A Medway Vision 6 – Elusive Images

Rochester is beautiful.  We all know that.  The historical buildings, the river scene; it’s all been photographed and painted so many times and rightly so.  There is a photographer in Medway, going by the name of Obee, who continues this tradition but adds a new twist.  Obee’s images have a traditional feel but, by using a variety of techniques such as time lapse, creates a more surreal look, making those images that we have all seen so many times suddenly feel more mysterious and elusive.

And yet Obee still makes the pictures fun and easy to enjoy.  Obee explains that he decided to quickly document the Medway towns “my goal was to set a day three times a month where I would take my bicycle and camera out and archive towns and events recommended by friends. By 2010 I had amassed a small archive of Medway and surrounding Kent and found I had developed an avid following by the local community, so much so that I started to publish a weekly blog of my fun adventures and where I was heading to next to keep people up to date”

Previous to this Obee started out in 2004 photographing unsigned bands in the London metal/rock scene.  He soon discovered the 

potential of Photoshop and began to manipulate the raw images.  Obee then began to take advantage of the myspace band promotion movement by providing visuals such as online banners, EPs, Tshirts, flyers, gig photography and album covers.  Early 2008 Obee left London and moved to Medway, where he began to meet other artists found what OI too have noticed; a growing hive of creative activity and a varied music scene.  Obee soon developed his very own ‘Medway Vision’.  No doubt inspired by the beauty and interesting features of the area Obee decided to concentrate, so far at least, on landscape shots.  He explains “I wanted to try and get some good old fashioned photography back into my portfolio and capture some of Medway purely for its grand history.”

His style is warm yet haunting at times.  Obee explains “photography of landscapes are currently my signature style with full clear broad colourful spectrums pushing vivid imaging to the max. Another technique I define my works with is infrared and time delay, a skill that was more used on pre-digital cameras. To allow 6 minute exposures with only the furthest end of the light spectrum can produce some of the most haunting images. Human traffic vanishes into a thick fog leaving just the buildings and the camera as witness.”

Obee seems to believe in the ‘Medway Vision’ I have been noticing, this desire to create, this special creative time we seem to live in.  His attitude to his work is refreshing, honest and modest too, “I have a firm belief art is by no means hard if you are genuinely open and passionate about your environment and those you share it with.”  Seeing Obee’s work, those views we are all so familiar with but shot in a different way, is like seeing yourself in a mirror but with a new suit on.  You know it’s you but it looks fresher, more relevant for the 21st Century.

The goal of Obee is to keep shooting events and places in Medway and he hopes that there is a possibility of an exhibition of his work.  If that happens and you want to see Medway with fresh eyes then you will want to be first in the queue.

For more information visit:  obi3380.wordpress.com

Mr Young

Independent Filmmaker

www.themoontheeye.co.uk


Area – South East

A Medway Vision 5 – Preserving Pop

Some places in the world are defined by music labels that, somehow, managed to capture a moment in pop history.  Think Motown (Detroit), Sub-Pop (Seattle) and Factory (Manchester) and, well, you get the idea.  Medway could well be on the verge of getting its very own defining record label in The Preservation Society Presents run by Neil Burrow.

Neil, Artist Manager and Record label boss at The Preservation Society Presents, has worked in the music industry for 21 years as a manager and label boss. Having worked with likes of The Bluetones and Jesus Jones, amongst others he is used to hit records and fostering success for bands,

The label was started in 2010 initially as an outlet to release records by Medway band Theatre Royal; they have since expanded, signing Dead Lovers from Dartford and Medway hip-hop act Kids Unique.

Neil believes that Medway is a special place right now “there are loads of great bands in Medway & wanted to give them a way of releasing records. It brings a focus to the local scene which can only be a good thing”

“The acts on the label are quite eclectic. Broadly speaking, Dead Lovers and Theatre Royal are alternative pop bands, Indie I suppose, but they take in Psychedelia, Folk Punk and County. Kids Unique are a Hip Hop band, but as well as Hip Hop, funk and dance music they are heavily influenced by lyricists like Morrissey and Nick Cave as well as acts like the Beta Band”

In keeping with the ‘Medway Vision’, that feeling of independence and artistry that permeates the Medway towns, TPSP is fiercely independent but is not afraid to ensure commercial success too.  As Neil points out “we have an emphasis on melody and hooks and working closely with our artists to try and create an environment that allows creativity to thrive but we also utilise commercial angels. We do not want to be pigeon holed by genre, we’ll release anything as long as we think It’s good and believe in the record.  We are proud of our independence & what we are trying to achieve”

This year will be a busy one for Neil and TPSP.  Three albums are planned for release this year from Theatre Royal, Kids Unique and Dead Lovers as well as a whole host of singles and free giveaways. On top of this there is the, frankly, already legendary, monthly singles vinyl club where two artist release exclusive recordings on ltd edition 7” vinyl.  There is a feeling about these releases that remind me of early Sub-Pop records.  Vital purchases and will probably be worth a fortune in years to come.

And that’s not all.  Alongside plans to open a TPSP rehearsal studio in Rochester, Neil is also promoting a new event coming to Rochester on 28th July 2012. Based on the hugely successful SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, this new event called Music Event One (ME1, geddit?!) will utilize the main stage in the castle (capacity of 4600) as well having 10 other venues along the High Street putting on various music , literature and art events. Neil explains “this first year is 1 day, next year 2 days building up to a 3 day event in 2014” Neil sensationally announced earlier this month that the headline act is to be John Lydon’s PiL.  Quite a scoop and one that will give this new festival the exposure it richly deserves

When you live in an age of independence, as I believe we do here in the Medway towns, then you need people to support that.  Luckily, for the Medway music scene at least, Neil Burrow is one of those people.  For years to come expect bands from all over Medway to long for their music to be introduced as ‘The Preservation Society Presents…’

Kids Unique debut single ‘Seymour Evil’ is out now on digital download.

Vol 1 of the singles vinyl club is out now featuring Theatre Royal and Kids Unique

 

Volume 2 features Dartford’s Dead Lovers and Margate’s Pantomime Villains.   Both can be bought exclusively through the website: www.thepreservationsocietypresents.com.

Mr Young

Independent Filmmaker

www.themoontheeye.co.uk

www.twitter.com/Mr_Young

www.facebook.com/themoontheeye

 

Area – South East

A Medway Vision 4 – Blues Misadventures

You probably think you know what blues music sounds like.  You’ve probably seen lots of bands in pubs with a blues-based sound.  You know the sort of thing, tribute acts; white men with a love of the blues singing about what it’s like to be a poor black man in 1930’s America.  You’re absolutely right.  It sounds good but it’s not REAL blues, music of genuine pain, anguish and hardship.  Happily, real blues does still exist.  And not just with that Detroit genius Jack White.  It’s right here in Medway too.  And this being Medway, it’s rather unique and somewhat brilliant.

Sounding like a blues singer from the Deep South, Stuart Turner has one of the most distinctive voices in music.  Straddling that fine line between Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong, Tom Waits and out and out ‘man deranged’, Stuart brings new meaning to 21st Century Blues.  And it’s the first time I have ever heard blues sound scary.  Seriously, the combination of the man’s voice and the anguished lyrics take you to places you never thought blues could.

It has been said that to sing the blues you need to have suffered.  Well in that case Stuart qualifies.  That voice is not just an impassioned howl of feeling.  Stuart recalls, “I was diagnosed with cancer in my throat and had fairly extensive surgery leaving me with an interesting singing voice and a lot of things to write about.”  Many people would have given up.  Turner used this misfortune to his advantage.

After finding his voice again and working how he could use it he began gigging and met with Kris Dollimore (ex Godfathers, Dammed, Del Amitri).  They became friends and Stuart went on to produce Dollimores first blues solo album (’02/01/1978′) and helped him set up his own Sun Pier label. In return he offered to put out an album of Stuarts ‘A Gallon Of Water Makes A Mile Of Fog’.  Stuart now sees the album as “too long, too odd, too sweary, it got some great reviews, but sold badly” A second solo album, (File Under Carnal Knowledge’) sold better, and he was getting known around Medway as well as gigging all around the country. Stuart met Robbie Wilkinson from Medway band Theatre Royal who became his live lead guitarist, then writing collaborator, then half of the ‘Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society’.   Robbie and Stuart wrote and arranged a set of songs and produced ‘Gin and Bitters’ the first STFES album. Released by Medway based Brigadier Records, they then recruited Ray Hunt and Dave Sawicki and gigged the album, recording half a follow up as they went. “It sold modestly” said Stuart “but we got some radio and a good live reputation.”

Photo taken by Phil Dillon – www.phildillon.co.uk

Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society are not just a blues band though.  Their repertoire covers rock-a-billy, indie and pop.  Not to mention the sax on their last album ‘Gin and Bitters’ sounding a little like the soul of Dexys Midnight Runners.  Oh, and did I mention he plays ukulele live too?  But it’s the bluesy chug that works best for them, especially when mixed with indie-inspired pop dynamics.  Listen to ‘Essex’ from ‘Gin and Bitters’, simply the best 3 minutes Stuart has committed to record so far; it’ cocky, it’s raw, it’s bouncy, it’s all you need from a song.

However, as brilliant as that album was, the curse of the blues musician seemed to be hitting the band hard.  Stuart recalls how “Mark Lemar quit his radio show just as we were negotiating a session, gigs got cancelled from under us, ill health forced Dave out 

of the band and his replacement Jez, while a good player, never gelled as well and there was a personality clash with Ray”   Problems over?  Stuart wishes.  “Then there were a series of Jez-drunk-and-incapable gigs, Ray quit, just after we finished recording the as-yet-unreleased album ‘On the Brink of Misadventure’ and just after we were really getting a strong live following.  At the very next band gig Jez had to be carried from the building during the support act and I was forced to fire him.”

Bad luck indeed, but thankfully Stuart and band are raring to go and ready to put their new superb album out.  It will be out in April and if this album does not sell by the bucket load then there’s something wrong with the world.  The usual combination of urban distress, bouncy blues and indie attitude makes this a great record.  Listen to a sneak preview of the track ‘To The Nighthouse’ here:

http://soundcloud.com/stfes/to-the-nighthouse

With gigs lined up, Stuart says “this is a point of flux and anything might happen, it really is worth fighting to get this album heard” Perhaps, and most remarkably of all, Stuart accepts that this is what he HAS to do.  It’s that Medway Vision again, that desire to create.  There’s no giving up for an artist like Stuart, the music is in his blood and if fame comes then that’s a bonus “if I only ever play the Man of Kent a few times a year, but those gigs continue to be rammed, then in some way I have an ongoing achievement. Hopefully though we can go on to do more than that.”

I’m a big fan of Jack White and when I saw Stuart Turner for the first time I had that similar feeling of wonder, that feeling you get when you know you’re seeing something special, someone who means it, someone who is singing from the soul.  Jack White is, famously, a fan of Billy Childish and his raw rock and roll.  One suspects that if Jack had the pleasure of hearing Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society he would have another favourite Medway band.  This is not karaoke tribute blues as witnessed in so many bars up and down the land.  This is as real as it comes.  Stuart Turner has lived a life, he’s seen the bottom and because of that he’s breathing new life into the blues.  Once again we’re seeing a Medway Vision, an artist who makes the music because he has too.  His bad news is good news for the rest of us.

Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society release their new album ‘On the Brink of Misadventure’ on Brigadier Records later this month.

For more information visit: http://www.myspace.com/stuartjamesturner

Mr Young

Independent Filmmaker

www.themoontheeye.co.uk

www.twitter.com/Mr_Young

www.facebook.com/themoontheeye


Area – South East

A Medway Vision 3 – Authentic Legend

Every now and then you hear of someone who should be more well-known than they are. Medway painter and poet Bill Lewis is one of them.  I’m not talking about seeing some ones work and thinking, ‘oh that’s quite good’ rather, I’m talking about someone who, once you realise what he has done, you realise he is a legend.

Bill Lewis is one of the founding members of both The Medway Poets and The Stuckist Movement of painting.  The Medway Poets were founded in 1979 by Lewis along with those other Medway legends Billy Childish and Sexton Ming.

Stuckism was founded in the 1990’s by Bill and 12 others (again Billy Childish) in response to the post-modern ‘event’ art of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.  In fact, the name ‘Stuckism’ comes from a conversation Emin had with Childish.  During a phone call, Emin mocked Childish and his painting friends for being ‘stuck, stuck, stuck’ in the past.  And the name, well, stuck.  Bill Lewis and the other original Stuckists, or ReModernists, decided that this new art lacked authenticity.

When asked if he still considers himself a Stuckist, there is little doubt he knows that he will always be one of the founding members of that group, “but I’m more interested these days in the wider aims of the ReModernist experiment. The integration of spirituality into art and the attempt to avoid slipping back into post-modernism”.

When asked about his painting style Bill says “some people have called it Magical Realism but I’m not sure that fits. My paintings are like a magic mirror that I hold up to see what I am like inside. The imagery in them often takes years for me to decipher. Sometimes I never fully understand them”

“Some writers and artists tell me they have no influences but then humans have a great capacity for self denial. They think they are being original. Nothing is original. The best we can hope for is to be authentic. Authenticity comes from love. The things we love influence us the most”

I have always made pictures but I did not start writing until I was at school. I used to draw on everything as a kid and after covering the wall next to my bed my parents bought me sketch books to stop me drawing on the rest of the walls. But poetry and fiction are my main artistic outpouring.

For me, his paintings are fascinating.  One in particular reminded me of the Inuit art I had seen from the Canadian Arctic when I was making my first feature film, East 3. However, it’s his writing that appeals most of all.  It seems that this is where his true voice is.  Looking at some of the poetry on his website www.billlewis.co.uk it strikes me as very honest.  It carries that element of all great poetry in that it seems to speak to you personally without ever knowing who you are.  It carries a beat to it that is often missing from modern poetry, Bill notes “we have lost the music in our poetry. Poems should sound good to the ear as well as work on the page”  This is probably why his work sounds so good when performed as his YouTube clips testify.

If there is indeed, a Medway Vision, a new spirit of independence and artistry then Bill Lewis, quite simply, is one of its godfathers.

A new book of poetry “In The House Of Ladders” by Bill Lewis is out now and published by Greenheart press (an imprint of WOW Medway magazine). Price £10.

Mr Young

Independent Filmmaker

www.themoontheeye.co.uk

www.twitter.com/Mr_Young

www.facebook.com/themoontheeye

A Medway Vision: Words and Sounds

Let me explain myself. I’m an independent filmmaker living in Rochester. Over the course of, well, however long they allow me to write these articles, I’m going to highlight one of Medway best kept secrets. One at a time I will focus on a local artistic talent within the Medway towns.

There seems to me something brewing around here. Whisper it, but it might even become a ‘Medway Scene’. Filmmakers like me, poets, musicians, visual artists, photographers, writers are busy creating. That, taken on its own, is nothing new. But there is a buzz, a real sense of artistic change in the air. The Fuse Festival is fun but this is something else.

I have lived in a few places, big places like London and Birmingham and for a little while now I have felt something unique about Medway. The art that is being made around here feels raw, exciting. It’s an independence of spirit and a DIY ethic. The NEED to create. It feels like Medway means it. It feels like Medway has something to say. A Medway Vision. Over the coming weeks I hope to prove that…

First off, let me introduce a group of beat poets I have been working with. There are three of them, they call themselves, perversely, a trinity. I can’t tell you their names. They work in secret. Determined to only write poetry and discuss nothing else, they asked me to produce their first CD of poetry. The go by the moniker of 7th Adventure Recordings and mix a surreal and dark set of words to an even more surreal and darker set of beats and noises.

I have worked with one of them before, secretive even then, he went only by the name of Polarghosts. He provided soundtracks to three of my short films. I liked his style, dark and dream-like, nightmarish really. When he told me about his interest in beat poetry my ears pricked up. He had grouped up with two others who shared a passion for beat poetry and together they wanted to redefine what poetry and beat poetry was. Beat poetry came out of the post-war USA in the 1950’s. Using music, often jazz, as a backdrop the poets usually performed stream of consciousness writing to a hip crowd. The legacy lived on but transformed and the melding of music and spoken word paved the way for rap music in the 1970’s.

Beat poetry in its own right kind of fizzled out. But the works of Kerouac and Ginsberg are still revered. 7th Adventure Recordings are presenting, what they call, beat poetry for the 21st Century. The music is still sometimes jazz in form, but it’s all electronic minimalism and has more in common with techno music. The words are not about 50’s America and the post-war lost ’beat’ generation but do share the stream of consciousness feel that those earlier poets had. Even the sub-title of the new CD ‘Poetry for the Blank Generation’ conjures images of the original beat poets but repackages it, Generation X-style, for a new generation of misfits.

Their new CD is something of an ‘EP’. 8 short poems with distinct identities, 9 minutes running time. Their words strike to your very soul. It’s like listening to a character in a dream. You can hear them and understand but you are never quite sure what they mean. Partly scary, partly uplifting, the CD is unusual in that it looks and feels like a new EP from a band including cool artwork. But it’s poetry. This really is poetry with a difference.

I have seen poetry performed a few times. It was ok but pretty dull and bourgeois. I was always attracted to beat poetry as it contained a raw energy. And who can resist the romantic image of the beat poets from 50’s America, travelling, drinking, free to create and thereby define a generation. Ok, I’m guessing that this bunch of Medway beat poets won’t be defining a generation, but if you want to explore a dark and surreal underbelly rather than listen to poems about funny people on a train or how the pretty the countryside is then this group might just become your favourite new poets.

7th Adventure Recordings seem destined to remain secretive and have no plans to perform their work live. That seems a pity, but, as with so many Medway artists currently at work, their vision is what makes them tick. Their vision is what makes them vital. Their vision is what is making Medway bubble with ideas and passion. And we wouldn’t want that to change.

Their new CD by 7th Adventure Recordings, ‘Curious Fascinations – Poetry for the Blank Generation’, has just been released and is available from www.themoontheeye.co.uk or www.7thadventurerecordings.tumblr.com priced £3.

Mr Young
Independent Filmmaker
www.themoontheeye.co.uk
www.twitter.com/Mr_Young
www.facebook.com/themoontheeye