When I was a kid I imagined what it would be like to be invisible. You could sneak in anywhere and cause havoc undetected. Steal things and spy on people. Being invisible seemed cool. But now I realise that invisibility can be sterile and disheartening. I have been increasingly invisible now for 24 years, since 1985 when apparently I died.
Being dead is strange. You live a busy active life, working away at your job, making music, doing the friends and family thing & occasional blog post. But no one can see you apart from the rare creepy kid that SEES DEAD PEOPLE. The world seems as normal to you, but you yourself are effectively not of the world. I only realised recently that I had died when a number of clues fell into place.
It has no particular starting point – my entire life there’s been people that have only spoken of me in past tense. LTM records were often uncomfortable about handling anything done after 1980 something, but they closed their eyes and thought of England.
When creating the vinyl box set a few years ago I struggled to raise any acceptance in events past 1985. Even that year seemed to be uncomfortable – as if I had suffered a terrible wasting disease at the time. I tried to involve another group in a project covering the years following – they were nervous and tried to constantly move back a decade and the whole thing went nowhere. Still, we had our box and it was a pretty thing.
This being Australia it was a big deal that our recording had come out overseas – the place is funny like that. People who had not bothered to ask the time of day in years were calling up hoping for a free copy – I obliged as was possible. Then came the calls about whether we had any more of these antique recordings … no sorry. Any videos for a film festival? Any time for a radio spot talking about 1979? Was it OK to be featured in a museum? Were we interested in playing live? Sure! For a ‘post punk’ festival? Er…
Thankfully my current playmates are kids that SEE DEAD PEOPLE and have moved our gig out of the post punk bucket (where John Cale (?!) will now hold court) and into a more general disco night. (It was a bit odd to be at the launch of the festival and have it mentioned that we were playing – people in the audience actually gasped as if they announced resurrecting the corpse of Mrs Mills to have it play honky tonk” … but she’s DEAD. DEEEEAAAAD!)
(So much for ‘Internet presence’.)
Not so lucky elsewhere – tomorrow I have a interview on national radio – yet again about post fucking punk. But the thing that really convinced me of my mortality is the current issue of Art Monthly.
Never mind the hideousness of ‘Sound Art’ which I am prepared to accept as a ruse to gain acceptance from our betters – the visual artists. I know there are people who really adhere to that rot but I forgive them. Looking at the titles of the articles is discouraging – there’s an awful lot of those “Playful Name Of Thesis: Sensible Subheading Following” clangers that PhD students vomit out. There’s a definite I AM A RESEARCHER GIVE ME MONEY thing going on. And there at the back of the bus is the obituary – Severed Heads 1977 to 1985. Rest In Peace. Shame They Died In That Horrible Bus Accident.
I don’t blame the writer. Shannon is a good man, who can easily be wooed out of sound art by the promise of free alcohol. No, I blame the same process that requested music for the cover disc, all to be from 1980 something. When I said that was all copyrighted and would they like something from this century it was as if I had floated through a door rattling chains. What? Something from AFTER 1985? But that’s not possible…
What’s the problem? Well take De Chirico.
Metaphysical painter and pre-surrealist, around the turn of the last century. Except by the time he died in 1975 he was thoroughly pissed off that no matter how excellent his current work all people wanted was more of the stuff he did pre 1919. Which he would occasionally forge to show how he could still make it but had moved on to what he thought was better work. Other times he would declare some real old work to be a forgery. De Chirico – a prankster after my own heart.
The public can only handle a very small period of an artist’s output and once that is in place, the artist is effectively dead to them. The art establishment employs this principle and will cauterise the artist to make them fit the pattern. To be successful the artist has to accept the deal, and the best of all artists are the dead ones: Kurt Cobain did his label proud.
Me, I’m pissed off. But to denounce it you have to be heard, and right now I’m a phantasm. It’s been proven time again that artists who ‘conform to deform’ (as scratched into the first Cabaret Voltaire album on Virgin) usually fall into vice or like ourselves (who just scratched their first album on Virgin) are shat out of the machine quickly. There’s little chance that I can be heard and yet say what needs to be said.
But I am prepared to go down trying.