just long enough before Wayne and Evi return, to deliver a few stripped-down acoustic tracks for the audience. It’s a gamble, to depart from a blazing rock-and-roll gig to a slow-burn set, but after a few gentle and enjoyable anthems, the entire band return with gusto.
Again, my memory is deserting me, and my notes are dissolving into wine-soaked nonsense. I’ve written “A storming version of Blown Away”, and then the band depart and return for a record third encore. I noted it was half-midnight, with no signs of this gig slowing down. I noted down “Never Longer Than Forever, that quirky holiday tune!” and then I just tailed off. I have a vague, brightly-lit memory of Wayne Hussey hurtling about the stage, and a sea of people rising and falling like a mad tide.

It was the kind of gig that blended effortlessly into a bizarre waking dream. The Mission delivered a first-class, knockout show that seemed to be as much fun for the band as it was for their delirious and devoted fans. Simon Hinkler, whose dry mini-blogs on tour with the band have been a source of delight, later confirmed he found WGW one of his favourite gigs – out of a worldwide tour!

miss3

“Down in front!” Said nobody.

Such high praise is a testament to the unique experience of catching your favourite band at Whitby Goth Weekend. It’s a beacon of excitement in a disintegrating live music world. Support your bands by attending festivals, and they’ll reward you with a blinding show.

 

 

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