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Sunday, 4 January 2015

PJ Harvey: Recording in Progress

Dear Polly Jean Harvey,

When I resigned from Les Inrocks, I told them it was high time they put a woman on a front cover and that Catherine Ringer didn’t count because she was with Fred Chichin.
Two months later, #36 in June 1992, you were the face of that newly monthly magazine. I remember vaguely seeing on the board’ “chemin de ferPJ Harvey, but how could I assume it was a woman.

Hello Les Inrocks, I know you read me. 
So, let me know if you want me to take down that pic, 
I nicked it from the webosphere.
Les Inrocks #36 - June 1992

You were of a glacial beauty. An androgynous pirate nymph muse. Instant rock icon. I read the critic and bought Dry on Too Pure straight away. It suited me fine you were associated with the Rio grrrl movement, although you denied your involvement with it. Dry took me over a decade to like and really like... like a vintage wine; your “venom” took its time to titillate the meanders of my eardrums.
To Bring You My Love... I bought the CD and K7 – well in 1995, not so many cars had a CD player, and I was on a strict doc order: permanent intravenous! Luckily, Island Rec friends told PR to put me on guest-list for your Forum gig. I never overdosed though!

But enough of shoe polishing... On 2 January, I received my first PR email for 2015 by Head of Press Office herself on your project @ Somerset House. I literally went into positive conniption: what a brilliant idea to record your new opus voyeured by a crowd without seeing anybody apart from your team. While I sent the email back to request pictures, Time Out had already published the news and the booking went mad and collapsed and relapsed... Obviously, I wanted to voyeur too as a reviewer, get a press pass (like many of my stooges, none reviews with no invite... don’t be ri/di/culous!):

1st PR email of 2015

I asked what made me a non-national reviewer, étant-donné I write in English from UK, but admittedly, Mea Culpa?, I don’t hold a British passport! Nor do I hold a NUJ card! A quick apology... she meant “national newspapers”. Surprised by her lack of differentiation between the media outlets sphere, I asked in what way was Time Out a newspaper, or if she actually meant “only mainstreams allowed”. I dared add a soupçon of provoc’ by asking if she thought it was acceptable to expect me to review a piece on your project while inviting me to buy a ticket? I couldn’t help the sarcasm... Am I bad? Do I feel bad? Heck no!

During the Thatcher’s years of Brit commando, the iron lady tried hard to divide its people. The 80’s are remembered by her “... (people) are casting their problem on society. And, as you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families. And no government can do anything except through other people, and people must look to themselves first...” Unfortunately for her gov, in post-punk era, people were welded: artists, working-class, unemployed and all who wanted to join the crowd. I simplify, I simplify, as Henry David Thoreau said! But it seems that her politic was a timed bomb. The division that didn’t occur at the time is happening right now, before our eyes.
The future teaches you to be alone, The present to be afraid and cold, So if I can shoot rabbits, Then I can shoot fascists, Bullets for your brain today, But we'll forget it all again, Monuments put from pen to paper, Turns me into a gutless wonder, And if you tolerate this, Then your children will be next... Gravity keeps my head down, Or is it maybe shame, At being so young and being so vain... And on the street tonight an old man plays, With newspaper cuttings of his glory days...” #ManicStreetPreachers – From Franco to now...

Why would an art space privilege press tickets for a certain crowd? As some people say since I posted online an extract of the email, this is not just in Britain. It happens everywhere now. A press officer’s job within the arts sphere is to contact members of press (whether they are “certified” or not doesn’t matter) in order to have articles written about their acts. In exchange and according to a marketing strategy plan, they offer a CD/DVD/PV/ticket.
There is no transparency on how many Time Out reviewers would get press tickets for one published article. Then, there are The Guardian, The Independent, BBC (radio, TV, online - very newspaper!), NME (very newspaper!), Le Monde (very national!), New York Observer (very national!), and so on.
Those who use to be journalists, critics but have been made redundant or are doing other activities but still write online, can not have access to the same “facilities”. I can not compare my blog to Time Out in terms of viewers, and surely they have a quicker/immediate impact on ticket sales. I was actually wondering whether TO had a sort of exclusivity for your event announcement as it took another hour or two before other mainstreams had their words out in the world.

© Seamus Murphy

Recently, Jehnny Beth of Savageshas criticised what she sees as a "system of class" being operated by promoters of some music festivals, having witnessed festivals where punters must buy more expensive tickets in order to get nearer to the stage... The absurdity of the situation was suddenly clear to me: a system of class applied to a rock festival, a capitalist attitude when music should be for everyone. What a sick idea," wrote Beth. "I am deeply saddened and angry that we let these kind of things happen. Rock music is here to bring people together, rich and poor, young and old. Don’t let the fuckers make you pay more for a decent spot in the field." (Read full article below on NME).

As mentioned on my last two posts / verses of 2014, I questioned the discrimination or what I rather call the New Racism, of a press officers’ job. Strictly speaking, there is no link to a race, a religion but there is a social superior / inferior aspect. I will view it as an expansion of ancient racism that is now too obsolete to mention, so why not re-invent a topic... Fuck yeah, let’s save the rich and let them pour champagne and petits-fours at PVs while cultural starvers are at the gate waiting for some crumbs. Do you have Marie-Antoinette waving and raving in your mind?
Do you remember when we used to drink with the in/famous at White Cube in Hoxton? Gone with the Wind! Let’s make room for a Drowning By Numbers era. Let’s make room for bankers in the culturosphere. In April 2014, Michael Rosen wrote on Sajid Javid as #CultureSecretary (see The Guardian piece below): “My experience within the cultural field... is that this country is very ambivalent about "culture". That's to say, it's very convenient for politicians to make loud noises about the importance of this or that big cultural figure – Shakespeare, Beethoven and the like – but very difficult for them to acknowledge or support the thousands of ways all of us create and consume culture in small groups, locally and – more recently – in digital forms... No matter you (Sajid Javid) are of working-class origin and your cultural background is a million miles from the Etonian toffs, you are now part of the class (yes) that runs the ludicrous world of the mega-rich gamblers who have caused millions of people across the world to lose their jobs and welfare.

It does make me smile though when a PR or art event organiser claims to be the son or daughter of a working-class hero. They might be son or daughter of, they surely have forgotten where they come from. I read or watched recently a piece on Chomsky, he was saying that those of un-privileged backgrounds have no time to defend their class because they spend it on working hard to pay their study debts.
Those who have “made it” to the superior step of the ladder are piling-up their gold for themselves and their offspring: they can twit they rubbed shoulders with such and such actors and "it's good to know we are both from working-class background", but they never twit on injustice around them... they are too busy! They have no interest in others unlike the older generation (like Ed Lewis, ex Cinema Director of Riverside Studios) who never gave up the fight against the Establishment. However, I am not certain that the younger generation working in art centres are of “poor” backgrounds. They seem to be quite disconnected with the art world and those who really care for it are constantly reminded (hello me) that we don’t have the figure for it. But sticking with the new generation of “talents”, Nick Cohen tickled where it needed to be tickled: “... You cannot imagine the parents of today's stars being so gauche. They come from a world that is closer to David Cameron's Bullingdon Club than (Judi)Dench's Quaker roots in Yorkshire. The forthcoming Riot Club – which bears the subtitle "Filthy. Rich. Spoilt. Rotten" – is meant to satirise David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson's days at the Buller. Unintentionally it will also satirise itself. To put it as kindly as I can, the producers did not have to search far to find actors who could give a convincing impersonation of inherited privilege. Max Irons – son of Jeremy, since you asked – plays one of the sleek young beasts. Freddie Fox, son of Edward, another. The only difference between them and the current leadership of the Tory party is that they went into acting rather than politics... In arts that boast that they "celebrate diversity" everyone looks the same.
Dame Judi tells the Observer today aspiring actors beg her for money to help fund their training. She worries that acting may become an elite occupation for the children of the rich, because no one else will be able to meet the costs and take the risks.” (see full article below on The Guardian).

So Miss Harvey, you are going to record an album, hopefully a gem, within a structure that will remind me of the umbrella backdoors on how your future opus is marketed. And I honestly think that you have no idea. Some “deciders” have already selected who can view you... and they are not poor! Those who are, are invited to buy a ticket! £15 for a 45 minutes session! I guess the album will cost about the same price... An interesting Kickstarter way. I have read the reviewers and it’s a good copy and paste from the press release. Perhaps, I should be nice to Time Out’s peeps and beg for a press tick. Perhaps, they should divide ranks: instead of writing “colored people” that way, “white people that way”, they could arrow their alley “mainstreams that way”, “stinkers that way” (of course we wouldn’t see or hear anything but we would drink cheap cider instead of champagne!). Perhaps press people making money out of their writings could say something about some of us, The New Beggars!
Can you hear them?, The helicopters?, I'm in London, No need for words now, We sit in silence, You look me, In the eye directly, You met me, I think it's Wednesday, The evening, The mess we're in and The city sun sets over me, Night and day... And I have seen, The sunrise, Over the river, The freeway, Reminding Of this mess we're in and The city sun sets over me... And thank you, I don't think we will meet again... The sin and This mess we're in...” You know that song PJ.

I wish you the best for the recording and yes, I love your idea of the Recoding in Progress.

Sybille Castelain for

Jehnny Beth of Savages on NME:

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