29 Aug 2009

 Tonight started with a show at the Forest Cafe. My old mate from squatting days in London, Matt (Bowyer) is in town. Usually Matt's acting on the stage or in front of the camera, but for the past week he's been working the faders for Station House Opera. He knew the performer who'd got a 4-star review the night before, so we were feeling optimistic. The audience was a mix of hysterical students, culture vultures and bemused parents. Sat next to us was a fifty year old translucent Goth in open-toed sandals and white tube socks. Precariously perched on his pate was a testament to the remarkable fixative powers of Elnette. He was reviewing the show for some on-line magazine that we'd never heard of and now wouldn't subscribe to. The show was free, the laudable policy of the Forest
 The applause fell like summons. co-operative; just give an appropriate donation. But the show was bad, 4-star bad. I'd have gladly paid not to have endured the relentless onslaught of public humiliation. For the duration of the performance we sat thinking what we'd do if we were sentenced- shoot first. If it wasn't for Matt's misplaced sense of loyalty we'd have high-tailed it long ago.

 Next stop- the British Council party at The Mansfield Traquair Trust, a beautifully restored Catholic Apostolic church at the foot of Broughton Street. Cliques of artist and dignitaries orbited the vast nave as the PA smashed school-prom-pop off Traquairs exquisite murals. The young things danced like Simon Cowell was judging whilst the adults flayaled like science teachers. The sonic debris rained down like flak, massacring any conversation. After an hour of being evaluated I'd witnessed enough.
 I decided to break-up the retreat via the Forest Cafe and found Tom (Morris) holding court. On the rare occasions we meet Tom always loves to berate me in public and, tonight was to be no different. So that he doesn't have to keep recalling the story I'll tell you it now-

  You see, Tom blames me for steering him off course and landing him where his. It was 1995, he had his career mapped out and prospects were good, but he had a dilemma. Tom had taken a long shot and applied for a lofty post at a prestigious but waning theatre. He didn't know if it was the right thing to do but gave it a punt anyway. To his astonishment he had just found out that he'd been selected for an interview the next day in London - problem. We were in Singapadu, Bali, dining out on a menu of dragonflies and bee grubs - the boat didn't sail for another 4 days. He consoled himself in the delusion that he'd never get such an eminent position at his age and with his lack of experience. Besides, they'd have to reconvene just for him, it was never going to happen. How did he know they wouldn't give him an interview? I told him to extract his pontificating finger out of his postulating backside and get word to them, what did he have to lose? He found a telex machine in the jungle and sent a message explaining the circumstances.

Tom got back to London and yes, they reconvened, and yes; he got the job. I've watched on as his illustrious career has soared. He is now the new Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic and Associate Director of the National Theatre.
 I apologised to his somewhat bemused company for being the cause of his predicament. Conversation turned to the show they'd just seen. I remarked how brilliant the performer was but, because he's a freakin' lunatic on stage, remarked you wouldn't want to live with him. One of his guests tensed and fixed her glare on me "what do you mean- precisely?"
 She was his ex and he was on his way, and I was out of there.


Gavin Evans | MySpace Video

 A 30 minute audio recording made back in 1995, Singapadu, Bali. A circle of men, divided into two opposing groups, chant the Ketcha. The performance took place next to a road as tut-tuts put-putted by. It was a hot and tortuously humid night. The heavens opened but didn't dampen the spirits.

12.30 Saturday night. The phosphors and the phosphenes are fusing - time to set the computers to standby. I'm on course for six hours flat when the phone rings. Sally(Homer) is tempting me from the other side, she has an innate talent for knowing the whereabouts of a good time. A group of Dutch comedians she's been publicising were having a party and the absurdist Hans Teeuwen would be there. I'm sold so I reset my coordinates for the front door and slip into the night. Entering the destination into my phone I set sail and let Captain GPS guide me to port. This night Cptn GPS had too much cyber-rum and couldn't decide which road to dock. I looked like Pac-Man, pacing back-and-forth, illuminated by the glow of the screen. A cabby came to my rescue with The Knowledge and the Captain walked the plank.
 This was Edinburgh Polite Society cordoned by laser wire. A hotel clings to one corner of the avenue a like a defiant carbuncle. At weekends it's pre-marital contents slosh out of the bar, arms locked together for balance, as they serenade the Merchiston curtain-twitchers. 

After several attempts on the bell a face from a Breugel canvas beckons me in. In synchronicity his moustache signs his name- Evan(McHugh). Evan's a comedian, the only comedian not of Dutch extraction- he's an Aussie-Scot. I followed him up to the action.

On the stairs I'm introduced to Wilbert (Han's technician)- a dude with rock-roadie-charisma and clothes that screamed out for cowboy boots. We kept scaling the Axminster until we reached the summit. Taking a deep breath I take the plunge. I had crashed a de-briefing session. The room was littered with spent comedians on the come-down from last night performances. They welcomed me warmly with "Hay's" and introduced themselves like a primary class roster. 

Hans(Teeuwen) is holding court, squeezing the last laugh out of every vowel, still unable to face the comedown. Hans scats with Bird as Charlie Parker crackles through the laptop's speakers. I'd seen Hans a couple of weeks ago and found his humour a breath of fresh air. In a world where alternative comedy seems to have become paradoxically homogenised it takes someone like Hans to be the prick that bursts the soap bubble.

Wrapped around him, like a freshly plucked feather boa, clung his chick Eva. She'd walked straight off the set of a Renault ad and Han's was not Papa. Eva was the prize of rock gods- half his age, painfully perfect and in full bloom.

Leaning out of the four storey window, infusing the night air with blue smoke was Live Producer Laura (Clarke).

Martijn (Koning) began to obsess over 'touch'. What started out as an innocuous request had turned into a revelatory monster. He kept reading meaning in the images, extrapolating until the frustration welled in his forehead.

Kees(Van Amstel) used the hand for comic effect.

Everyone reveled in Martijn's astonishment when the photographs were set to 'slide show'. They gasped and howled as they analysed each other's revealing response to 'touch'. At 5.30 I reversed out of the cab and suggested that Hans should call me if he ever needed my professional services. Eva's purr turned to a growl as she tightened her claws. "What?" she snarled.

I forgot in the cava haze that she was a photographer too - and she had exclusive rights.

23 Aug 2009

Edwyn Collins

Backstage Mayfair Club, Newcastle 1982, Kensal Green 1986, Kilburn 1994

Tonight came wrapped in trepidation. It's been over a decade since I last saw Edwyn(Collins). Back then he was savouring every moment of his long overdue fame. Our families were tight and times were too. We were old friends and Nova Londoners living a block apart. It took almost two decades for Ed to become an overnight success and his wife/manager Grace made sure that all the rewards were duly collected.
 It was shortly after I moved back to Scotland that this chapter was emphatically shut. Their lives had been derailed when Edwyn suffered a double aneurysm. His remarkable road to recovery is best left for Grace to tell in her moving and inspirational account 'Falling and Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins'. Time slips through your fingers, some times it's necessary to get a grip. Tonight is one of those times- time to rip it up...

  Edwyn is playing his last performance of the Festival and it's his birthday to boot. 50 is the Magic Number. On stage is an elective mix of friends and colleagues. Guest guitar performances by Romeo(Magic Numbers), Ryan(Cribbs) and leggendario Malcolm Ross turned the night into a truly memorable event. Edwyn held the audience in the palm of his hand, the all acoustic set seemed to give new resonance to his amazing body of work.
 Filing out of the venue Grace appeared from the wings and with one embrace dissolved the years of intractable guilt, tonight we were going to party.

 The birthday party was consummated at a quay-side hotel in the port of Leith. Ed's a vision; a garland of flowers around his neck and a glint in his eye. He's lost none of the charisma. With the throng of well-wishers and party-goers this wasn't the time to be re-building bridges, that would have to wait.

Anyone who can call Grace a friend is blessed. Her open heart, selfless generosity and unquestioned loyalty is matched only by her Weegie pit-bull tenacity- she'd be falling and laughing if she were reading this. We make a pact that the next time I'm in London I'll stay with them and we'll make a start on lost time.

 My parting image of William(Collins) was of a nine-year old who blushed like a tickled squid and buzzed with more energy than the Hadron Collider. My memory was standing in front of me, transposed by time into a confident young man- blush tamed but still intact.

 Seb(Sebastian Lewsley), Edwyn's stoic compadre, music programmer and re-programmer used my hand as an ashtray when asked to do 'touch'. I like his style.

 Malcolm (Ross), Ed's stalwart supporter, oozing with champagne charm.

 Ryan from the Cribs was trying his hardest not be so enigmatic, with little success.

And Romeo! I spent much of the night drawn to him like a moth to a flame. It's impossible not to warm to Romeo.

At 7.30am I pull over the covers over my sweetheart and me. It's been a wonderful night of heart lifting.

  At the time of writing this Grace is locked into a battle with MySpace over the rights to show the video "A Girl Like You". Grace begged, borrowed and pawned to get enough together to see it made. I racked up a heap of IOU's from friends only too glad to tear up the check. The video was a testimony to creative ingenuity, dogged determination and a belief that we were part of something very special. Necessity became the mother of a monster- over 2.5 million hits and still counting.

16 Aug 2009


10am Sunday morning and I'm dragging myself along Lothian Road as the bin men lug the soiled waste from the strip-joints. I'm accompanying my compaƱero Don Bernardo to a private screening at The Filmhouse and I'm running late, comme bloody d'habitude.


Bernardo's been invited to the preview of a debut movie by Dianne Bell (above) and I'm here for immoral support. The film is set in Arizona and follows the journey of an obsessive librarian and a free spirited Scot. It is beautifully shot and has a confident inertia. In my half-awake state I couldn't stop puzzling over the title "Obselidia". For a first movie it's a testament to Dianne’s ingenuity, dedication and creativity- bravo!


After the screening we headed 100 yards to the Sheraton hotel for post match analysis and refreshments. Gaynor (Howe), the girl with curaƧao eyes and co-star of the film, is here with husband Liam (Howe).

Liam, music producer and former member of Sneaker Pimps, is from my neck of the woods and tells me he has been working on new material with a mutual friend Edwyn (Collins)- small world.

Jules (Duncan) renowned for his creative debauchery can't stop effusing about the film.


I entrap the illusive songstress Jerry (Burns) who cranes her neck to talk to me, her four-inch heels bringing her chin in line with my naval. Jerry's voice of honey-glazed gravel is so voluminous it's unfathomable how she compresses it into her diminutive frame. 1pm and Lothian Road is waking as I make my way home, au bloody lit.

10 Aug 2009

Dylan Moran- What It Is

 Got the comps, joined the queue and we were funneled into the Playhouse, flanked by my photograph of tonights act - Dylan Moran. The 3,000 seater is a sell-out, packed to it's claret rafters. Projected behind him loomed my shot. This came as a surprise; I hadn't realised my photograph was going to become part of the set.
 Tonight he's playing to his adopted home town of Edinburgh. Performing to locals and family is a mixed bag of excitement and pant-soiling fear. Dylan defiantly surmounted his nerves and left the audience with withdrawal symptoms.

7 Aug 2009

Stewart Lee- Taking a Stand

 At The Stand Comedy Club the walls are perspiring and the heat is fanned by laughter. Stoking the flames is Stewart Lee, Britain's one-time 41st Funniest Man and satirical thorn in the backside of mediaocrity. 
 I've been called in to try and resolve his identity crisis. Stewart is often confused with "Terry Christian, Todd Carty, Morrissey, Edwyn Collins, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ray Liotta, Roland Gift, Ali Campbell, Mark Lamarr and a 1930's drawing of Tarzan."  It was a tall order but after a couple of sessions I could now offer him a selection of Stewart Lee impressions. From the shoot there wasn't a single image he'd censor. Stewart was a great subject and impeccably unkempt company.

Edinburgh Festival 2009
  I was urban somnambulating, on my way to the college art shop, Hypocanthus at the controls. My co-pilot was hijacked by a cacophony of power tools and generators coming from the college grounds. Perfect timing: city is under excavation and it appears the college isn’t exempt.
A look behind the tarpaulin and my simmering rage was taken off the heat. Inside a sculptor was mercilessly attacking a slab of rock. This was to be a stage for a month long performance.
Eleven shelters, each housing a sculptor and a block of stone, was the setting of Milestone- brainchild of Scottish sculptor Jake Harvey. He had the inspired vision to display 10 international sculptors (and a graduate) at work in the grounds of Edinburgh College of Art. Artists from Japan, the USA, Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the UK were assembled, each demonstrating their mastery and differing styles. Over the next month they would create a finished sculpture from scratch. Through gritted goggles they assaulted, smashed, gouged and beat their hapless victim into submission. The creative fallout covered everything in a blanket of white.
In sculpture evidence of the trauma and struggle between creator and creation is usually polished away before put on display. Here was a visceral demonstration of destruction in the quest for beauty - for art. Quarrying sculptors remorselessly destroyed in order to create: they are not art nihilists. Superficially their acts appear as wanton destruction, yet are demonstrations of a fevered desire to consummat
e their relationship. The rock never submits without a fight. The two find their way together with psychometry and ardor. The course is set in stone, dictated by the flow of the petrified veins and mille-feuilles. Milestone was an insight and a revelation. It helped me to better understand my processes and draw some analogies. My subject, like the sculptors stone, is defined by the light of it's surroundings. It too is impassive and acquiescent to its environmental conditions until I start to reveal with my light. With light I can obscure, hew and expose with surgical precision.
 Once a week, for the span of the event, I made my pilgrimage and kept a record of the consequent acts on this stage.

Priest paying homage to Jake Harvey Scott's creation.

Hayashi Takeshi Japan

Joel Fisher USA

Sibylle Pasche Switzerland

Gerard Mas Spain

Susanne Specht Germany

Peter Randall-Page and David Brompton-Greene

Jessica Harrison Scotland

Atsuo Okamoto Japan

Daniel Silver Israel/UK

Carlos Lizariturry Moro Spain

4 Aug 2009

 The Edinburgh Festival is about to kick off and Mark (Borkowski) is already here casing the joint. I first met Mark 23 years ago when he was promoting chain-saw juggling clowns from French circus troupe Archaos.

  For many years we were creatively conjoined and intent on creatively twisting the public's melon. We share a kindred Carney spirit and appetite for subversion. Mark is now a legend in his field and a published authority on the art of the publicist.
  One of his many clients, James "Tappy" Wright is in Edinburgh promoting his new book 'Rock Roadie'. Tappy, a former roadie, claims in his book that Jimi Hendrix was murdered by his manager. My uncle Terry, a porter in the London morgue at the time of Hendrix's death, joked he had trouble screwing the casket shut due to the size of his legendary member. Terry was the final nail in the coffin.