Thursday, 30 December 2010

Smokes are for Losers


Smoke alarms have been silently sounding-off. The sour smell of stale tobacco on sweater sleeves. The hacking cough that wakes me every morning. The one that did it was seeing the terror with which Battlecat (see blog entry entitled Kitty Porn) recoiled from any cigarette smoke that wafted his way. It seemed like the smart Darwinian option. I read a self-help-quit-smoking-in-ten-easy-steps book, which transpired to be one of the most depressingly dull, badly written books I have ever read (I’m not quite sure what I was expecting). The success in the book’s technique is essentially inciting a feeling of such resentment for having endured such tedium for two hundred pages that you feel obliged to at least have a stab. To put your money (/no cigarettes) where your mouth is.
I think just as effective would be to read a book that you may actually enjoy (may I recommend Roberto Bolaño’s ‘The Savage Detectives’) and just glance at these key bullet points. It stinks. Your clothes and car will stink. Your breath will stink. Girls won’t want to kiss you. If they do they will probably be thinking ‘this guy stinks’. It is anti-social. I work in a nice warm studio. We light candles and record pop songs and hang out and it’s fucking great. Then every half an hour I stand in the rain and the wind alone for ten minutes (American Spirits last longer than Marlboro’s). It’s banned from anywhere fun. The days of dancing (probably to At The Drive-in) in a club with a cigarette in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other are sadly no more. It’s absurdly expensive. It’s so easy and very sensible for the government to tax as much as they want on something that costs them so much in hospital bills… which brings me to the last point. It kills you. It fucking kills you. It gives you cancer and then it fucking kills you. KILLS YOU. KILLS YOU!! KILLS YOU FUCKING DEAD WITH CANCER!!
I began to convince myself that smoking somehow defined me. That it was part of my personal brand. That it sent out the right ‘I don’t give a fuck’ messages. Well I guess I do give a fuck, and the older I get, the more the image of what it is to be a smoker morphs into something I don’t want to be. Whereas I saw myself as James Dean or Hunter S. Thompson the reality is nearer to that frail, yellow-fingered, stinking old geezer coughing up rubbery pellets of phlegm, standing in the rain outside the pub and that is something I never want to be. I enjoyED smoking but I also enjoy smelling nice, my friends, my money and being alive!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

In Case Anyone Wondered, My Albums of 2010 Are the Same as Everyone Elses

Toro Y Moi- Causers of This
Suckers- Wild Smile
Ariel Pink- Before Today
Das Racist- Shut Up, Dude
Diamond Rings- Special Affections
Girls- Broken Dreams Club
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All- Radical
Twin Shadow- Forget
Health- Disco2
Chromatics- In the City
Ceo- White Magic
Beach House- Teen Deam
Small Black- New Chain
Curren$y- Pilot Talk
oOoOO- oOoOO
Shit Robot- Cradle to the Rave
Delorean- Subiza
Aeroplane- We Can’t Fly
Tanlines- Volume One
S∆lem- King Night
Free Energy- Stuck on Nothing
Teengirl Fantasy- 7am
Theophilus London- This Charming Mixtape
Games- That We Can Play
Big KRIT- Wuz Here

… And yes, Kanye’s album is very good.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Morrissey: A public unapology


Teenagers are rarely subtle in the ways they emulate their heroes. This is never more apparent than when casting a glaze along the queue at a Morrissey gig. My teenage Morrissey impression lasted up until my band (named after a Morrissey song) started releasing (Smiths-a-like) records. Having dropped my unnecessary Christian name to be more like Steven Patrick and growing a proud quiff people began to notice my obsession and it was deemed as totally inappropriate behaviour for the singer in a band. I stuffed contact lenses in my eyes and demolished my quiff, flattening my fringe over my forehead. If there is an irony to be found in being uncomfortable with having to avoid copy-catting the world most notorious misfit then I see it only now. Now, when my hair is at it’s dizzying highest. Yet now, when my career is writing pop songs.

Morrissey has a lyrical style that speaks so directly to the listener that he becomes a kind of surrogate father figure. At once both laugh-out-loud funny and crushingly sad. Of course you already know this, and as I race through phases and trends in music (which is something I swore I would never do) I know that I can always return home to Morrissey. Morrissey I love you and I don’t care who knows it!!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The XX

Chantelle is an astonishing girl. She is stunning. She is enchanting. She is entertaining. She is also my ex-wife. It is this final attribute, which makes me feel privileged to call her a friend and nothing more. There are very real reasons why we got divorced all those years ago and neither of us are strong enough to go through that again. It hurts to have real emotions trivialised and that is why I am clarifying this for anyone who is interested. I wish I could give big brother viewers the fairytale ending they wanted but, to me, this friendship is a post-modern, 21st century ‘happily ever after’.
I have been saying precisely this for the past month and if I was ever slightly diplomatic it was to spare the feelings of the girl who I still care very much for. Obviously tabloid magazines don’t always take human emotion into consideration when fabricating their fantastical stories and I don’t direct any anger at them, but it is nonetheless upsetting. So, before feelings are further trampled, I graciously hand this crooked crown to Josie and John James and feel truly lucky to have had so many insane/absurd/breathtaking/irreplaceable experiences and to walk away with a one-of-a-kind friend-for-life.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A Twice in a Lifetime Opportunity


If you are reading this then it is already too late. But what five years ago would have been a career-suicide note, I hope this time, can be something in the way of an explanation. I am writing to any of my friends and family who now have their faces in their hands and are slugging on bottles of whisky, silently mouthing the word ‘why?’ between gulps.

Imagine the scenario:

A boy is at the dizzying crossroads in his life where he can’t work out where the path starts that leads to adulthood/family/normality. He gets a surprise record deal for a band that was only ever intended to be a leisure pursuit; A diversion. After much hard work, that band becomes successful. While pausing to look for the path his phone rings. ‘Of course I will go on your reality TV show’ he is overheard replying… OK, this third person shit is even starting to irritate me and I’m the one pushing the keys. The main sway is that I always felt I was adapting to a professional life that was sucking me with it.

I got married and the backlash caused me to become very defensive, which is a hugely unattractive trait and one comes across as bratty and arrogant in overcompensation. The marriage… right… it honestly seemed like a normal thing to do in the mad, Mickey-mouse world that we had built around us. We loved each other, hated to be apart, and to a certain extent never wanted the Disney-princess-castle to crumble. In all honesty I am second - guessing because, in reality, I have no clue what the fuck I was thinking.

I finally found the path but in some ways it was too late. I still feel as though I carry the ghost of my youth with me. Whenever I work with a new artist I smile and make a joke but the ghost walks off Never Mind the Buzzcocks or dresses up in an ill-informed mod-revivalist costume. Genuinely my primary reason for walking up those stairs is because I had the (first) time of my life in that house, but I also want to exorcise that snotty little ghost and let people see the adult that has replaced him. I have worked so hard to build myself a life that I love, a career that I love, (a cat that I love) and for the first time in my life I am happy with who I am. I just want everyone else to be happy for me and with me!

Anyway this isn’t all about me. It’s about Ahmed, Shabnam, Bubbles and whomever else I find myself sharing bathwater with. I used to feel the need to disguise my compulsive obsession for Big Brother behind a veil of excuses. Whether it is a post-modern study of social Darwinism or an excuse to look at boobies it undeniably has something to teach in the way of tolerance and I can’t wait make the best mistake again!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

video

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Life Waited

This is a brief life-update for anyone who may have been wondering. It is a cathartic double-underline scrawl on my quest for success on the other side of the wizard’s curtain. After going back to school to finish my studies in music production, followed by a year’s apprenticeship in a studio, I have started to get some really exciting cuts as a songwriter. These have already led to bigger and better writing sessions and the momentum itself has begun to give me the sense of being an authentic and relevant member of society. Battlecat and I couldn’t be happier in the flat in Brighton. I drive my 2cv to London everyday, roof down weather permitting, work on music, then return to the awesome (if not perhaps mildly tragic) bachelor evening of pizza, a bottle of red wine and a 1970’s horror/exploitation VHS. OK… perhaps that isn’t everybody’s dream life, but it’s mine!

I feel as though I have found a secret way of keeping the wolf from the door while still making a new song everyday. I started a production company… I may even finish my novel one-day. I still have plans to try my hand at a solo record (I broke both my elbows half-way through promoting my first solo single =[) but for now I have a spring in my step and music in my head. I can’t think of much else I really need.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Four AM FML



The insomnia of my younger years has returned. Inverted. I tuck myself in at night and, before I can snuggle up with my bedfellow (a stuffed ‘Red’ from Fraggle Rock) and absorb the simple ecstasy of duvet cuddles, I am dreaming. I have had reports that sleep sees me with a stupid smile resting smugly on my face, which I absolutely believe. I am an avid dreamer of vivid dreams. I would never be so hippyish as to suggest that dreams hold any great meaning. I see them more as natures cleansing entertainment. Fantasy for when life is dull. However lately the show-times have changed and I wake with a jolt at four am, just when the morning light is bleaching the night, slowly that it seems as if it hopes the transition will go unnoticed. But I notice.


There is never a good time to be up at four am will the possible exception of a mad all night love-in but even then I imagine I would be a wheezing mess about ready for some post coital hugs. Four am feels seedy and as unwelcoming as it is unwelcome. As soon as my brain acknowledges alertness, it starts to fire up like a PC. The MS DOS start-up screen blinks into action and, like the theme tune of some forgotten soap opera, my brain plays an ironically chirpy jingle. If I concentrate I can hear the buzzing of my mind as it prepares to recklessly steer my train of thought in it’s favorite of my worst directions.


To ease me in the first stop we will usually visit is immediate existential panic. This begins with my brain reminding me that my boiler is broken or that I have a gas bill to pay and then the train takes that information in its already cluttered carriage and veers towards wondering what I am doing with my life. This leads on to a tour of every decision I have ever made and a list of potentially superior options that I didn’t take. By this time my inner monologue is so clear, I am practically speaking aloud as I squint my eyes hard shut wishing for sleep to return. I start to make wild plans to pack a bag and move to San Francisco or to get a job in the Levis store in Churchill Square shopping centre.


At around six thirty I succumb to the torturous persona living in my head and stumble upstairs to watch cartoons or read a book. As the sun lights up my flat, my various souvenirs from a life of travelling present themselves to me. The huge papier-mâché Day of the Dead skull that I somehow safely brought home from Mexico after taking a spontaneous adventure with a girl I had just met. Beads that were give to me in Benin by a voodoo priest. Pictures of me on the Jersey shore with my best friends. I then notice my Wurlitzer and my guitar and marvel at the fact that I have managed to reach twenty-eight making a living, sometimes well, from music. Transitional periods in life throw you totally off balance. The path you were so carefully treading reaches a broken bridge. And as I make the transition from performer to songwriter and leave more and more of the celebrity culture amongst which I felt so uncomfortable behind, I am scared. But mainly at four am.


The excitement of the unknown is exhilarating in the clarity of daylight. Moving my career towards songwriting is risky. I think I am a really strong songwriterbut it is an industry where talent in not necessarily rewarded with success and sucess often comes to those with more luck than talent. So during one of my four am FML sessions I made the decision to carry on down the path that I was on seven years ago, before all this silliness got in the way. In three years if I am not vomiting money as a songwriter, I will be a fully trained, legitimate music teacher with seven bizarre years worth of memories, which will eventually fade like dreams. And as I lay in bed, hopefully next to a beautiful wife, preferably my own, after a hard day of teaching kids about minims and canons I am sure something else will boot up the hard drive in my head just as the clock ticks four am.


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

LDR Survival Guide

I have a lunch date at dinnertime. I will light the tall candles in my silver candelabra and tie an oxford bow on my skinny Dior tie. The meal, having been previously arranged, is also being prepared four thousand miles away, with the same conditioned reflex. I will pull on the lapels of my dinner jacket forgoing the trousers in favour of grey tracksuit bottoms or perhaps just a pair of well-worn Y-fronts. As my date flickers onto the screen like the onboard computer beauty from a nineteen-seventies SciFi fantasy I will hide my bare legs from the tiny peephole hidden in the screen of my laptop.

For the last two and a half years I have been the willing victim of a long distance relationship. It started when I naively thought that life would wait for love and, having spent all of my money on shuttle-runs to Philadelphia, I finally see how wrong I was. This may seem horribly unromantic but I also learned that when you find someone who you genuinely think is super-double-awesome then stability and a (however forced and against ones nature) sense of realism is necessary to ensure longevity. Having also had the clarity that lies at the far end of a colossal failure of a marriage I learned a lot about life and love. Essentially don’t fall in love when you are full of alcohol/ prozac/ sleeping pills/ the hollow praise of fickle glossy magazines (!).

You truly cannot help who you fall in love with blah blah however the true danger lies in who you try not to fall in love with. My G/F and I spent the first few months of our relationship in a blissful haze. I was living in Philadelphia when we first met and I assured her that it was a good idea for me to whisk her off to Mexico where our love was confirmed. Then Berlin, France, hotels in New York… finally we settled in Brighton for an idyllic spell of driving the 2cv with the roof down and taking care of the cat. We were a happy little family until she checked her Visa and I checked my wallet. Alas, they both agreed that she and I would sign ourselves up to the Long Distance Relationship Club. And so now, years later I find myself cutting polenta fries and offering them up to the brilliant glare of my MacBook.

I am historically completely dependent. I would forget to eat and drift into existential crisis if anyone were ever brazen enough to leave me with my thoughts for more than a few hours. The first rule of the Long Distance Relationship Club is to learn to adapt. Find things you enjoy about your own company. I, for instance, laugh at all my jokes. I share my own political beliefs despite often disagreeing on religion. I am the only one who shares my passion for the films of Stuart Gordon and feels crushing nostalgia for the music of Algebra One (melodic hardcore band from the late nineties). It helps to take inventory of new music by the ancient and sacred medium of the mix-tape. My only means of transferring vinyl to love memento is an old record/ cassette player which gives every mix-tape a classic eighties Brat-Pack feel. I cannot understand why couples reject the mix-tape after the first few weeks of a relationship. If you have a sweeping romantic gesture to make then why not call upon Phil Spector and Tom Waites who have, no doubt, put it more poetically that you ever could and scored it to music. These mix-tape exchanges also serve to remind me that my G/F is much cooler than I could ever hope to be.

I relish in reinstating the first-date nerves that arise after a long period apart. Our tenth first kiss, carefully choosing my outfit despite being two and a half years deep into a relationship. When immigration laws snatch her away from me is when the gaping whole in my life reminds me why I need her. Couples don’t talk as much as they should. They may share their thoughts about gas bills and state a preference over which movie to watch but being forced to fill a daily email or a weekly letter is an unforgiving compatibility check. As I write this the morning has almost made its way across the Atlantic, the second-hand dawn spilling into her Philadelphia street, her inbox cluttered with the love letters of a couple on the rise and a recipe for the dinner that she will have for lunch.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Revenge of a Nerd


There is something I’ve been meaning to tell you. My name is Samuel Dylan Murray Preston and I am a geek. While my pre-teen peers were awkwardly fingering girls in the alley behind the Spar on Ham Road, I was awkwardly fingering the fret-board of a hand-me-down acoustic guitar and watching the Dark Crystal. I certainly groped enough boobage and rummaged around in enough young vaginas to satisfy a healthy sexual curiosity but I have grown into an adult who balances sex with episodes of Battlestar Galactica and the short stories of H.P. Lovecraft. I struggle to defend myself for having spent my life thus far desperately covering signs of nerdery behind an unconvincing swagger and dropped ‘H’s but I am consciously putting an end to all that.

Next time you hear an interview with Mike Skinner et al. please remember this; In order to cultivate the skills necessary to competently write and perform music and lyrics one must sacrifice some of the glue sniffing orgies (I’m pretty sure that’s what kids get up to) in order to spend thousands of hours sitting quietly in a darkened room mulling existentially whilst studying chord shapes and generally feeling like you don’t fit in. The reason that Rock Stars have such a nihilistic reputation is because they are busy compensating for the sex and drugs that they missed out on in their teenage years. Years they were busy analysing Beach Boys harmonies and learning twenty inversions of the same guitar chord. Time spent alone by no means guarantees an interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy but it they seem to be somehow fundamentally entwined.

Now you know my dirty secret let me tell you how I put it to daily use. When I am lying in bed my train of thought will often steam off in dark, unwanted directions. I will consciously begin to piece together a Sci-Fi fantasy world so alien and mystical that there is no way that my accountant could invade. I am so adept at this skill now that it has become as immersive as Avatar minus the terrible plot and characters. I walk around in my make-believe setting, hanging out with weird goblins, until I am worn out and fall asleep (probably under a tree with giant purple, hand-shaped leaves). I told you I was a geek.

It’s frustrating that imagination and a respect for the imaginations of others has such a fracking (nerd joke) stigma around it. I am not fat or staggeringly ugly and I don’t sweat more than I should. I have friends that I love very much. I jog. I DJ. I wear nice clothes. I do not dress up as an Orc at the weekends and re-enact battles from World of Warcraft. However, I refuse to let go of the child-like ability to become lost in imaginary worlds. I think Science Fiction exercises the appropriate glands to keep that sense of wonder alive. I wish someone had told me when I was a youngling (Star Wars reference) that being cool and popular in school pretty much guarantees becoming a tedious adult. If I had known that then I would have happily been away with the faeries (but not the ones in The Labyrinth that bite) rather than pretending to like things I hate and hiding my love for music and puppets and all the other weird shit that is undeniably wonderful! May the force be with you.

Monday, 25 January 2010

How Do You Sleep?

I write this as a warning. I write this at three o’clock in the morning, my brain humming with activity, up from jet lag. Previously I would have swallowed a handful of little white pills and waited for that comforting glaze to seep over my body, from the feet upwards, and envelope me in a cloud of nothingness. The worries; money worries, relationship worries, career worries, were all totalled by the tsunami of static that washed through my brain every night; every night for years. Sleeping pills and anti-depressants destroyed relationships, sent my life in uncomfortable directions and added an apathetic flippancy to my consciousness. While staring at the ceiling tonight I have already thought of an ending to my novel, made important relationship decisions and decided to take a screen-printing class (this one probably won’t happen but I have been up for ages). Worries are only precursors to miserable events if you ignore them by gobbling downers every night.

An addiction is infuriating in that it won’t listen to reason. No matter how many times I woke up in pools of blood on the bathroom floor having not made it to bed. The embarrassment of having to explain to the doctor as he stitched up the tears in my skin that I didn’t remember anything. Still my hand reached for those pills every night. I would make promises to girlfriends at the end of their tethers and would be horrified by my own creeping and lying. Anything to get the drugs. The sleeping pill I would take was called Zolpidem (Ambien in the U.S.) and I would take up to 70mg a night. A little research shows me that people overdose on less.

I initiated myself into the world of the chemically assisted through what I imagine is a well-trodden route. I had been taking Prozac since I was a teenager which certainly affected my views on prescription drugs and I would persuade my G.P. to send some Diazepam’s my way as a Sunday morning normaliser. Then towards the end of my teenage years record deals, tours, trips to L.A. and Japan and a misguided sense of Rock’n’Roll nihilism persuaded a guilty habit to become a regular life choice.

The stories that exist from those days at first seem predictably funny; Inappropriate nudity of aeroplanes, smashed hotel rooms etc. etc. but it’s terrifying to not have any memory of any of it and it’s humiliating to be seen as an uncontrollable (clichéd) lunatic when all I really wanted was some stability and a cup of nettle and peppermint tea in the evenings. I am sure the numbness to consequence is to blame for some of the more bizarre decisions that I have made in my life and for that I am not sure whether to be grateful or regretful. I certainly wouldn’t have left university to pursue music or agreed to do Big Brother… I hate to say it but I wonder if I would have gotten married to a near stranger however smitten we thought we were.

Anyway. So here I am free of the sleeping pills and on the verge of giggling with delight at the fact. I can, for the first time in so many years, see the expanse of my life ready to be unrolled in front of me. All I can think is terribly sensible and grown-up thoughts of exciting (in that grown-up, sensible, slightly boring but in a good way) career paths that I could take. I am perfecting my studio techniques, Fuck! I am on my way to becoming a skilled labourer. I even went back to school. And my writing, music and art mirror’s this newfound clarity. I have myriad projects in their infancy and each one is a different route away from the WWF-wrester choke-hold pin-down that sleeping pills had me in. Look out prudence, here I come!!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

G.S.O.H.B.T.W.


Do you want to know the secret to a good relationship from someone who knows? Trust? Nope. Physical attraction? N’uh uh. Strong communication. Hell no! The secret to a loving companionship is common pop-culture references. There is nothing I find more attractive than holding a conversation about teen-prostitute ‘Tiny’ from the 1984 Seattle documentary Streetwise or discussing favourite characters from Jayce and the Wheeled warriors the French/ Japanese sci-fi cartoon (my vote goes to Saw Boss in his humanoid form). These things define us and if someone can’t relate to the life lessons I learnt from the Dark Crystal then the chances are they can’t relate to me.

Beginning at the beginning; the things we share from childhood (Captain Planet, Alex Mack, Zelda, Point Horror) often help shape our moral compasses or at least world view and provide us with the sense of a shared upbringing. Becoming nostalgic about them (Were-Bears, Teddy Ruxpin, David the Gnome, Boglins) becomes another tool in the regression back into a child-like state that goes beyond the usual spoon feeding and pawing that couples enjoy so much. This nostalgia is so powerful because of the huge investment that we, as children, make in cartoons (The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Dogtanian and the Three Muskerhounds) and imaginary worlds that we create assisted by plastic figures (He-Man, M.A.S.K., The Real Ghostbusters).

Nothing makes my heart flutter more than knowing that the mistakes I made in my early teens (Sublime, Nose Piercing, Reel Big Fish) were made, completely independently, by someone who I could now duet the whole of No Fronts by Dog Eat Dog with. Shared pop-culture references suggest that, not only do you get on now but you would have gotten on in 1996. I find great comfort in that even if I no longer wear my hair in braids. Shared embarrassment is a great bonder! The music, books, films, video games et al. we consume say so much about us and even if I don’t choose to put my Smashmouth record on, the fact that I once did has shaped me.

In the internet-age it is now fantastically easy to immerse yourself in the nichest of niches. Sub-sub-sub-sub-genres of music and cinema have scattered the Townie vs. Grunger divide of my school years into barely distinguishable pockets. I only just found out that a few of the bands I have been listening to recently (Washed Out, Best Coast, Neon Indian) belong to a genre that someone somewhere has classified ‘Glo-Fi’. Whatever… I just like it. It is worlds apart from the mail order punk catalogues in the back of fanzines that a seventeen year old me would obsess over. Studied and researched pop-culture is, of course, very important to me and truthfully what a lot of my relationships with friends and ‘other’ revolve around. I am a borderline obsessive blog trawler but nothing get’s my mojo working more than that knowing nod of recognition when I reference something that I thought I was the only one who remembered.