Think Tank, Fig. 2, ICA
In 2015 I participated in a discussion with curator and publisher Dr. Clémentine Deliss and Alfie Spencer of the Office of Ideologies as part of Tom McCarthy’s Think Tank installation at the ICA.
Neither Am I
Named for the Private Eye gag written by Peter Cook ( “I met a man at a party. He said “I’m writing a novel” I said “Oh really? Neither am I.”) Neither Am I was an anonymous writing and performance collective. It started out as a hybrid of ideas purloined from all over the place – Stewart Home’s writing on multiple identity projects was a big impetus, we were all into Viz nob gags, Brass Eye’s celebrity detournement and faceless techno. The core line-up was Paul Williams, Gavin Weale, and former DJ magazine writer Tim Irwin. The schtick was: we published collectively under the group identity, sharing work and costs, and performed anonymously, masked, reading from laptops. Neither Am I was the closest I ever got to being in a band. We published two collections, distributed by hand, broadcast a series of audio-book stories and performed regularly at the Peckham Literary Festival and at a couple of one-offs, at a squatted video shop on Herne Hill and at a pub in Kennington. By the end we had a small following and were asked to be in Literary Death Match the time Brett Easton Ellis watched it, but we couldn’t get it together to work out how to compete as a collective and the anonymity was non-negotiable. Paul went abroad with work and in that period stand-ins included Rod Stanley, Toby Williams and Karl Sadler. I blackballed myself when I published my first novel. Not entirely the boys’ club it sounds: one of the best things about it was Tanya Paget’s genius cover designs.
I organised two cabaret nights at the Spitz with Gavin Weale, one half of DJ duo Po-Ski and the electronic music promoters Werk (Werk is now the label of the remaining half Darren Cunningham, aka Actress) and mutual friend Rod Stanley, former editor of Dazed and current editor of Good Trouble. Together we cooked up the idea of Wack, and the idea of clowncore (I remain astonished it didn’t catch on). We put on Ken Campbell and Simon Munnery alongside comic electronic music, with DJs including Raf Rundell of 2 Bears fame. We just about washed our faces after we’d paid the musicians slightly less than we’d promised them, but it was eminently more successful than any number of other attempts I’d made at promoting live events, including the time me and my pal Graham who worked at Mute Records asked Grant from Rephlex to DJ at the Truman Brewery to 80 people in a room that was basically 600 capacity.
All that remains from Wack are the posters and flyers, which is probably just as well given that we’d made explicit the implicit connection between nitrous oxide and cabaret.
Through writing about experimental music and sound art for Bizarre I’d met and become friends with Mike Harding of Touch, collage genius Vicki Bennett of People Like Us and creative jack–of–all–trades Paul Williams. We wanted to make internet-native, ninety-minute-long mixes. Russel Haswell designed a logo for us and Mike hosted it on Touch servers. It was streamed via realaudio. I suppose we wanted to make what are now known as podcasts. Have you heard of those? I think the format might catch on. Cedilla Umlaut engineered my mix, Delta.
(This is very clearly in the shadow of Chris Morris, whose influence is evident in Amon Tobin’s Bad Sex, which samples from Blue Jam, and who himself breaks the surface to shout “fucknut” repeatedly at the listener at the end. I’m slightly troubled that the silliness occasionally has a mean-spirited or nihilistic leaning that I no longer subscribe to).
Mark, Paul and Toby
With the above-mentioned Paul Williams and the comedy actor and stand-up Toby Williams, I broadcast a couple of clear spots on Resonance FM, which ran through various obsessions at the time: sound art, field recording, sonic weapons etc. Not sure the extent to which these do stand the test of time, nor indeed whether Paul or Toby will thank me for putting these into the wild.