Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

ELYSE DRAPER: AFTER ‘FREEWILL’ (2020)




Thirteen years ago, the world was exposed for the first time to Elyse Draper's writing talent with 'I Am Morte’ (featured in 'The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror 2008’).
In 2011, she self-published her haunting trilogy, 'Freewill' (1/ Freewill, 2/ Consequences, 3/ Vindication).
In 2013, she came back with another short story, 'Lay Me Down' (featured in 'The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror 2016’).
I caught up with her in the midst of her busy life.


1……. Back in 2012, you self-published the ‘Freewill’ trilogy. One of the things I like in these books is the abundance of strong female characters. Where did you get your inspiration for the character Ellie?

I genuinely believe that virtually all women have strength, brilliance, and a deep profound beauty inside of them. Unfortunately, at the time of the series release, our entertainment outlets were still woefully light on providing strong female characters. Or, the female characters were caricatures that depicted the idea of “power” as mimicking a shallow representation of “male strength.” I wanted to break the stereotype; I wanted to make my character’s superpower unconventional in its spectacular normalcy.
As a student of the human condition, I see these spectacularly normal traits in most people, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, personal identity, race, or providence. For me, the most valid measure of any unquantifiable trait (whether internal strength, intellect, or piety) can be found in the ability to embrace compassion and empathy over ego and prejudice, by using a heathy dose of critical thought, insightfulness, basic decency and mindful consideration. True strength comes when we never stop striving to understand our own definitions of who we are, what we want to give to benefit the world around us, and our willingness to live by those lessons.  
Ellie, was inspired by you- the reader, by my sister, by my daughter, by the terminal children I have watched over and the weight of their parents’ grief, the stranger on the corner who shows random acts of kindness, and by humanity’s treatment of each other. Ellie was always her own creature, frightened and overwhelmed, courageous, and free; I simply watched her grow and wrote the biography. 

2……. You originally wrote ‘Freewill’ for the New Adults genre, but adults of any age enjoyed the story, too. Why did you write for New Adults? And why do you think adults enjoyed it, too?

My daughter was three years old when 9/11 shook the United States. I remember her walking out of her bedroom that morning, hair sticking up at odd angles wearing bedhead chic and rubbing sleep from her eyes. I remember her asking me why I was crying. I remember thinking that her childhood was going to be drastically different than mine; and in many ways, I grieved for her innocence.
As I watched, righteous anger and justified fear, transformed into questionable wartime tactics, xenophobia, and zealous patriotism. Cassie was growing up with a generation that witnessed friend’s families lining up to fight terrorism, brave men and women who were not going to come home. This became part of their daily lives, along with censorship, overt invasions of privacy, extreme heightened security … and funerals. So many years passed by, and her immediate friends and family, children when the towers fell, children who grew up participating in school shooting drills, children who couldn’t imagine wearing shoes through airport security, and children who learned a practical understanding of economic downfall when they couldn’t afford school lunches, those ‘now, young adults’ began leaving for war.
These young minds grasp ideas like responsibility, hard work, consideration, and compassion, speaking out against fear, and pleading for their voices to be heard in the face of the world they are going to inherit. They are frightened and overwhelmed, courageous, and free. I wrote the series for them, for the experienced minds that grew up so much faster than their years could have predicted. I wanted to give them a fantasy that did not speak down to them; one that showed them respect.
Although writing for adults was not my original intent, it makes sense that those young adults’ wisdom is shared in older age groups. The ideas expressed are very adult (death, faith, prejudice, free will, profound grief, accountability, and the strength found in compassion and empathy) this generation can feel the story, hell, they have been living it their entire lives. So many of us, no matter our age, have been living it our entire lives.    

3……. You are currently working on a new writing project, this one aimed at adults. What is ‘Overtaken’ about?

I believe that the ‘Overtaken’ series can and will be read by young adults as well… however, the language and scenarios are decidedly not fantasy, and in no way warm and fuzzy.
The plot follows the planetary threat of human self-absorption that results in war, pestilence, and climate crisis, thus bringing about the forced and manipulated evolution of mankind, or their extinction.
Three groups:
The Watchers: humans that have bonded with ancient symbiotes that passed the eons in the deepest trenches of our oceans. These symbiotic creatures change the physical makeup of their hosts through manipulation of stem cells, while also cognitively cohabitating within their hosts’ minds. They are charged with observing humanity’s destructive nature and narrating the almost certain extinction event that will end human life on the planet. Or, at least, they are only supposed to be observing.
The Takers: Narcissistic humans, soaking in the slop of their own self-interest, self-appointed power, and the domination of everything they think is “lesser than.” These diseased, these mentally ill are scrutinized through the unique vision of the Watchers and are so much more profoundly disturbing than humanity realizes. And, it is spreading... even though manipulated and false, the power is seductive to those who want to rule, or at least emulate authority over something, anything. Will this be what leads to the destruction of the human species?
The Givers: as the name implies, are the sections of human populous, who think of more than themselves. Before the fall, they find themselves forced to live at the feet of the more cunning, spiteful, and destructive takers… most without giving a second’s thought to the degradation. They may not be as equipped to fight; but they are certainly more than simply gifted in survival. Will they be our salvation?
The setting is an alternative universe, a planet that is geographically similar to ours, and a history very much like our own. The timeline spans hundreds of years, allowing for a cultured and rich story.
Is a dystopian event inevitable? What will be the catalyst, or the cause? Will we survive? Do we deserve to survive?

4……. We’ve heard of trills, symbiotes, etc, in Star Trek and Stargate. How different are yours?

Well, Overtaken’s symbiotes give their hosts long life, increased strength, camouflage, and the fighting attributes of known predators – some of these traits do coincide with the examples you mentioned. However, their essence is not held in a relatively large parasitic organism that lives inside of and separate from the hosts; rather, the symbiosis is a physical bonding that occurs on a cellular level. The shared mental attributes in most popular Sci-fi, considering symbiosis, usually paints images of an internal struggle for control… or the loss of one consciousness over another. Overtaken’s symbiotes share consciousness with their hosts, cohabitating like roommates trapped in the same house. Needless to say, they don’t always get along.

5……. Where did you get your inspiration from for ‘Overtaken’?

 Given the storyline, I think it’s safe to say, current events weighed heavily on the plot. However, as I started writing this series nine years ago, a large portion of my inspiration has come from my personal experiences with being on the receiving end of those with narcissistic personality disorder.
 No matter what we have experienced in our lives, we are never alone in our heartache, betrayal, and torment or joy, forgiveness, and enlightenment. We are all connected … art exists to remind us of that fact. That will forever be my inspiration.

6…….  It has been said that ‘Freewill’ was a dark and light fantasy and a paranormal romance. What is ‘Overtaken’?

The genres are Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, and new to speculative fiction: Solarpunk.

7) Before 'Freewill', there was a captivating 10,000-word short story printed in The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror 2009. 'I Am Morte' focused on Death developing anthropomorphic qualities and Death's interest in a specific soul. How did 'I Am Morte' become to be?

Perry-Ann, my sister, was born prematurely on October 3rd, 1961, in an Air Force Hospital on the East Coast. Shortly after she was born, she contracted viral meningitis. Given the nature of the disease, it either had to run its course, or take her life. Unfortunately, she survived, in a persistent vegetative state for the next thirty years.
Pharmaceutical companies took advantage of teenaged Perry’s situation, a ward of the state, an emotionally compromised mother and non-existent biological father. Human experimentation, without parental consent, not even those “rich and powerful ones” could hide their deeds forever. I learned to share my home with amazing lawyers from the ACLU, and journalists. Lots of journalists. I grew up where words and ideas like dignity and peace, were tossed in a word salad with euthanasia, living wills, and Do-Not-Resuscitate orders.
As psychologically comfortable as one can be with hospice care, I was a perfect candidate to help families like my own. So, from 1991until 2011, I worked in-home-hospice from geriatrics to oncology, for the exceptionally old to the heartbreakingly young.  Saying that I have an unusual relationship with death, is an understatement. ‘I Am Morte’ is a manifestation of that relationship, and even more so, my relationship with life.

8) After 'Freewill', you contributed 'Lay Me Down' to The Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror 2013. This short story gets under the reader's skin. Where did you get your inspiration from for this one?

After the Sandy Hook Shooting on December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut, I found myself trying to make sense of yet another school shooting, and why the lives of young ones were interchangeable with the right to own guns. How many possible futures, how much potential was lost, so that lobbyists and the corporations making money on guns sales and manufacturing could continue running business as usual? How grand was the manipulation from the greedy, to gaslight the frightened, into believing that having access to firearms was more important than the lives those guns were thought to protect? How frightened does a society need to be, to believe that the deaths of children are acceptable losses, sacrifices on the altar of capitalism?
Science Fiction allows for introspection, speculation, and imagination to run wild. There are no limitations to where the ideas can take you; the rules are simple … just tell your story.
  I asked these questions and followed the rules; and I found hope in the idea that just possibly the potential was not lost after all. Maybe, just maybe, there is a spark in our collective unconsciousness that speaks for the lost ones. What if the pain of those who have suffered at the hand of elitism could share their wisdom through their loss, and help to heal our future?


And after that, Elyse Draper went back to her busy life with a reminder that 'Overtaken' would also be a trilogy.
I suspect there will be cliffhangers......

Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

INTERVIEW WITH TRACEY LAMB (BACK WITH GIRLSCHOOL)


Bass extraordinaire Tracey Lamb is back playing with Girlschool, after a recent second stint with Rock Goddess and many more adventures in music. Here are her words, all the way from lockdown in Spain.

─1) What bass guitar do you play? What is your favourite bass guitar, and why? What gear do you use on stage and in recording studio?

At the moment I'm playing a 5-string Warwick bass. My favourite bass ever is the Fender Deluxe Active/Passive 4-string. I love the maple neck and the sound. I would love to buy the 5-string one day.

On stage I use Ampeg SVT amp and 8x10 cab. In the studio I usually go through desk with an Ampeg sound effect.

─2) Do you play other instruments?

In my 20's I taught myself to play guitar.

─3) What kind of music were you listening when growing up?

When I was growing up I was into glam rock, bands like the Sweet, T-Rex, Bowie and Queen. Then I got into Punk and Heavy Metal.

─4) What/who inspired you to become a musician? Why the bass?

I started to play the bass in Rock Goddess when I was 13 years old. At that time, I was influenced by Suzie Q, The Runaways, Led Zep, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Sex Pistols, The Clash.

The bass was the only instrument left available to play, I loved it straight away and practiced every day for hours after school and homework lol

─5) What are your musical influences?

Suzi Q, The Runaways, Sex Pistols, The Clash. Led Zep, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Queen, Motorhead, Girlschool and many more.

─6) Last year, you re-joined GIRLSCHOOL after Enid Williams left. This is your third stint with them. What was it like the first time? And what is it like to be back with them?

The first time I officially joined GS was in 1987-91, but I did help them out back in 1983 when they had some dates in Israel. Gil's sister was getting married so they asked if I would stand in. It was amazing.

Then the second time was 1993-2000 and then again for the third time last year. It feels wonderful to be back. I love playing and being in GS. It's always exciting and always fun. We have all been mates for over 40 years now. I feel very proud to be part of their legacy.

─7) You have been in several bands. One of them was ROCK GODDESS. Tell us about ROCK GODDESS.

I'm a founder member of RG, we formed in 1977. Jody and I were best friends at school and she asked me to go see her dad’s rehearsal room in Putney on the same street I lived. Jody and Julie's Dad was a veteran musician and taught us all how to play, he also managed the band.

─8) What is your best memory with ROCK GODDESS?

My best memory with RG was supporting Def Leppard on tour in early 83. In particular playing at the Hammersmith Odeon on the last night of the tour and the after-show party.

─9) Another one was with Jackie Bodimead and Cris Bonacci who, like you, were part of GIRLSCHOOL at some point. This band was called SHE and only lasted from 1983 to 1985. Tell us about SHE.

I formed She after leaving RG in 1983. We did lots of gigs and had lots of interest, and also had a regular slot at the Marquee. We were just about to record a demo with producer Vic Mails who I worked with on RG’s début album. (He was also Motorhead and Girlschool's producer). But then in 84, Jackie and Cris joined GS; Kat and I auditioned for a new singer and drummer. We then carried on for another year, playing in UK and Europe. We also opened for Marillion at a festival in Spain.

─10) What is your best memory with SHE?

My best memory with She was supporting Marillion at a festival in Spain in 1984.

─11) About 13 years ago, I saw you perform with another band: THE ROCK’N’ROLL GYPSIES. Tell us about them.

The Rock n Roll Gypsies was great fun. I was in the band from 2004-2008. This was with members of Sham 69 and Splodge. With Mat, Richie, Smeg and Monique. The band were based in London and Monique in Düsseldorf. Great band and songs.

The band were part of Mat's long-standing charity project Sex, Drugs and HIV.

─12) Sex, Drugs and HIV. I think I remember this charity from 1990. What can you tell us about it?

The Sex, Drugs and HIV project was founded by Mat Sargent. The project took 20 years to complete. All the songs were written by Mat and performed in the studio by hundreds of named musicians. Mat also kept video diaries of all the recordings.

All the proceeds from the DVD and audio recordings that were released go to The Terrence Higgins trust, rape crisis and cancer charities.

─13) What is your best memory with THE ROCK’N’ROLL GYPSIES?

My favourite memory with the R'n'R Gypsies was a photo shoot we did in Kingston, Surrey. Then we went for a pub lunch afterwards. Great people and friends.

─14) You now lived to Spain. Did you move there for the weather? What is it like to live there?

I moved to Spain in 2008 to open a Gym for Women with a friend. I'm a qualified Pilates and exercise to music instructor. Then after that, I opened a Rock music bar. That was hard work.

Then in 2013 I was asked to reform RG.

It's much more relaxed living here, I live in the mountains and have no neighbours. The cost of living is better and 10 months of the year it’s sunny.

─15) And you love animals. How important are animals in your life?

Yes, I do love all animals. I have been a vegetarian since 1993, and these last 3 months I have had a vegan diet.

I have 4 dogs, a cat and 30 fish.

I couldn't imagine life without them. They are my priority; they are my kids. Love them to bits.

─16) This is April 2020 and Spain, along with many other countries, is in lockdown because of the novel corona virus. What is your personal experience of it as a musician? What do you do while staying at home?

This Covid-19 pandemic is a nightmare for everyone. A very scary and sad time.

I'm in strict lockdown in Spain. This is my 34th day, it’s been tough but there's always something to do when you have animals. Running through the mango orchard with the dogs, writing songs and a bit of gardening. It's better to keep busy and positive.

Cheers! Stay Safe and Well xx

http://girlschool.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/GirlschoolOfficial/




Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

WLW & LESBIAN SCIENCE-FICTION NOVELS


  • Lesbian Science Fiction.png


Writer JAE (www.jaefiction.com), whom I interviewed last year (https://lordwalkiwolf.livejournal.com/tag/jae), has been very busy this year. Besides working on her current work in progress most days of the week, she's created 15 crossword challenges already!


My book 'Tales for the 21st Century, volume 2' is in the newest one.........!

Once again, many writers contributed.
J.S. Fields (author of 'Ardulum: First Don'), Fletcher DeLancey (author of the Chronicles of Alsea), Jean Stewart (author of the Isis series), Andi Marquette (author of the Far Seek Chronicles) and Lise MacTague (author of the Deception's Edge series) are some of them.

To solve this crossword challenge, all you need to do is find clues in book samples, place them in the crossword puzzle, find the solution sentence and email it to Jae before June 21.

You could win a eBook copy of:
Rescue Her Heart by KC Luck,
Lucky 7 by Rae D. Magdon or
The Lily and the Crown by Roslyn Sinclair

For more details, click on the following link:
https://jae-fiction.com/lesbian-science-fiction-novels/

Have fun!

PS: Thanx, Jae!

Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

THE MOLLUSC DIMENSION: DEPTH, MYSTERY AND LIFE


Photo by The Mollusc Dimension

A queer, trans, British East-Asian artist and his many tentacles in a discourse of intersectional feminism and music, from classical to alternative. And more.
(Brief refs to mental health and dysphoria)


-1) You play the piano. Any other instrument? What kind of piano do you prefer and why?
There is a photo of me playing the piano when I was two [*laughs*] but I think that was a joke. I actually started when I was four. More recently I realised I would have liked to play the tenor saxophone maybe because I'd like to speak like that. I like the clarinet as well. My third instrument is voice, and I've been working on that for a few years in one-off sessions with great teachers.

Piano-wise, if you have seen any of the videos I've posted on Instagram or YouTube, you might notice that one of the pianos I use sounds pretty amazing, which is not that surprising as it's a Steinway. It mostly belongs to a relative who kindly lets us use it. I love the bass on it and for me, you can really feel the difference in the frequencies compared to digital. However, the piano is in a communal area of the house and during the day there's a lot of noise and conversation which makes it hard to focus. The free-est way for me to explore this instrument has been nocturnally [sic], from around 11pm afterwards, because I need to be in a solitudinous state, however, sometimes my boyfriend wanders through to go outside for a cigarette and it sort of feels romantic because he's on the other side of the glass while I'm improvising/expressing.

Surprisingly though, for my album, “Welcome to The Mollusc Dimension” (November 2019), I used a Korg X50 which is a 64-note keyboard because I needed to create at a distance from an acoustic piano – which at times represents restriction / obligation even as it does beauty, deep expression and flights of fancy. This was partly because the songs use my voice, so working on the songs in a communal area felt exposing and to some extent attention-seeking. Producing keyboard tracks in my studio felt much more secret and liberating.


-2) What kind of music were you listening when growing up?
Thinking about my music tastes really drops me into a swirling pool of memories which link to certain places and people. My parents listened to (Western European) Classical music. My mum told me that she accompanied for choir when she was pregnant with me and her favourite composer is Beethoven. On Sundays, I would wake up, go downstairs and find my dad listening and singing along to opera and German Lieder art songs. My parents took me to classical piano recitals from a young age where I would get bored with the sight of the solitary figure at a keyboard in a massive posh beechwood hall. I would use my imagination to create stories and dances with fantastical characters and magical settings.

Around the age of 14, I got into alternative rock, grunge and alternative metal. The  distorted sounds and disaffected lyrics reflected my emotional turmoil. My favourite band as a teenager was Tool with my favourite albums being Undertow (which I had on cassette) and Aenima, an experimental and expensive CD buy. I discovered new music in various ways. Through cassette mixes from school friends and pen-pals, free CDs from magazines such as Kerrang and later, music videos on MTV. Seeing videos like Soundgarden's “Black Hole Sun”, Tool's “Stinkfist”, Smashing Pumpkins' “Tonight Tonight” and others really fired my imagination although back then, it never occurred to me that I was capable of making anything like that, song-wise or video-wise. I was a consumer of alternative rock. [*laughs*]

-3) What/who inspired you to become a musician? Why the piano?
Compared to many other acoustic instruments, the piano has such a wide range, stylistic and tonal possibilities, which explains why it's famously suited for completely solo recitals. I think that piano playing also suits and nurtures introversion. That is not to say that no extroverts play the piano! While researching teaching, I came across a book called Chances and Choices which looks at people who studied music at school, and whether they continued with music in their lives in some way. One of the factors was convenience ─ as in what instruments happened to be accessible and whether a teacher was available. In my case, there was a piano at home and my mum was a piano teacher.

I passed my grade-8 piano before the age of 13 (too hastily) and enjoyed diving into virtuoso Chopin ballades, so there was a kind of hope from my parents and an expectation from family and friends that I would go on to study music after my A-levels. The thing is, I wanted to study art and my parents were not supportive of this choice. If I had known about it, Film Music Composition or Film-making might have been more acceptable, however, these options were not available to me either as I literally didn't know they existed. I knew that people could study Composition, but since I didn't see myself as a classical composer, I didn't actively pursue this path – I didn't know I could be any other sort of musician. Call them ignorance or roadblocks, a lack of awareness is still prevalent today as the media tend to peddle the myth of the talented music star who shot to fame in a single viral video, rather than highlight pathways to promote music as an industry. Yet, stranger still, the UK has a music industry – it's just that it isn't given the status of something like business, law or medicine. I think that the children of immigrants are particularly prone to be pressured to take up jobs of The Establishment, because of firmly ingrained notions which were placed there by our colonial rule which schooled our parents/ grandparents, and I’ve started to express this in blogs on Medium.

I don't think it's a coincidence that after dating a cis-male musician, and attending his shows, trying to act the part of an adoring girlfriend that I realised that I wanted to make and perform my own music. I don't think he had studied music at music college either. He just had ideas, and he made them happen.

Over the years, I collaborated with a number of musicians whose support and efforts to grow my songs into interactive, humorous performances is much appreciated. Caro SexyRubberSoul drummed on two of my EPs and while I only kind of thought about it more recently, her grassroots organising for Womens' Anarchist/ Autonomous Nuisance Cafe (with the amusing anachronism, WANC) has been deeply foundational to my sense of creative autonomy. It was in spaces like WANC (which I attended on and off since around 2000?) that I encountered queer gender-non-conforming feminist playfulness as resistance to the pressures of cis-het patriarchal conformity. I was also recently interviewed about my experiences there for Sebastian Buser's PhD on WAN cafe.

My earlier songs were very piano-based and have shifted towards a greater feel for popular styles and I'm pleased about that. Taking courses with the benefit of helping me as a piano teacher has helped my songwriting. I attended a Search and Reflect course at CM sounds, (Community Music) led to a filmed performance collaboration with two musicians. I was recently really inspired by Beau Jangles, a BPOC drag artist who made some hilarious videos about surviving Corona lockdown. Their singing voice is gorgeous and has me thinking about finding sweeter tones. When I heard that Freddy Mercury preferred to focus on singing rather than play the piano at the same time, something hit home about not having to try to prove I could do both, and from that point on, I started to simplify my piano arrangements and even started using backing tracks. Previously, because of my intensive piano training, I had viewed backing tracks as a bit of a cop-out. But because of Freddy Mercury, it suddenly made sense and gave me the motivation to work more on my singing and to value it as the main tool of emotional expression in live performance – with piano for background/ atmosphere.

-4) What/who are your musical influences?
In one sense, my access to “the world of (Classical) music” was a privilege, on the other hand, to find out how to make music work for me in life and how to connect technique with personal meaning was more of an independent journey. I am grateful that my parents loved music as much as they did, for who knows where I would be if I did not have music at all, but it is also paradoxical - some highly skilled musicians have classical musicians for parents who did not forbid their children's chosen styles (e.g. pop) but expressed clear, contempt for it, and I think this really impacts on self-esteem and mental health.

My influences come from a wide range of genres and forms and also includes visual art, from 2d to performance and immersive art. When I was a young child, teachers made the connection between music and drawing. While at secondary school, I saw the surrealist puppet animation Alice by Czech film-maker Jan Svankmajer on TV (videotaped as it was on late at night). The encounter between one of my favourite childhood stories together with the macabre/ grotesque style of animation which uses a human actor, dolls and bones appealed to my gothic sensibilities. Using surrealism and animation to subtly continue making art under an oppressive socio-political regime also really inspired me to prefer emancipatory purposes in art.

I started going to gigs in London as a teenager so I saw quite a few alternative rock/metal and indie bands live which takes home-listening to a whole new level. At university, I was also lucky to see a range of musicians such as Sainkho Namtchylak (promoting Stepmother City), Tuvan throat singers, early Japanese Court music as well as jazz and classical artists. I watched a lot of international films by directors (and discovered Wong Kar Wei!) while studying as well, and the range of music inspired me. I'm lucky that living in London, I saw musicians such as Diamanda Galas and Matmos play live. Towards the end of university, I finally discovered drum and bass and then switched my taste to dance and electronic music, artists like Richard D James and Bjork, and watching videos by Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry.


-5) You describe yourself as a “genre-embracing, multi-tentacled artist”. What do you mean?
The Mollusc Dimension is a creative space and all my creations are responses to my surroundings. I recently favoured short-form, songwriting, improvisation, drawing, spontaneous lines and videos on Instagram and poetry. I have also made animations and many many pieces of 2d art (from comics to ink drawings) and I would love to exhibit in a first solo-show “Grand” (!!!) retrospective. Someone once compared me to Frank Zappa, but I guess I'm not quite so bold. Maybe an introvert Frank Zappa.

Genre-embracing means that my ideas wish to be expressed in multiple genres, from socio-political satirical cabaret with the sensational Bitten Peach to background keyboard accompaniment with Asian improv comedy team, Comediasians, to my own album which is like a film soundtrack or musical storytelling which jumps through genres from psychedelic '80s synth grunge, to movie-like skits from UrieJo, harp pop and beat-inspired spoken word. It's definitely an album to confuse Gracenote. I enjoy this, because part of the impact of being made to feel unwelcome in spaces is a wish to include, to reference plurality and promote transformative expression.

-6) You also describe yourself as a “queer, trans, British East-Asian artist”. What does each of these qualities bring to your music?
For me, this description is designed to express that due to a combination of these factors (often called intersectional feminism), for most of my life, I had no idea that I could even dare to aspire to create the music, videos, and work that I was so passionate about. I was raised feeling my parents hopes that I would one day be in a relatively senior, respectable and useful office job, and be a (happily) married wife and mother.

I am not interested in talking discussing any medical interventions with the public. However, I am really interested in how gender is programmed into children and how it shapes and limits their potential – both in their own eyes and in those who raise them.
Naming all four of the aspects is important to me because even if when I was around people from one group, it felt like they didn't welcome or understand the other parts of me. As a British East-Asian growing up, the closest TV character I thought resembled me was Kevin from The Wonder Years. I actually thought that maybe we were Italian because we had dark hair and eyes, and also my Dad made pizza and sang arias in Italian.
And I was also alternative! When I met the children of my parents' friends, I thought they were trendy and that they rejected my alternative style (piercings, heavy eye-liner, big boots), although, in the end, I accept that I was probably making judgments too. Luckily my tool for connection was a self-deprecating, sarcastic and off-the-wall sense of humour which would eventually lead to a conversation at the dim sum table.


-7) You are “Currently primarily interested in exploring personal narrative around memory, mental health, queerness, intersectional feminist, decolonisation and other outsider perspectives”. Could you expand? And what does it bring to your artistic development?

As with the self-description above, these aspects represent various types of positioning which might not crossover but they are all valuable to me. Memory (e.g. auto-fiction) also links with grief which is something that will affect most humans regardless of their race/ socio-political/ sexuality/ gender, etc. Sometimes artists and non-artists downplay identity politics by saying that they prefer to think only about universal themes, e.g. life, death, love, etc, but I think this also undermines the struggles that people from marginalised backgrounds experience. I recently discovered the work of Jana Lynne Umipig, a multidisciplinary artist, educator, healer and activist, who talks about how vital it is for her to take a relational stance.

I have always felt like an outsider, but I did not know why. I thought I was just the weirdo in Thom Yorke's “Creep”. But it turns out that there are cultural reasons and language for exploring this and that's where the labels above such as queerness, intersectional feminism and decolonisation are useful. By searching on the internet, one can research and understand more about the political and historical background behind one's mental health issues. Of course, there are some mental health issues which stem from congenital aspects, however, I would say that the way that the individuals fare is relational (to use Umipig's term) to how much stability/support their family/home environment is getting from society because this affects how a child is cared for.


-9) In 2019, you were commissioned by the Chinese Arts Now (CAN) for a concert piece, which was performed at the Southbank Show. How did this happen?

In 2018, I was talking to An-Ting of CAN who asked me if I had applied for CAN's proposals – I hadn't because I had some personal commitments and also, I didn't really know how to apply for a proposal. I can't remember what I told her, but the next thing that happened was that CAN commissioned me to compose for two ping-pong players, clarinet, cello and piano, so I was really happy about that. My piece was performed at the Southbank Centre in January 2019 (I took part in this performance) and also at the Shanghai Table Tennis Festival. Several other composers also composed works and it was very interesting to be part of that.


-10) In November 2019, in a joined gig with musician Wild, you launched your debut album ‘Welcome to the Mollusc Dimension’. What was it like to record this album?

It was funny that I managed to convince Wild to play electric guitar with fuzz and distortion on Sounds Before Words because they are generally a folk/ queer country acoustic guitarist with a gentle soulful feel. It was kind of amazing for me. Even though people find it hard to grasp “what style” I play because my projects are vastly different, I still “police” myself in terms of what I think I could/ can't do vs what I would like to do. There are so many layers to inhibitions.

I worked with the studio engineer Felix Macintosh who worked very hard to help me bring my complex ideas to fruition. I recorded quite a bit of the synth parts at home and took them into the studio, and although there were sometimes issues, it was a way I preferred to do it, as those parts seemed to retain the intimacy of having been recorded at my home – adding to the auto-fictive aspect. As it was the first time I had produced/recorded so many items (9 songs and 5 skits), I was clueless as to how long it would take, and it was frustrating because I kept arriving at the studio thinking today would be the last day, but of course, me being me, I always found more vital details to add. During 2019, I have been continuing the practice of improvisation a lot so it was a big disciplinary challenge to stay focused and driven on enriching and completing the album, so I am grateful to Felix for this.

I joked to Wild (who was recording their album ‘Fire in the Wild’ with Felix around the same time, that it was like we were each trying to finish a degree!


-11) You have collaborated with many artists, including with Wild. How did you meet Wild?
I met Wild (they/ them) back in 2013, at Transpose, a trans and non-binary creative event organised by the author and musician, CN Lester (they/ them). It was a tremendously powerful and emotional evening for me as I was having immense difficulties with social transitioning and felt very isolated. It was incredible to be in a space with so many trans people and it gave me on one level the feeling that I was not alone and also sowed the seed of the feeling that future was possible. Wild's gentle singer-songwriter set concluded an evening of combining sad stories and energetic positivity. We became friends and collaborated over the years, notably five times last year, the last of which were our respective album launches.


-12) You co-founded the Quiet Queers Qlub. Who else is in this qlub and what is it about?
The Quiet Queers Qlub is the name of an improv comedy audio sketch space with a difference. I believe it is the first in the UK to centre QTPOC (queer, trans, people of colour) and non-binary centring voices and I co-founded it with my friends, Urie Jo and Wild (mentioned above).

QQQ was finally a chance for us to play characters and explore being in the sorts of radio and tv shows which were broadcast when we were kids. The main characters on the shows tended to be cis, white and straight, with the main clowns being guys. Episode 1 is called Broken Toaster Radio and channel-hops through parodies such as: rockumentary, gameshow, horror, radio 4 health show, soap and public announcements. For Episode 2, we made an UnValentines Show which includes characters such as an egotistical speed-dater, a gentle asexual cake lover in search of love, a bitter dyke DJ plus our idiosyncratic excerpts from Austen's Pride & Prejudice. On the first show, the music and sound were improvised on the spot, alongside the spoken improv. They are both available for free on SoundCloud.

The name stems from us all being introverts and LGBTIQ+. The use of the word club (spelt with a Q for alliteration) is also humorous because we are poking fun at the idea of the notion of clique-ness and exclusivity.

QQQ is like time-travelling to create an alternative version of the past and it's a creative process. We did not grow up with Google or even broadband. Our options were limited. Temporarily / briefly taking on these antiquated / stock characters for ourselves is healing. Laura Bridgeman of The Butch Monologues says they howled (with laughter) and that it was “like The Clangers meets The Goon Show”. I get the feeling that it resonates more with people over the age of 30 or 35 even, who understand more deeply the significance of what we're doing.

Some of the intersectional challenges we face are the impact of years of invisibility on our mental health, lack of confidence about expressing any sort of opinion at all, and the extra responsibilities we have faced such as caregiving, social isolation/lack of connection and general ageing issues.

We have discussed future shows where we would explore improv or even directly discuss issues we have previously faced because of our marginalisation (stereotypes, discrimination, etc) and other topics which are important to us, e.g. music, art, health and various other quiet queer topics of interest.

-13) This is March/April 2020 and the UK, along with many countries, is in lockdown because of the novel coronavirus. What is your personal experience of it as a musician? What do you do while staying at home?

I live with my mum and my boyfriend and our different ways of protecting our energy have led to clashes and serious revisions of how to communicate better. I've now got to the point where I've realised that we are all solution-focused albeit in different ways. I think that one thing that has happened with the lockdown situation is that existing issues are intensified. I think others have expressed similar ideas.

A personal experience of coronaracism (someone shouted “coronavirus” at me) has heightened my latent hyper-vigilance about being unwelcome. I've lived in this area for a duration spanning over twenty-five years so this has brought up feelings of rage and helplessness. As a response, I've written the lyrics to “Coronaracists” which I sing to the tune of “Hey Jude” by the Beatles while walking the dog, and also hypothetically could be sung as a response to racists – although I understand that best practical thing to do is to get away. I performed “Coronaracists” at my first Facebook Live Show and will put the video up.

I've been making visual images (still and animated) which I share on Instagram; collecting more material for music videos for my album tracks and also writing a lot. I usually wake up around 4-5am with lots of ideas which I start scribbling in semi-darkness, and find their way into my notebooks, computer or the growing pile on my desk. I wish there were more of us in the Mollusc Dimension to produce more of my ideas. It's like I think I'm Warhol but without the entourage. A Facebook Covid-19 mutual aid group was set up by Carla from The Outsider Project and I found an encouraging writing workshop on there, which I has been my one regular event at this time.

Thank you as well, Walki, for inviting me to answer your questions. I recently realised that as well as having produced a lot, I have a lot to say, yet I've been hidden and / or tried to hide for so long, so I'm feeling grateful for this chance to share.

LINKS

WEBSITE https://www.themolluscdimension.com
HEAR/ BUY ALBUM https://themolluscdimension.bandcamp.com
YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJq7S__PTXmEquEFWqeLaGA
INSTA: https://www.instagram.com/themolluscdimension/



Photo by Shaven Raven Designs and The Mollusc Dimension
Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

INTERVIEW WITH STEPH DAWSON, SYTERIA’s NEW BASS PLAYER

Photo by Function Photography

Photo by Function Photography

Last year, Keira Kenworthy left four-piece, Yorkshire-based rock band SYTERIA after four years. Entered Steph Dawson and her bass guitar to enjoy the fun of being part of SYTERIA. I was impatiently waiting for the band to snatch a gig in London so I could discover how Steph had made herself at home on stage with her new bandmates, when the UK went into lockdown…… Very kindly, Steph cleared some of her virtual schedule to answer a few questions…….


─1) What bass guitar do you play? What is your favourite bass guitar, and why? What gear do you use on stage and in recording studio?


I currently play a Squier jazz bass - the jazz bass is probably my favourite at the moment. Along with this, I use a Gallien Kreuger MB500 head going through a 2x10 cab. I don’t tend to use many pedals but I do use a EHX Big Muff live. In the studio, I would use the same gear as my gig setup, recording both through my amp and directly in.


─2) Do you play other instruments?


I originally played guitar and from this, moved on to playing bass. In the past, I’ve played a number of instruments; recorder, trumpet, saxophone, drums, piano.... but guitar and bass are the only ones that really stuck.


─3) What kind of music were you listening when growing up?


When I was really young I was into pop music, then I got into pop punk in secondary school. I then studied music at college and university and this opened up my eyes to a whole other world of music - I now have quite an eclectic musical taste.


─4) What/who inspired you to become a musician? Why the bass?


The first songs I started learning on guitar were the likes of Blink 182 and Green Day. I guess the first female musicians I really paid attention to were the likes of Sheryl Crow and Blondie. However, I then discovered the likes of Hole, L7, Joan Jett, etc. Like I say, I started off playing guitar and singing in bands but then transitioned to bass later on.


─5) What are your musical influences?


I’m still a big pop punk fan so I think this influences my playing, but I listen to a wide variety of music which constantly changes, so this probably also has an effect.


─6) Before SYTERIA, you were in a band called SCREAM OF SIRENS with a catchy description: “the sound of two musicians and a scientist”. Who was the ‘scientist’? How would you describe the music genre of this band?


Sadly I was not the scientist, this was the guitarist. I would probably describe it as catchy rock.


─7) Have you played with other bands?


I’ve been involved in a number of different projects since I began playing at school. I think I was in my first band when I was 13.


─8) You’ve joined SYTERIA last year. How did you meet them? What was your first impression?


We connected on social media and I first met them when I went for my audition. They were the friendliest people and made me feel really comfortable, I really enjoyed the audition. We seemed to all gel together straight away and a lot of people have mentioned how this shows on stage.


─9) You’ve now done two videos with the band, recorded bass and backing vocals for the new album, ‘Reflection’, and started gigging with them. What is it like?


It’s been great - so much has happened in such a short amount of time. I have so much fun with Syteria so I’m constantly looking forward to what’s coming next!


─10) This is March 2020 and the UK, along with many other countries, is in lockdown because of the novel corona virus. What is your personal experience of it as a musician? What do you do while staying at home?


It just so happened that this all developed in the middle of our March tour so it kind of pulled everything to stop - the tour was going great up until this point and we were all having a great time.


Obviously, gigs have been postponed so it’s a shame, but at the end of the day, it is for the best for everyone in the long run. In the meantime, I’m making sure I go for a run/exercise every day and I’m actually improving my culinary skills!


To find out more about Steph and SYTERIA: www.syteria.co.uk


Photo by Paul Samuel                            Photo by Steve Iles

Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

MUSIC REVIEWS: Wild, The Mollusc Dimension, Jemma Freeman and the Cosmic Something, deux furieuses

‘FIRE IN THE WILD’ by WILD

Wild is the genderqueer country-folk singer coming out of the Woods.
Their debut album has the sound of a classic. Is it country? Is it folk? Is it acoustic? It is all of that, it is personal, and it resonates with the love of the land. It is innocent, it is confident, there is wisdom in Wild’s voice. Ah, their voice softly insinuates itself in your life, the vocal harmonies make your heart listen, and the acoustic guitars lift your spirit over the daily routine of life.
‘Fire in the Wild’ is a work of beauty, a walk in the countryside you didn’t know existed, a smile you didn’t know you could offer or receive. You’ll hear familiar echoes, echoes of many inspirations, but this fine production is all Wild. A voice to keep in your ears and treasure.
https://www.facebook.com/wildsings/
PS: DIY CD case with photography by Shaven Raven Designs.
PS2: Heed the poetry of their lyrics.


‘WELCOME TO THE MOLLUSC DIMENSION’ by THE MOLLUSC DIMENSION

What does a “queer, trans, British East-Asian artist” sound like? I am not sure, but I’ve heard the one going by the name of The Mollusc Dimension and here are my thoughts about his debut album.
Having played the piano since childhood, he chooses to play a Korg synth from which he sources a diversity of traditional sounds including drum samples. Guitar solos and backing vocals courtesy of fellow musician Wild, harp from Emily Lai.
‘Welcome to the Mollusc Dimension’ is an invitation and a guided tour to abstract and surrealist landscapes with an expressionist commentary. You’ll stumble upon echoes of Erik Satie and Kurt Weil, playing with goth influences and smooth prog, dancing with self-deprecating humour.
In the depth of his sound, you’ll find many of the references and influences he absorbed through his life, and, of course, the melodrama of life as seen through his sea-tinted lenses.
https://www.themolluscdimension.com


‘OH REALLY, WHAT’S THAT THEN?’ by JEMMA FREEMAN AND THE COSMIC SOMETHING

Recently sighed to Trapped Animal, this is Jemma’s first full-length album. It starts with the fast guitar riffs of previously released single ‘Helen is a Reptile’, a denounciation of depression, and is followed by new songs and previously released titles ‘Black Rain’, ‘Heaven on a Plate’ and my favourite, ‘Kopenhagen’.
Jemma’s songs are unapologetically glam rock and prog rock, guitar-driven and well balanced with Hami’s drums and Mark’s bass.
The songs are stories of humour and angst. Jemma’s voice is both something gentle and something hard.
Some people mentioned David Bowie, others mentioned Iggy Pop. I’d say maybe a distorted hint of Lewis Carroll.
There is something definitely cosmic about Jemna Freeman and the hallucinations they share with us.
https://jemmafreemanandthecosmicsomething.bandcamp.com/


‘MY WAR IS YOUR WAR’ by DEUX FURIEUSES

Recently signed to Xtra Mile recordings, deux furieuses keep on playing the music track of our times with their second offering where rage and compassion fuel the fast-paced rhythms and the raging guitar riffs.
‘My War is Your War’ is deux furieuses’ second manifesto. As usual with Ros and Vas, it is not just about their powerful music (mighty fierce), it is also about their sharp lyrics (carefully crafted). They are angry and they are true. Their message? ‘This is our war, hear us roar.’
Blood, sweat and tears, and three videos to accompany this new album. Marching the streets and waving red flags. They are a movement we need to join.
Rock, punk, political, brutal, uncompromising, unapologetic, as dark as our reality. Once again, deux furieuses take no prisoners.
www.deuxfurieuses.com





{C}
Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

JAE: THE DEEP NATURE OF HER WRITING


The first book by Jae I ever read was ‘Second Nature’. The next one was ‘True Nature’. I was surprised when she told me she wasn’t a supernatural writer, even though I knew she had a twisted sense of humour. So I asked her a few questions to dig deeper into the depths of her shape-shifter stories.

1) You are a writer of slow-burn romance, but in 2009, you wandered into supernatural territory and penned two novels (Second Nature, and True Nature in 2013), one novella (Manhattan Moon in 2012) and some short stories (Natural Family Disasters in 2013), and you promised more. What triggered your inspiration?

First of all, I don’t like to pigeonhole myself into writing just one genre. All of them are romances at their core, but I write across all subgenres of romance. Backwards to Oregon and Shaken to the Core are historical romances, for example. Conflict of Interest and Next of Kin are romantic suspense novels. Second Nature and True Nature are paranormal romances and very plot-driven, so I think they appeal to readers who don’t usually enjoy romances too.

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Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

An Interview With WILD

Wild – interview, August 2019

Wild is the genderqueer country-folk singer coming out of the Woods. They have the presence of the young Tree beaming to share their stories with you. They have the gentle energy of the Forest waking up in Spring. But as we know, there is more to the Tree than the Forest in our field of vision. Let’s listen to what Wild has to say.

Question 1) Growing up, what music did you listen to?

My family had an eclectic tape collection that we’d listen to at home and in the car, as well as listening to the radio. Some of the most-listened tapes I remember from around age five or so were Diana Ross, Elton John, (and I thank goodness for these early queer influences!), The Beach Boys, Lionel Richie, and a bunch of others that were my mum’s favourite in particular, including Gloria Estefan and U2.... Oh and Jimi Hendrix! which apparently was being played to me before I was even born..... 

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Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

ALMOST FOUR YEARS OF SYTERIA: AN UPDATE



I caught up with these wonderful human beings – the leather-clad Jackie, Keira of the amazing hats, the quiet Pablo and Julia the procrastinator – in the middle of their mad schedules.

Here is what they had to say.

1) Almost four years since you started Syteria. Jackie, how different is it from Girlschool?

Jax:  It's different in many ways. Firstly, I'm not the oldest by far rather than being the youngest...lol And the music is different as we do four-part harmonies in Syteria where as that would never happen in Girslchool.

2) What inspired each of you to become a musician?

     Jax : I always wanted to be a songwriter rather than a player. So with Syteria I get my wish as the first album was mainly songs I'd written in the past that hadn't been used. I love music so it's never a job to me, but a vocation.

          Keira: I’ve always seen myself doing something creative and being in a band was just that. If you want to experience what it’s like to be a goddess or god that’s as close as you’re going to get, if I was to be egotistical about it. [Laughs] But in reality I love performing to people and putting a smile on their face when they go see a band. The public need it now more than ever in this crazy world we live in, and we’re just the band to do it!!

           Pablo: Since I was a kid there was always encouragement by my parents. However, I found it very natural and fun to explore. Constantly thinking about music as my dad would play with his band every Friday night in the former laundry room of my old house, learning drums with a few different teachers and at a music college for a while, self-taught some guitar, and recorded songs I created with bass and vocals into computers. I guess also a lot from albums I discovered that blew my mind, the unfinishable fountain of music from the past and currently being created caught my attention forever.

           Julia: My father is a musician and growing up we always had people over jamming in our home studio in west Buenos Aires.

3) What gear do you each use on stage and in studio?

Jax : I use  Blackstar HT 2 or Marshall JCM 800 heads through a 4 x 12, although recently the Blackstar head was stolen at a gig from the car.  I don't use pedals in Girlschool − just a boost for the solos, but in Syteria I use a harmoniser for a few bars here and there and sometimes a chorus pedal for bits.

           Keira: At the moment my bass of choice in this band is a Japanese Fender 62’ Jazz Bass reissue with Dimarzio Jazz bass pick-ups, a Mark Bass Little Mark Tube amp and Shure wireless pack.  In the past I did use my Rickenbacker 4003 and American Deluxe 5-string. Still use them, but not as much because I think my Jazz Bass gives me the perfect tone I need for songs we do live. Plus it’s been used for every track I’ve recorded for the new album.

           Pablo: Always use my cymbals, which are towards the bigger sizes and less quantity, but not super heavy, including a china cymbal, double bass pedals and 14"x6.5" brass snare drum with a metallic black finish. Wherever possible we bring my all-maple drum kit, which has big shell sizes and a stunning black/metallic blue sparkly finish.
           We just finished using this kit to lay down the tracks for our latest album in
Wales; it sounds amazingly immense already without much editing, looking forward to finishing the rest and give it a listen!

Julia: Gibson SG guitar and Boss Katana amp. I like my gear to be versatile

4) The music videos look like a lot of fun. What was it like to film 'Revolution'? And 'Halloween'? Was it easy to convince Girlschool Denise and Kim to join in?

   Jax: ‘Revolution’ was filmed in Sheffield on a VERY cold day. I'd flown back to the UK the night before from LA, which was boiling, into the Yorkshire wind and rain to wear a tiny little cotton white suit with cardboard on it! FREEZING!  and then I was dragged through puddles for the scene... Oh the glamour of it all, lol! We had a great team of people working on that one, so we all made the most of the weather.

‘Halloween’ was so much fun, we'd done scenes here in Yorkshire for most of it, and me, Julia and Pablo had all invested in editing programmes and decided we'd have a go ourselves this time. The lyrics I'd written for the song really wrote what was going to happen in the video, so it was just about putting it all together really. I played Den and Kim the song and asked f they'd like to be involved, and they were both really up for it. We went to Essex to film it at Kim’s house there; we laughed a lot. Especially at the make-up transformations, and they both did a great job!

           Keira: We did the ‘Revolution’ video in February. I think everyone remembers the day being stupidly freezing and we were due to fly out to Thailand in a couple of days, too.  It was hard work to shoot that video. We had a proper film crew and everything.

‘Halloween’ took us back to the good old comical music video and was shot using a very good camera phone. It was a song based on the usual horror clichés and each scene represented the lyrics in the song. Very reminiscent to ‘Santa’s Harley’. Doing the video in an amateur way, sort of, gives it that humorous charm people love. Great example: Sum 41, ‘The Hell Song’, using the action figures. Awesome!!

Pablo: As many of my band mates might tell you, we were about to set off to Thailand before filming ‘Revolution’, and I was on antibiotics. Fun combination to be recording in a rainy winter night, so a bit stressful. However, loved every moment of dancing and especially acting as the mad scientist. By the way, the laptop computer featured in that middle bit was using a web page with a fake hacker console that made it look like I was doing very swift coding to grant myself access to something.
            For ‘Halloween’, we had a little bit more time to shoot and we took the production a bit more into our own hands, which made it very easy to adjust in the fly as needed, but it was undeniably tiring, however amazingly rewarding. Acting and directing aside, we all did a big chunk of the production work to make it happen. I'm sure Jackie will fill you in on the rest.

Julia: these are always very fun to make! I like to get involved in the direction and organisation so everyone has a good time :)

5) What was the favourite video for each of you?

     Jax : Well, mine is definitely ‘Halloween’ just because of all the fun we had shooting it, and I learnt a new skill in helping with the editing; always a good thing when you're getting on a bit LOL

           Keira: I still love the very first video we ever made, which happens to be our Christmas single ‘Santa’s Harley’. It was fun to make and we all had a laugh doing it. We got friends involved, plus my dad got a starring role in it. And the first time the world was introduced to our lovely drummer Pablo. I will never forget the horror of eating Brussel sprouts from a tin: ewwww! Plus I got to arrest Santa Claus. Not many people will have that opportunity [Laughs]

           Pablo: I'd have to say ‘Halloween’ just because we all had more hands on deck to make it happen, but ‘I'm all woman’ has to be a close second as it is a more amazing finished product.

Julia: ‘I’m All Woman’.

6) Recently, Syteria played a gig in North London. The next morning, you discovered that the band's gearhad been stolen from your vehicle in the Premier Inn's parking lot, and Jackie’s shades were missing, too. But you keep on touring. What do you each get out of touring?

Jax :  Yes, that wasn't a good feeling as there is nothing we could do about it and the Hotel and the Police couldn't have cared less. But we all remained positive; at least, we still had the car and no one died, so all was well with the world. It made for an interesting journey home with no satnav and squinting with the sunshine...lol

           Keira: Experience has been the main thing I get out of touring. I love going to new places to perform. With this band I’ve been to Asia, Scandinavia, Corfu and this year we went to Prague and supported The Agony, which was memorable for me. I loved Prague so much, I’m back there in September [Laughs]. Every day is a new experience, and be forewarned: expect the unexpected, especially having something horrible happen like getting your gear nicked.

           Pablo: I think these things happen, and it could have been much worse. However sometimes, it's hard to keep going and you need to find strength as different things hit you. It could be freezing like that or just physical pain like blisters in my hands due to extreme heat combined with mosquito repellent, which is another bad combination. In general, I find it very exciting, and so far been learning how to prepare for things you expect, which makes it much more enjoyable.

Julia: I love to be on the road, it’s very exciting! Meeting up the fans and other musicians is really cool.

7) You released an EP ('Wake Up'), a first album ('Rantobot'), and now you are recording a second album ('Reflection'). Tell us about all the goodies you offer on Kickstarter:  (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/472391093/the-new-syteria-album-reflection?ref=project_build&fbclid=IwAR22d1rC0TmW-WLyphFvHNX300TkPUv5QDTbXAhgxjpA_ILl6MVNiLbKkl4).

Jax : Yes we've done a lot in our first three years as a band. We will start recording ‘Reflection’ this month, so that it will be ready for release to the general public in about three months time, BUT for all those who support bands and get on board with the crowd funding, they will all get the album three months before everyone else. Kickstarter has basically taken over from Pledge, which sadly went under recently, but just like pledge we offer exclusives, such as items that the band own or have worn, signed items, time in the rehearsal studio with the actual band to see a sort of intimate gig...so many different items and even the odd guitar, which we'll sign of course.

           Keira: Bear in mind with Kickstarter if you want to pledge more than one time, you will have to set up multiple emails in order to get more stuff. That’s how Kickstarter works unfortunately.

         We’re doing a Gold, Silver and Bronze bundle, personal items, which have been worn by the band members on stage. E.g. Julia’s Skirt Bass and Guitar Tabs written by me and Jax for three songs of the new album and signed by the whole band. We’re doing the studio hangs again because they’ve been the most popular. People love to get up close and personal with the band rehearsing. Your own personal gig. What’s not to love? [Laughs]

           Pablo: We offer so many different things, not only the music, but our gear, time with us, pictures, my drum skins and sticks − all of these things signed by all of us of course, t-shirts and many different small bundles so that you can get more than one item and won't miss out on other things, but also big bundles with most things on it.

Julia: We had a massively successful campaign for our album ‘Reflection’, which we are about to finish recording – can’t wait to send it to the pledgers and then release it officially in a couple of months.

Syteria started recording their new album in Wales, and in the middle of it, sacrificed precious night hours to travel to

London for the Camden Rocks Festival and drive back to Wales to finish their album.

You can find them online:

https://syteria.co.uk

https://twitter.com/SyteriaBand

https://www.facebook.com/syteriaband/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxhTNvKJfLjHNV0FzdrIlCw



Pirate scarecrow Hallowe'en 2008

JEMMA FREEMAN: THE PROCRASTINATOR AND THE PERFECTIONIST




I’ve read somewhere that the ghosts of glam rock are alive and well. Their current incarnation has a background of psychedelic and fine arts, writes about introversion and hidden identities, and has angst sliding on their knees. Their name is Jemma Freeman and they play the guitar with an ever-growing pedal board that threatens to take over the entire stage.
By the time they finished answering my questions, they had contemplated two dawns and two sunsets and felt ready to turn into a mythological creature.

1) When growing up, what music were you listening to?

Initially anything that my parents were playing on their 80's dinner party mix tapes. My dad would borrow CDs from the library and make playlists. There used to be a lot of Grace Jones, David Bowie, Eurythmics, Jean Michel Jarre and as the evening wore on old school Ska, Prince Buster, Sly and Robbie. I would sit at the top of the stairs and try and listen in on their dinner table chat, but all I ever heard was the music really.
I bought my Mum a Best of T-Rex cassette tape for mother’s day, but she was more into Madonna and Annie Lennox by the early 90's so I borrowed it a lot and took it to school. Everyone would be dancing to MC Hammer and Take That on their walkmans and I would be trying to convince them ‘20th Century Boy’ by T-Rex was the coolest thing ever. I was ever so unpopular. I learnt electric guitar playing along to every track on that tape. I never had any lessons.
I got into heavier stuff mostly because of my dad. Neither of my parents played any instrument, but my dad did like to drunkenly play Led Zeppelin at top volume after Sunday tea. His test of my progress would be to get me to plug in my guitar and see how much of Stairway I had mastered.
I had a nu metal stage, but mostly as a way of trying to fit in and find friends. I was a troubled and often lonely person growing up. Connecting with friendly metallers changed my life. The comraderie and exhilaration experienced in a circle pit is something else. I discharged myself from hospital after a failed operation to fix a fractured nose just so that I could mosh to Slipknot at the now sadly demolished Astoria in London. A lot of my metal friends had an affinity for hip hop and drum and bass. I spent many underage evenings at Bagley’s in Kings Cross, Best of British raves in disused theatres in Stratford, watching Nicky Blackmarket, Shy FX, GrooveRider, Mc Hype only to shiveringly catch the first train home and work a 12-hour shift at the local supermarket.


2) You started playing the guitar at 15. What made you pick up a guitar? And why the guitar specifically?

There was something so inherently glamorous and powerful about the guitar, I can remember watching Live Aid, seeing Queen and thinking (optimistically) I could do that, I will do that. I started with the recorder, which I was good at. I played a variety of shapes and sizes... But it wasn't a sound that captured my imagination and you can’t sing words over the top. More by mistake than anything else I started on violin, which I was ok at. I spent most of my time holding it on my lap like a little ukulele, working out chord shapes and trying to play along to the radio.
At school there were a group of cool indie kids who I was desperate to be friends with. they liked Bowie, Mansun, Silver Sun, and didn't think my T-Rex obsession was weird. Through some kind of miscommunication I was invited to go to their next band rehearsal, which I hastily agreed to, only to be filled with horror when my new cool friend Suzi asked, "You are gonna bring your guitar, right? You have got one?" I lied and said I did, and what ensued was my most surprisingly effective campaign to convince my parents to get me an electric guitar. I had a black Kay Les Paul rip-off. It weighed more than I did and the first time I took it to play at the rehearsal the strap got caught round my foot as I stood up from sitting on the floor. The head of the guitar swung straight into my face causing me to pass out and get a minor black eye.


3) What are your music influence/s?

David Bowie, Shay Khan, Ginger Baker, Siouxie and The Banshees, Deep Purple, Micha Chu and T Shapes, Grace Jones, movie soundtracks... I watch at least one a day... Too many to name. The last great soundtrack was from a B movie about ants trying to organise and overrule Earth called ‘Phase IV’, which had amazing synths in it.

4) Before The Cosmic Something, there were The Fucks, and The Landshapes. What were these bands like, in terms of music and dynamics?

The Fucks were a Yamaha keyboard drum machine backed new wave art band formed as a dare with my friend George Lionel Barker. We were chaotic and punk as hell. We formed at art school, hand drew all our flyers (that always included a 'Free Route' guide to public transport to help our poor student following to get from Kingston to Central London to watch us, bunking ticket gates and using the infamous bendy buses). We would inevitably spend our entire fee on 3-for-£5 wine at the pizza shop on the way home and have disruptive, creative parties in my unheated flat. We released two EPs and an album, all recorded in 10 hours for less than £100. They were released on the same label that put Bloc Party’s first single out and we got to party at the then unheard of The Horrors house in Southend where Pete Perret of the Only Ones’ son watched us. We thought we had made it. You can see us in a feature-length political film called ‘The Art Party’.
Landshapes started as a nu folk act and needed a bass player. I came along and immediately brought chaos and effects pedals to the proceedings, and very rapidly every member became a gearhead... Each rehearsal heralded the unveiling of a new effect pedal, snare drum, large upright wooden bass made of a tea chest, electric uke, glockenspiel... You name it, we probably incorporated it into a performance at some point. We grew a lot as musicians. Heloise and Luisa learnt their instruments as they went along and this lead to more depth and complexity as we progressed, simply because they became more proficient and experimental. Our last album was a doomy shoegazey wonky pop type thing... There is a new one in the pipeline... It's nothing like that... Prepare for another transformation!

5) You play guitar and sing. Any other instrument/s?
Tell us about your music gear, including every pedal…….

Top secret... But I do own three pitchshift delays that all get used at once on a few songs. The key to my sound is really my tunings and amp choices... But that would really be letting the cat out of the bag ;) My vintage Mesa boogie MK4 is the love of life. I have a handbuilt Jazzmaster guitar made by Philippe Dubreuille. It's the one. I have never found one to rival it... Oh, except that Andy Ramsay has an amazing Jazzmaster at Press Play, but that's from 1966... I need a hit single before I can ever consider being able to buy one of those.

Jemma relented and listed everything…. And more!

Boss tuner, Fairfield circuitry compressor, Earthquaker Devices Sea Machine, OCD overdrive, Death by Audio Fuzzwar, EHX Hog, Empress Super Delay, Boss RV5, Red Panda Raster, Analog Man Sunface Fuzz. As my live set up…
I used five others on the record though… Jacques Tubeblower, EHX Memory Man, Moog Moogerfooger, EHX Ring Thing, Boss RPS10.
I also used a Cornell Romany amp, Traynor Bass Mate, Selmer treble and bass, Yamaha Pacifica 12-string, Fender Mustang bass, Fender 52 reissue Precision bass, DR 505 drum machine, Japanese Westone Thunder 2A, Yamaha keytar, Fender Super 60, and Shure sm7 vocal mic.
Oh, and an Ibanez phase tone.


6) The Cosmic Something is your first solo project. How would you define your music style? How does your music evolve?

Alternative wonky glam... I am constantly challenging myself to play guitar parts or styles I couldn't before. I often don't succeed in nailing those, but the detritus from my attempts are where I find the gold. This is where the cosmic something comes into play. I feel guided by invisible powers to make choices, trust the universe, trust the mistakes to take you somewhere unexpected. I rarely sit down and think, “hmm, I think I will write a disco tune.” And if I do, then it’s usually a Cramps style grunge number that comes out.
I'm also very impatient making my own demos... I can't stand getting tangled up in wires and equipment being glitchy. Usually if I get one mic sounding good, I'll use it for everything. I might even sing the bass part and use an amp and pitchshift to get the sound I want. It's almost always done in one take... Any more and my concentration is lost.


7) You write your own songs. I’ve read online that the audience should expect “cosmic songs about introversion", "hidden identities” and “dreaming in another dimension”. What inspires your lyrics?

Mostly my life experiences, though sometimes I do just ad-lib over a demo completely improvising the lyrics. I like to incorporate text I see around me, book titles, newspaper headlines, things like that. I have some dark thoughts… It's good to expose some of those sometimes, for sure!

8) I have seen you perform on your own at the Queer Arts Weekender launch in February 2018, and with a drummer and a bass player at the Bechdel Sound Test weekend in March 2019. How would you describe your on-stage persona?

Brash, confrontational, reclaiming stage presence from our male counterparts, chewing it up, spitting it back and they still want more... I perform in Non-binary drag; they're called Jeff and they take no prisoners.


9) What are the advantages of performing on your own? And the advantages of performing with a drummer and a bass player? Besides the knee slides…….

You have the support of two other musicians that opens up more possibilities for dynamic range and impact. You can of course deliver these solo, but the variety of textures and sounds available if you are playing a guitar will be more limited.

10) As Jemma Freeman and The Cosmic Something, you released two EPs. ‘Someone Else to Blame’ (four songs) in 2017, and ‘Heaven on a Plate’ (two songs) in 2018. Who do you work with in recording studio and why?

On those records I play almost everything myself, apart from the drums, which are played by my long-time collaborator Hamid Mantu of Transglobal Underground and Furniture. I played for many years with him in a Dub Improv group called Solus 3; so we know each other’s measure. We can communicate almost telepathically. He's an incredibly talented drummer. I am so lucky to work with him.

Our bass player Mark runs a studio in South London called Marketstall Recording Studios and we did all the recording in the incredible live room he has there. On ‘Heaven on a Plate’ it was the first time we jammed any elements of a song out as a band and Marks' bass line slinks in with the guitar hooks gloriously.


11) In September 2018, I saw you in the Anarchistwood music video 'Fear is the Mind Killer' at the Portobello Film Festival. You were a TV talk show host turning into a clown. Tell us about your experience and your involvement with Anarchistwood.

I met lead singer Frank at a gig in Camden. We were on the same bill as Anarchistwood and we just got on immediately. Frank was so kind. I foolishly knocked a whole pint of water over in the opening bars of our set and they helped clear it seamlessly within seconds. Frank has an amazing onstage persona and costumes, not to mention outlandish clown-like makeup. It was obvious her and Jeff would get along, I think.

12) You are releasing a new single on April 26. What is the title and what can you reveal about this song and the accompanying video?

New single ‘Helen is a Reptile’ screams through a dark tale of night-time paranoia, creeping fears and obsessive thoughts. Racing in at just over two minutes long, scuzzed-up guitars, impassioned vocals and off-kilter solos grab your attention and draw you in before squealing to a halt.
It’s going to be released on limited edition individually hand-made lathe cut 7” vinyl by South London’s Teabar records with an accompanying horror-pop video made by Black Triangle films and starring my drag alter ego, Jeff. Also featuring performance artist Martina Ziewe and musician and dancer Wendy Rae Fowler. The video explores a rockstar’s daydream that quickly descends into a psychedelic nightmare.


13) And finally, if you couldn’t be a musician, what would you do?

Be one of those artists that only get discovered after they die when the janitor comes to clear the flat and they discover 60 years worth of outsider art drawings... I do this already. Can you tell!

If you want to see with your own eyes and appreciate with your own ears how much of an amazing something else Cosmic Jeff happens to be, here are the next dates:

April 5: at Harp Restrung in Folkestone
April 19: Fan Club Art in Nottingham
**Big Single Launch Party**
May 2: at the Windmill (Brixton) in London (tickets available on Dice)
May 5: Portobello Live Festival in London


You can find Jemma Freeman online:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JemmaFreeman3
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHmF2hhmaJ7d2UUl2RX89Jw
BandCamp: https://jemmafreemanandthecosmicsomething.bandcamp.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cosmicsomething/