The urbanist’s guide to Cardiff – blogger of the week on the Guardian!

We Are Cardiff

Well well, eh? I pack my bags and head off to Glastonbury for a couple of days and what happens? BLOGGER OF THE WEEK ON THE GUARDIAN HAPPENS, that’s what!

helia guardian cities featured blogger june 2014

click the picture or this link to go read the article: The urbanist’s guide to Cardiff: ‘the UK’s most sociable city’

I got a bit of shit in the comments for being too generic and not listing enough specific independent bars / cafes / shops etc etc in the city – also there were comments saying that there actually aren’t many independents, which I know to be A LIE. There are OODLES of amazing independent businesses in the city, many that I frequent, and I wanted to give a list of my favourites below. This is by no means exhaustive, and if you’re reading this and think I’ve missed one out in your area, PLEASE ADD IT IN THE COMMENTS!

Also I…

View original post 428 more words

Advertisements

A worthwhile reminder for pay day…

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine contacted me about writing a story for a children’s book she was putting together. The book is called Tal’s Good Feet, and it was put together by Vicki Simpson to raise money for a little boy called Tal Campbell, who has cerebral palsy. The money goes towards his medical bills and important operations … you can read more about him on the Tal’s Good Feet website.

The book is a compilation of short stories aimed at children between six to nine years old, and my story was illustrated by the rather marvellous Adam Chard. It’s priced at a very reasonable £6.99. All the money from the book goes towards his treatment, so if you have any gift giving occasions coming up, BUY THIS BOOK!

We Are Cardiff: Portrait of a City film now available to watch online…

Head over to the We Are Cardiff website and watch the We Are Cardiff film over by there!

In other news, I’ve just started putting together shorts from the rest of the footage that didn’t get used in the rest of the film. Only 18 hours worth to go through …!

Also recently I hooked up with an old friend, Emily Jones, who is a rather wonderful illustrator. We only ever knew each other on the Cardiff drinking/watching bands circuit, so imagine my surprise when I found out how wonderful she is at painting and drawing. We’ve decided to work on some stuff together, so hopefully there will be some news about that sometime soon!

Emily Jones’ website is called Can You Draw a Dinosaur and you can like her on Facebook.

I’m a big fan of her landscapes…

and her characters….

Interview with Jon Hopkins for CRACK Magazine

Interview with Jon Hopkins, co-written with Adam Corner for CRACK Magazine.

crack jon hopkins inside

Me and my pal Adam Corner have written a couple of things for CRACK Magazine before. This was the first time we’ve tag-teamed on interviewing someone. I think it worked out really well. Once I’d stopped squealing about Jon Hopkins and actually got down to writing, that is.

If you’ve not heard of Hopkins or his work before, I recommend you stop everything you’re doing, watch this video, and then go and buy everything in his back catalogue. Don’t worry. There’s still time.

You can read the article on CRACK’s website: CRACK Jon Hopkins feature (or it’s available at the bottom of this blog post).

The June issue of CRACK is still around at the moment – the cover looks like this…

crack cover

 

Damn, I’m pigeon toed sometimes …

 

JON HOPKINS FEATURE – CRACK MAGAZINE, JUNE 2013

Born from the depths of his subconscious, Immunity is the finest work of Jon Hopkins’s astonishing career.

Nothing good ever came out of endlessly ploughing the same furrow, as Jon Hopkins can tell you.

He’s a man who understands contrasts. He revels in them. If your first encounter with his music happened to be searing new single Open Eye Signal, you might describe him as an electronic artist in the vein of Apparat, but then you’d have to explain his Mercury Prize nominated album of acoustic balladry with King Creosote. With Coldplay production credits under his belt, you could peg him simply as unassuming soundscaper to the stars, but that doesn’t really capture his film scores and soundtrack work. In fact, the guy rarely gets through an album without changing direction half a dozen times: mournful piano riffs, twinkling electronica and the unsettling pulse of metallic techno are all likely to make an appearance. And so, when Crack spoke to him in advance of latest solo album Immunity, we were only too happy to be schooled in the art of doing a thousand things at once; aka, being Jon Hopkins.

“This record definitely feels like a change of pace for me” begins Hopkins. “I spent a few months doing all these incredibly chilled out shows with Kenny (Anderson, King Creosote) where everyone was sitting down, I was playing piano and harmonium. I started feeling this energy inside me that needed an outlet. I thought it was probably time to get back into some beats and rhythms and focus on that more.”

From the opening track of Immunity – the crisp, clipping rhythms and pulsating bass that form We Disappear – it’s pretty obvious the beats are back. Immunity is essentially a techno album, albeit one punctuated with moments of quiet fragility. The same bass heavy, distorted rhythmical style that he perfected in parts of his previous solo album, 2009’s Insides, are still present, but have been augmented with a blissful and hypnotic groove that swirls through this new record.

“It’s important for me to keep the contrast in everything, and jump between activities as much as possible,” he says. “Even within a record I’ll have very heavy bits followed by very quiet bits. That’s something I’ve always loved in life – not all of the same. Lots of changes.” And when it comes to his solo material, Hopkins’ writing process is expectedly erratic. Insides, for example, was written over the course of four years, fitting around the rest of Hopkins’ varied projects as a producer a film scorer. “With Insides there was a lack of flow between the tracks” he states, “because tracks like Wire were written in 2005, while Insides itself was written at the beginning of 2009. There was a huge amount of time between them so they sound different.”

And despite enjoying the juxtaposition of such varied work, Hopkins admits that it’s not easy to jump between one thing and another. “There’s no switch in your brain” he says. “There’s always a week of me fucking about, sitting in the studio, unable to start again and despairing, and then one day it clicks. The amount of time it’s possible to waste like that! Film work is particularly hard because there’s a big time pressure on it. I’ve really struggled when shifting between that and other things, but with Immunity I really feel like I gave it the time it needed and allowed myself to say no to everything else to get on with it. It was the most satisfying experience I’ve had musically so far.”

If Hopkins is increasingly happy with his own output, the musical landscape around him leaves something to be desired. As he explains, it’s not so much that standards have got lower, but that it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff.

“There seems to be an exponential increase in the amount of stuff that gets released, with crazy amounts of hype for a lot of things and unjust ignorance towards others. I find when writing music the best approach is not to think about that, just to pretend that there’s no other music at all and then just to release into that vacuum, and hope that people are into it. The internet’s changed everything, in the way that the reactions are so instant. Everything’s so easily accessible, you don’t have to work for anything, you can just have everything. You can have all knowledge, you can have all films, you can have all music, and that takes a little bit of the magic out of it for the listener. But it is the world we live in, and y’know, people still fall in love with music.”

Hopkins also has a unique personal antidote to the hyperspeed of the digital age: self-hypnosis. “I started doing it about 12 years ago”, he explains. “I was struggling, pretty broke, it was a very stressful time and I was trying to look at techniques for bringing my tension levels down. I started learning what they call ‘autogenic training’, which is a self-hypnosis using visualisations to guide yourself into a different mind space and to relax the body. I started thinking about how that could be applied to music. It’s an amazing feeling, the sort of feeling where you don’t have any thoughts, where the voice of the practitioner will be echoing around from left to right, sometimes repeating, getting quieter and quieter. If you focus on that you get completely hypnotised. I was actively putting sounds like that into my songs to see if they would have that effect, hopefully without people noticing. I almost want it so that by the end of the music you could be asleep! You can listen to music when you’re asleep and it can infiltrate your dreams and it has these amazing powers at levels underneath the straightforward consciousness. I’ve been going for that on this record.”

Jon Hopkins isn’t – in case you haven’t noticed – your average studio geek. Too often when an artist (or, more likely, their record company) bangs on about going on a ‘journey’, it’s no more than a metaphorical flight of fancy. But Jon Hopkins walks the walk, taking the relationship between the inside of his head and the world around him seriously. “One of the reasons I include so many sounds from the real world in my recordings is because it’s an actual journey into the mind of the artist” he says. “I’ll be outside the studio door with a recorder picking up exactly what I’m hearing while I’m writing it, so the listener is where I was, in a way. It’s an attempt to move it away from one dimensional computer sounds into something you can feel is alive, or built out of some sort of physical structure.

“I try to be open for everything I see in the world to find its way into the music. I was on a journey back to London, in a car with a friend who was driving me back from a studio out in the countryside, and it was pissing down with rain. I started to doze off, the windscreen wipers were going once every five seconds and this track was playing – a track that didn’t make it to the record. Somehow the music I’d recorded synced up with the windscreen wiper. It became this incredible accidental rhythm that I got swept along by. I’ve tried to recreate that in so many different tracks in different ways – things like that – certain states that my mind slips into.”

Looking to the future, Hopkins doesn’t have much time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labours. As well as shows booked to promote Immunity throughout the rest of the year, he has two film scores that need “tidying up” (the first one being a Kevin Macdonald film called How I Live Now, due out in September). He’s also worked on a cover version of Goodbye Horses by Q Lazzarus (as per Silence of the Lambs fame) with Hayden Thorpe from Wild Beasts, due out in July. That’ll be a pretty eclectic bunch of achievements wrapped up in just one year. And strangely, Hopkins argues that it was the slow start to his solo career which motivated him to embrace other projects. “Had it gone well with my first two records, I would have just carried on with that and made a lot more solo records” he muses, “I think it’s been for the best that it’s been such a slow burning thing”.

If the response to lead single Open Eye Signal is anything to go by, though, Hopkins’ slow rise might just be about to accelerate. But that’d just be another contrast in the career of an artist defined by them.

– – – – – – – – – – –

Immunity is available now via Domino. Jon Hopkins plays Simple Things Festival, Bristol, on October 12th, as well as Green Man, Glanusk, Wales (August 17th) and Bestival, Isle of Wight (September 6th).

jonhopkins.co.uk

Words: Adam Corner + Helia Phoenix

Real and Imagined Lives – Banksy

I mentioned before that a piece of my writing is on display alongside a photo on Banksy at MShed in Bristol. A couple of people weren’t able to make the exhibition, so asked if I could put the writing online somewhere for them to read. Well, my mum asked. So here you go ma! My friend Pam and I went to the exhibition for the launch party – pictures are below.

 

Of course you know me. We’ve met before. But you don’t remember.

You try desperately to remember. But my face is a greasy penny, slipping between your fingers into the cracks of the pavement, escaping into Bristol beyond.

We met on Park Street. I had my high visibility vest and my stepladder. We passed in the street. You turned as I passed, but the harder you looked for me, the less you could see.

You followed the paint drips down the street and thought that you caught me, red handed – paint brush in hand, stencilling the wall. You shouted, angry. Vandal! Trickster! You rushed me. Knocked the ladder. I fell, and shattered into a thousand pieces.

You panicked. Swept me up, and threw me away. But as you looked into the bin, you saw every tiny shard start sprouting arms, and legs, paint brushes, and stepladders. A tiny army of teachers, nurses, ambulance drivers. Wearing monkey masks. Dreaming of revolution.

I was seeds on fertile earth. From a two-armed man to a seven nation octopus, swaying around with dangerous ideas, minds of their own, and spraycans attached to their tentacles.

Of course you know me. We’ve met, remember? You shook my hand.

My name?

I’m just the monkey mask man.