Today I touched an icicle
And it felt like a photograph.
Faith, like time, has matter,
You can sense where it's accrued.
Faith is timeless, yet time is not faithless.
You must believe in time to sound its snare.
Time is rarely invaded except by capitalism
As it transubstantiates from our time, labour.
I've said goodbye to so many elements of a life I held for nearly twenty years. Some said goodbye to me, either via death, drugs or discord, and some I jettisoned of my own accord for reasons of personal, physical, mental, professional health. When one sheds vast swathes of a former life, we're left wondering what will constitute the new one. This is yet to be fashioned. The old one was untenable – it was starting to hurt unbearably. And the emblems and bastions of any goodness had long begun to slip away, so why, as nostalgia's lapdog, continually attempt to inflate a balloon pocked with holes.
I have to forcibly remind myself that I don't need to decide immediately – I'm not encumbered by property, romance or offspring, and my curious melange of vocational talents can largely be deployed online. So... who knows.
I was born unstitched to any particular vernacular and I moved around a lot as a kid – which while forging a lasting distrust of attachment certainly equipped my bones and spirit with an enduring ecstasy at being in motion: I guess that's my take-home for loneliness. It's hard to be lonely where you're somewhere nobody knows you.
I was educated in mortality and disturbation from far too young an age with the deaths of various family members, most memorably that of the aunt who set me on my musical path and of my grandfather who died of a stroke a week after retiring from a gruelling five decades of farming. And one of my earliest memories is of discovering a circus girl in iridescent plumage and eighties curls propped semi-conscious on a hay bale behind a marquee in a forest, her bronze legs latticed with cuts from the straw, blood gushing in Argento hues where an artery had been punctured. I screamed for her help and assistance was quickly on-hand to save her. Then there was the abusive female babysitter and the voyeur-of-children in cliché mackintosh wrappings nestled in the bushes near the primary school. My grandmother used to take me looking for wolves in the forest. I quickly came to realise that the real wolves lurk in the suburbs and school grounds. The forest was always sanctuary, and still is.
Wolves aside, it was an idyllic childhood in many ways, but certainly one trammelled by the above litany into the present adult who is quite happy on his own and in transit. At least I have a resourceful self-reliance and a querulous thirst for adventure writ deep in my marrow.
Another house that's subject to change is that of music – for a while. I'm boarding up its doors and windows. I want to evolve my available ways by which to make it. I started writing songs seventeen years ago in an alchemical bid to change the present reality via writing. Songwriting especially seemed a convenient medium for vignettes, snapshots, poses, or as Burroughs mights say, routines. I was a depressed, closeted, mute, unsocialised homosexual then, and now, seventeen years and over five-hundred songs later, I'm a depressed, “out”, highly vocal, antisocial homosexual! How much do I attribute to the songwriting? At least some, and some to the situations in which the songs found me.
I've long been wanting, needing, to focus more on prose-writing and film – both were areas of academic study and deep personal – and creative – joy long before I even considered writing a song. I wrote a period espionage “novel” when I was six called – cough – Queen Victoria & The Secret Pigeons. And when I was eleven I was close to being ejected from a prestigious Austrian hotel when the manager caught me roaming the corridors at midnight, attempting to create an in-camera-edited, first-person remake of Polanski's Repulsion on my grandfather's camcorder. Fortunately my labours in both fields have evolved somewhat since those early experiments...
I'm not abandoning The Song, but I know I'm unlikely to commit fully to these endeavours while I still identify as an “active songwriter”. What I need and wish to express is less satisfactorily done these days via vignettes: vaster canvasses beckon.
Besides, the playing field has become a nihilistic, algorithmic, risk-free, trend-modelled simulacrum of art and after fifteen years of teasing at its fringes for scraps, I feel soiled and servile. If I want to feel soiled and servile I can log onto Grindr.
I'm convinced that Nick Cave, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen and other god-level cartographers of the heart would not be signed to major labels were they to arrive on the scene today. I suspect even David Bowie would be consigned to Lunatic Fringe Corner.
Sloganized, hollowed-out trauma, 3D-printed heartbreak and the Vegas-ification of mental health. All branding, no poetry. The purveyors and consumers of modern pop songwriting are being sold crass, easily-decoded, Meta versions of themselves. The tech bro-ligachs hope they will become these versions. An entity that is easily decoded can be easily manipulated. It's dangerous. And lest we forget, joyless.
The moon is not for a smartphone. It's for poetry, myth, cosmology: more panoramic, transcendent recording devices. I'd rather never hear another love song than hear one more bad one. I'd like to see the Capitalist Love Song shot in the arms and dumped in a reservoir full of radioactive scorpions. There are great contemporary songwriters out there but you have to dig deep for such treasures. (My friend Oli Spleen is one such jewel. Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu and Joel Gibb of The Hidden Cameras are two others. Tori Amos has spoken and always will speak her truth and for this we are privileged indeed.)
It's not to say things might not tumble out of me that resemble songs when squinted at through a mesh cloth by a cataracted Cyclops looking the wrong way: it's just while I'm out writing fiction and making films, I'll be expanding my compositional toolbox. And if I sound pathologically cynical about the music industry then it's because I am. It should go without saying that the stellar ranks of independent writers, broadcasters and publicists who have amplified my work are held in the loftiest and most beloved pantheon – but the key there is “independent”. I don't expect the publishing world or that of film to be any better. But even “differently worse” or “not quite as bad” would prove refreshing at this point.
A real king has no desire to govern, as he builds his palace with ideas from a hole dug in the ground. The time here cannot be invaded. Ideas can not be eroded – they can and may be censored but that just means they're briefly contained, and those walls always fall.
Many open roads lay ahead, and either is preferable.