We planned a route to the West, figured where there was the least likelihood of people, and effectively left the world. I hadn’t been through to the west coast of Scotland in some time and this was a pretty good time to get through there. End of the season, still a slight warmth in the air…
We drove the miles. The landscape grew ever more dramatic…
There is a strange thing that happens in Scotland when moving north and west. The heart quickens as the hills rise ever steeper and it is easy – almost unavoidable – to gasp at the majesty, gape in awe, and blandly declare the whole spectacle beautiful, and so forth… But then the ante is upped further and discomfort sets in. The emotions are really grabbed in an uncomfortable way as the scene becomes so dark, the bleak, rocky outcrops so oppressive and threatening that one feels almost overcome by the desire to scream and plead to be torn away from such a bitter landscape. it feels cruel, certainly, but too silent and brooding to be truly hostile…
Emotionally, the process is allowing the heart to be moved, then the phenomena increases in concentration and the heart can no longer bear it. This is not unique to Scotland, but the flavour of the emotions is unique to the place. i recall a similar experience whereby the landscape hit at an unprecedented level – In Switzerland, on a mountsain train at the moment when the Eiger first came into view, towering out of the sky, snow and ice burning bright as magnesium flares in the sun – but the emotional print was different. In Switzerland, the surge was towards elation.
Once we passed through the process, we were free to enjoy the solitude of island beaches, dark, dark water, and the stains we could leave on the landscape with our memories.
Ardnamurchan translates as the Point of the Ocean. So, the Point of Ardnamurchan must translate as the Point of the Point of the Ocean. And why mention it here in the context of this blog? well, it is in such scenes that our little work is done. Amid the concerns of little lives paying their way, there is the time to sketch chords on the sand, measure the change in expression of hillsides as the clouds move in front of the light, drink the wine, salute old years, query the hidden shadows of the coming days… and confirm that there is still the strength to burn again, lift the bale, engage the hand and eye, and work.
I was on the train out of town this afternoon, sleepy and stale, watching a small boy speaking with the conductor and unaccountably finding myself welling up with tears as I contemplated the life ahead for the child – speaking with the conductor, speaking earnestly with individuals every day – growing taller – stronger – more solemnly assured – finding a place – becoming a man – settling like spilled sand – growing older – more frail – less assured – dying…
Well, it occured to me to ask, from whence does it arise this dystopic cry. This deep, untouchable pain that accompanies the fire of love as my own son closes my eyes to make me sleep and I imagine him doing this years from now – just before he rests coins on my eyelids?
And it came to me that some of this make up arose from formative lliterature. Books i recall from school are Tess (“Is this a blighted star? Yes. Yes, this is a blighted star”) Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” with the dog watching the man struggle in the snow to light a fire, then having the fire extinguished by melted snow falling from the tree he was using as shelter. The setting in of despair and the resignation to futility. The dog sniffing the dead body before leaving for another camp. All Quiet on the Western Front (the waste of generations) Hunt for the Royal Sun (all Gods are false and determined by ego) so on and so forth, on and on and it is little wonder I am what I am and I burn.
Ron Mueck has an exhibition in the Royal Scottish Academy this summer. I am still not decided one way or the other how I feel about his work – but there is no doubting the immediate, strong reaction to them. They do seem to propose that rarest of things (and of deep interest to Human Greed) the one way dialogue. It is as though in order to “say” something “loudly” the scale of phenomena has to be radically altered.
Use the link to material from the Scottish Academy itself, but The Washington Post has a better slideshow – and the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper has a photo of his startling giant baby – but somewhat mitigates the impact with a slideshow of the artist at work in his studio.
Anyone noticed how the download generation have no idea how to dress? anyone noticed how everyone in left field, avant-garde, experimental, edgy, transgressive, dark, black, counter culture (and so on) activities is a member of PETA? Anyone noticed how the only coverage that seems to count for anything in marginal enterprises comes from the States and is dependant upon representation in that country?
Sometimes, they put a donkey into a field just to stop the horse feeling lonely, getting anxious and becoming depressive in nature.
One of those quotes always nice to keep close to hand. Especially now that I live, by choice, design and great effort, out in the sticks…
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”
I live out of town, in a quiet village. Outside in the evening light at this very moment there is a group of dogs and their owners practicing crossing the road. It is an empty road in the middle of the countryside – very pastoral with the new wheat stubble glowing in the fields – and there is a woman teaching the villagers how to cross the road with a dog.
I am hiding in my room while my wife speaks with a stranger downstairs about heating systems, tiling and the price of oil for condenser boilers. This is a pain, not only because we cannot eat our evening meal, but because I have a glass of red wine sitting down there awaiting my attention. I am too much of a coward to go down and claim it and run the risk of having to speak with someone.
I have just read another frustrating email from someone in America wanting to know how he can get hold of Human Greed CDs. This is frustrating because we have STILL not managed to negotiate US retail distribution. And, form the slight evidence that I have to hand, Americans are reluctant to pay in anything but dollars, don’t like using a Paypal store and don’t like using European online retailers.
This will be the title of a new record coming out from Omnempathy next year. It is not an official Human Greed recording although Deryk and myself are the principal performers.
Acoustic guitars, nylon stringed classical instruments, steel strung beaten boogie boxes, will be used with sparse electronics to develop works entirely lacking in shame.
I have consciously divided the world into those who create and those who consume. The older I get the more the consumer fills me with disgust and shame and despair. I loathe the fat, vulgar, lazy, weak and helpless figures we are starting to (physically) cast on this doomed earth.
There is a curious anomaly though that requires further investigation. It occurs to me that an increasing amount of popular media is interactive and demands at least some kind of simplistic response. You must push the red button on your TV and be fed a meaningless rolling screen of multiple choice click-throughs – all ending in dead ends. But thinking further, much music is interactive. Dancing, singing along, miming, playing along, whacking a beat out on your leg, and so on. It is becoming increasingly difficult to imagine having the concentration to merely do nothing but sit and listen to a single and complete work, consume it wholly, then reflect upon the effect the experience has had upon you. Is it an ultimate act of creativity to sit completely still, with a healed over mouth and just respond internally to the impact of the work? To create by consumption. It seems the greatest conceit of all is that the thoughtless consumer becomes more active than the creator – merely because the creator resists the call to twitch and switch and vote for this plastic bitch over that plastic bitch and sing along and clap and dance and send a text to win a dream holiday, home, car, job, opportunity, home cinema set, etc.
All I would ever ask of a listener to one of HG’s records is to sit still, put it on at the beginning and see it through to the end. Just under an hour of your time.
It is a singularly frustrating business that often feels like a punishment to try and market a record. Pilgrim isn’t geting anywhere near the kind of review coverage it needs to become visible. Christ knows where the slips occur with these things, but the cascade is a killer. The distributor doesn’t get enough review copies out in advance of release. By the time this becomes clear and i have personally sent out most of my print run allowance to magazines and sites, the UK release date is already at hand and most of the reviewers won’t look at anything unless its a pre-release – even the shit heel second rate web-based zines that are compiled by 13 year olds after they’ve finished their homework. Everyone needs to feel like they have critical importance in these matters I suppose.
Then there is the frustration of posting out copies to specialist press which, despite the best intentions of their owners, fold without warning. Both Judas Kiss and Aural Pressure closed up and moved on in the week after copies being posted. I still have a sneaking suspicion that the record is cursed and will close down the operations of all who come into contact with it. So, if you have any magazine you want to stop stone dead – buy a copy of Humsn Greed’s PILGRIM and post it to the review editor. Sure as the pope shits in a nun’s mouth the magazine will fold in days!
But the brutal truth about the matter is that without reviews – and until HG can get any kind of live profile – it becomes a near impossible struggle to shift records.
Then there is the frustration of having a rash of good reviews in Portugal – where no distribution has been arranged!
And then the frustration of announcing a release date in the States, posting out pre-release review copies – then having the distribution fall through – with the reviews collapsing in the wake of that – and its bye bye stateside profile, bye bye review copies, and so forth.
Meanwhile, certain beard tugging, noodling, pretentious publications which, politically, will have to remain nameless – are busy dribbling ecstatically over anything with reference to drones and clicks and non-standard formats like 3″cds and cdrs and audiotape wound round pencils propelled by sharpeners embedded in cat’s arses featuring the sub sonic murmurs of house fly synaptic pops and solar winds. Anything but a fucking emotion! Meanwhile their fucking useless antipodean reviews editor keeps leaving review copies lying in bistros and spouting endless guff about it being lined up – its lined up, yeah, yep, lined right up, yeah…
Best still my bleating mouth, retreat to my red wine, my little book of promises and my tall green candle and remember that whatever is done should be done, in Irving Layton’s phraze “with reverence and delight”