Saturday, 18 January 2020


All milky and lava-lamp-ish the street-lights reflecting on my big red car bonnet as I curl it round at night all sound and echoing engine against the cliff face slightly brick-ish. I’ve got sunglasses on and can hardly see a thing. Big dance tunes. Roaring, I am! I don’t know what the limit is and fuck it dump my leg on the accelerator as I can’t feel it anyway.

I lose the side of the thing on Trewin’s house gates. So now I’ve got to pay for that on top of the rest. Another ten grand or something I’m not keeping tabs.

I think I park neatly but a few weeks later I’m told about a fair few flowers and probably a fountain getting enraged at the battered, red, roaring, disturbance I am. Looking up after rolling out all is white and lit and ivy-strewn. Big view like sitting a half-inch from a television. Stuff sounding like boxes getting moved and rainbows through the front door and windows. And a speech-y white noise like everyone’s excited.

I push in through the front and everybody packs the room and is drinking. Some are stuck to the floor and some aren’t so it evens out and is normal. I see a few eyes swivel at me but mostly I see eyes swivelling back into place and fixing on everybody else as object of the tongue. I don’t look down and pupils suck in the light in waves I can see across the linen-surface of faces being shook. The room gets noticeably hotter for everybody, and the noise gets louder, and I move and they move but there’s a tension between the lot of us now and so long as I keep the strength in my jaw it’s up to them what happens next. I’ve got to get to the other side of the room, beyond the stairs that come out from the top like an arm turned upward and exposed, little people dotted on it, so I stride confidently, hoping to hijack nature. I’m too cool to act plain but too gone to rely on that. Barely a personality at this point in this life.

But after a bit of a vaporious lurch through the nice arms of the crowd and a few necklaces admired I hit patio and the sound of water every now and then and bubbles and body heat and there’s Trewin under a multi-headed undulating industrial oil field of shaved glistening legs and narrow fabric. He has a drink in each hand and two cigarettes in his mouth.

“It’s gone well, eh?” he says as the cigarettes bobble and hang. He takes a swig from one of his glasses and a cigarette goes out in it and he chokes.

From the left to my view a dark haired woman in a long, blue dress who stands like a statue takes one of my hanging arms and undoes a cufflink, replacing it with one much the same but that glistens slightly more.

I stand but I don’t know for how long but a curtain of people closes and now I’m kaleidoscope and vintage in a room that has more light for how it's all darker, if you get my meaning. Colour lights thick and drawing on the wall and now I’m opening my eyes a little wider out of removal and Seryn is holding me by the arms and sweating on me. This long face takes the rest of the room to wherever its coming from and kind of babbles, kind of acts like a sink. He’s looking around and he loves the DJ and all kinds of animals are rubbing up against us. Everybody’s scratching. Everybody’s dressed for sports.

“It’s gone well, eh mate?” he says.

I feel a tickling on the top of my feet and experts are removing my shoes and replacing them with ones more comfortable. I slip out of them and they put fresh socks on me too which are cool and refreshing. I never knew about these problems.

And now I can pour myself something from the shelf that’s a million miles long, I think, and has a cupboard with the good stuff in that’s only for when you’re really low on it already or really long on it and the fun ain’t in the actuality of it any more, but only how much of it there is, and you learn that wasting it is part of the getting it and really the most important bit. And I see New James across the room, sat at the long mahogany table and playing some game among tuxedos and little counters meaning something only to those who’ve bothered to count and care for them, like pets and demographics. I pour two drinks and fly over to him.

“Another win, Sir,” says a man with a voice as feeble and narrow as his moustache, and the man across from New James, who I recognise as a now destitute former owner of a record label who once snubbed us, slams his fists against the table as everybody applauds and New James smiles as I hand him a drink, which he pours into another one of a different colour and then proceeds to drink in one go as everybody applauds and says he is very clever. He looks at me with his red eyes glistening.

“It’s gone well!” he struggles to say.

I am dusted down by expert hands who look at me with admiration. I pay no attention to them and look off into the middle distance, vaguely uncomfortable but pleasured. The feeling of many hands.

I take the elevator down to the underground levels.

The doors open and, rather than a ding, or any levellian announcement, I hear Ed’s voice. “It’s gone well,” he says. I haven’t seen him for a while, but the voice on the recording sounds younger than I’d have thought.

The doors open straight onto a hangar sized room. Ed is in the middle of it, strapped, naked, onto a kind of hospital bed. Peoples from all world cultures are writhing around him and on top of him, faces disappearing and all kinds of geometry I’ve never seen beyond myth. Exhausted and satisfied, many of them are reclined or dozing or eating grapes on pillows and blankets that seem as soft as the skin that’s on them. From here I can see thin wires coming from each of Eds arms, each hooked up to a series of bags and monitors being tended to by gentle looking doctors. Above us, contraptionised in a kind of conical speaker shape is an orchestra, strapped upside down into their chairs, playing Beethoven’s 2nd symphony.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Bright colours.

I started painting over things in my house.

All kinds of crap is now just red. I take a big, thick brush and slop paint over everything until I can’t see it and then it dries to that horrible flat and unreflective crust that would make you shiver to touch it. Kind of chalky.

So the band don’t know it. Not for the want of me telling them, or coming to meetings and whatever to sort stuff out all covered in paint from head to toe. They ask me what I’ve been up to and I shrug my shoulders at them and they carry on thinking I’ve been what? Playing with friends, doing some old homework, or fiddling on instagram or something. And they talk about whatever it is they’re interested in. And I smile while drying.

Fence yourself in and cover yourself in gobs of wet paint, I say. That’s my tip for the day. Sometimes big, bald men come by with voices you can mimic, if you’re insecure, and they’ll bring you big bendy tubs of the stuff you can dip in when they’re not looking. You can either jump in feet first and flop down and bathe or you can cup it up in your hands and start drinking and coat all your insides in it. They’re all too busy slapping it on walls and things and everywhere else you’ve done your own bits of decorating to notice and you know you’ll do again once all the guys and mates have left.

I hear things in the band are getting done, and need doing. I’ve heard all about that. It all seems pretty clear to me. Plenty to do and get done. So much on. Long time now since an album or a gig. It’s been a long time since an album or a gig.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

The drop.

All the Phoria work gets done in an old building with little turrets and ledges and plenty of outdoor ornamentation. To get in off the lumpy sloping tarmac driveway, you have to take a couple of stairs and walk a few feet perpendicular to the house entrance along a small walkway, snazzily tiled. I walked there yesterday in the rain, for the first time in a while.

The house is large with high ceilings and contains a few people who tend to keep their car very clean. The ground floor belongs to us. The studio is positively regal.

Birds, mainly of the pigeon breed, tend to congregate on one of the ledges at the front of the building that overhangs the walkway. The ledge is about two foot long and sits about fifteen feet above the very halfway point of the passage. This means there is always a generous smattering of pigeon shit on the walkway that you have to avoid when you enter. Yesterday, in the wet—and I assume in some part down to a bountiful springtime—the gifts were plentiful and took the form of a kind of paper-mache vomit that leaked across the walkway. On a dry day of anticipated volume you can sidestep the lot by taking a simple detour around the petrified splats, but with nothing acting as a damn to stem the flow on this sodden and particularly productive day (perhaps a dead rat would have done it?) I had to make a small jump over the creamy river. I still slipped a little when I landed, and wasn’t sure if I’d cleared the whole lot. I looked at the bottom of my shoes and there were a few specks here and there.

I was able to wipe my shoes on the bin bags piled up by the studio door, but one of them split open and a half-eaten banana and what looked like a bit of chicken juice or something leaked out onto the carpet.

I had to tread through a fair few sandwich packets and clear three mugs off the chair—each carrying a different coloured moulding residue—before I could sit down and we could talk art.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Work/life balance.

I needed a complete break from music so I thought I’d go home, put my feet up, and listen to some music.

But that didn’t work.

So I turned the music off and watched a few things on YouTube. But everything had beats and lines and harmonies behind it. No video maker could infer the existential themes of a 1980s sitcom, nor vlog about their smart-bath, without some kind of audial drapery.

So I decided to listen to a podcast. But each began with a small tune. At this point I couldn’t make it past the first second of introduction. Any music would send a searing shot down my nerve endings and blister my ear canals.

So I decided to listen to an audiobook. But the book was read by a British man. He sounded like a duck playing an oboe. It was too close.

I sat in silence for fourteen seconds before I started humming Rude Boy by Rihanna.

I had to leave the house.

So I escaped to the outside. But the birds sang in the trees.

So I ran to the library. There, I thought, I would find peace.

I sat, sweating and shivering, on one of those soft, armless chairs covered in thick coarse bold-coloured fabric. The kind with skinny black metal legs.

I slowly let my palms away from my ears. But the footsteps across the wooden floors made clip-clop beats and the scrapes of paper from the people reading at the tables sounded like brushes against snare drums. Every now and then a sneeze or cough would puncture the air. I had stumbled into an impromptu experimental jazz rehearsal.

I ran.

Down the road was a recording studio; recently converted from a restaurant that had been forced to close. I lurched in through the door and, with my hands again clasped around my ears to protect myself from the open car windows and shops playing the radio loud with their doors open, started banging in morse code on the reception desk with one elbow insisting they give me a soundproof room immediately. I am adept at morse code, british sign language, and interpretive mime.

They showed me to a room quickly and I sat cross-legged in the middle of the busy carpet. I let my hands away from my ears and there was a small moment of bliss. The room still smelled of fried food and some mingling of herbs, but there was no hiss of pans, nor cheeky chef’s cocaine-banter. After only a few seconds, though, something did peel away a little pleasure. Some high-pitched...barely audible at first…echoing sound…

...rat ghosts.

And as soon as I figured it out, the white figures came streaming forth from every wall, converging on some central point about five feet in front of me before curving and heading straight for me, each one of the leaping ghouls screeching a deafening screech a million times over.

I fled from the rat ghosts and spun out of the studio before shoving a busker through the window of a travel agent’s, which give me an idea.

Wearing earmuffs, I rented an electric car and drove to the coast. I stole a dinghy and with the gentle lapping of the oars sounding much too much like the withdrawing lip of an adequately hydrated vocalist performing too close to the microphone to make this mode of transport at all pleasurable, I paddled to a deserted island I had once heard of in the middle of the English channel.

I did not expect there to be monkeys. As soon as I started bellowing at the sea to be quiet and stop its rushing up the shore which reminded me of a distorted synthesiser, a plague of brush-haired humanoids leaped from the trees and started oo-oo-ing and ah-ah-ing at me like an early 2010s indie singalong chorus.

I hadn’t come here for the beach.

I beat up the monkeys with my right hand while the left plugged my left ear. I did this while also raising my right shoulder to that ear as I was wearing a thick jumper so the monkey screams were at least muffled.

When all the monkeys were wounded I put fingers in both of my ears and started the long trek to the centre of the island where I had heard there was a soundless cave. This silent retreat was my aim. Here I would relax.

I descended into the black mouth of the cave and, after just a minute of descent, I found a barely lit grotto in which I decided to sit.

I pulled my fingers from deep within my ears.


No Linkin Park echoing drips of water. No whistling wind.

No animals screaming like Janis Joplin.

I sat without moving in relaxing anti-music.

The moment I yearned for had finally come to me.

I breathed a sigh of relief and the sound reverberated around the cave system infinitely, building to a perfect hum as it returned and retreated, over and over again. It filled my ears. It flowed back and forth emotionally in doppler pitch-movements and hypnotic rhythms.

I grimaced, gave up, and dropped onto my side.

My right ear hit something soft, cold, and squidgy.

I sat back up, confused, and deaf in one ear.

I plucked the wet thing out of there and held it up in what little light there was.

It was a large slug.

I looked around me and there were hundreds of them.

I jammed that one back in my ear and got picking.

Not one of them was safe. Each introduction of a slug to my ears caused a nauseating squelch, but that decreased in volume as I hit the high forties. I pushed them in and bunged them into corners of my canals my skin didn’t know existed.

Pretty soon I couldn’t hear a thing.

I shouted.

Nothing but the grim rattle of my voice in my throat. So long as I said nothing, I could be fine.

Fifteen minutes of blind, escapist and satisfying silent ecstacy later, a torch shone down the passageway, right into my eyes.

I read his lips.

A passing boat had heard the shout. They were a rescue team.

I remembered my sign language, and communicated with him.

As I spelled out my situation using my hands, I heard my bones tapping against one another. They made tones, like a marimba. In my positive mood, I wrote a good song.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019


We were dotted randomly around the studio, each of us splayed out across whichever furniture we’d chosen to land on.

Trewin was at the computer, drilling through music. The centre of his forehead was blotchy with large bruises and one section of the wooden desktop was particularly dented. His fingers tapped the keyboard on one side of the desk while across the other side completely his other hand lifted and dragged and slapped against the desk a little wireless mouse which manipulated everything on the forty-inch screen that blocked out the bay window. His back and arms spanned the full width of the desk and at times he appeared to be sleeping, but still moving.

A bear with a streak of thick blood in its fur skulked between us all.

New James was a starfish on an antique chair. His right knee was draped over the armrest and his right arm spiked up in the air, perhaps indicating North. The rest of him poured over the rest of the chair, one third of him compact and secure, the other two low in mid air or piled against the floor.

He opened his mouth and sound came out. Perhaps at one time they were words, but all I heard was a low, amorphous and consonantless moan. It wasn’t pain. I don’t know what it was. It was the sound of floorboards resettling in an empty house.

The bear stopped, stood on its hind legs, roared a roar so loud and long that it became a mutually accepted background—a wholesale replacement of the reality to which we had previously consented—and bounded with heavy thuds over to where New James sat.

Ed was face down on top of the piano, his face mushed into the wood so his lips hung loosely from one side. One arm and one leg were like ivy grown over the naked front of the piano, and every now and then one index finger would tap a key with mechanical precision.

The bear ripped New James’ leg off and started to chew on it. Blood sprayed across the white carpet and cream coloured walls. Some even got me in the face. It was warm.

I was slumped into the sofa so that it was my shoulder blades that hooked into the seat. Otherwise I just lay there like processed stringed-cheese that had all been ripped apart.

Seryn had draped himself across one chandelier, among the cobwebs.

The bear ripped off both of New James’ arms and ate them too. His single-legged torso stayed in the one place, but now it leaked blood. His face was blank.

Then the bear, taking a great gouge from Trewin’s back on its way across the room, headed for the piano. It picked Ed up and threw him in the air before catching him with its teeth. The crunch of Ed’s ribcage was drowned out only by a quick blast of music from the speakers. The middle of the second verse of the eighth track of the new album, I think. New James leaked noise. Trewin grunted. Ed, his body moving like a rag-doll caught in the gears of a Victorian factory floor as the bear chewed on his body, summoned a squeak himself.

Trewin and New James both muttered something simultaneously.

Seryn fell from the chandelier.

I breathed out from my heavy lungs and managed a dead whistle. Eyes swivelled on me.

The bear threw Ed across the room from his mouth. Ed’s body hit the wall with a low thud, leaving blood and a few scraps of skin. This time on its way across the room the bear ripped hard with all his weight at Trewin’s shoulders so both arms came off, though the disembodied fingers continued tapping and working and clicking.

The bear picked up Trewin’s body and threw it out the window. After it had broken the glass, invisible behind the giant screen, I heard it murmur something before hitting the ground outside.

I struggled to swallow a little saliva before the bear turned on me; hunched on its shoulders, sharp, long, and bloody teeth bared, revving like a motorcycle before launching at me with its open mouth.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Like climbing up a deflated balloon.

We were taking it in turns to look out of the broad bay window, into the street, where our eyes searched for the delivery driver.

“Another coffee, everybody?” said New James.

Nobody responded, but he picked up all the mugs and went to the kitchen and started shuffling things around anyway.

The day was bright and the curtains and the paintwork on the windows shimmered in cool light. Ed sat casually on the windowsill, one leg up and bent with his foot perched on the sill’s edge, one leg dangling, toe on the floor but heel in the air. He had trainers on. I sat cross-legged on the floor, shoeless and odd-socked. Seryn and New James were sharing the sofa while Trewin span around on an office chair. I had a throbbing pain in the upper-left quadrant of my back.

“Wee!” said Trewin.

“When do you think he’s coming?” asked Seryn.

“Could be a woman,” Trewin said.

“Oh yeah,” said Seryn.

New James returned carrying five mugs in one hand like a bunch of bananas and a big cafetiere of steaming coffee in the other.

“Not long now, lads,” he said.

“I don’t know,” said Ed. “I’m not happy about it.”

“Me either,” I said.

“Nor me,” said Seryn.

Trewin and New James agreed.

My phone rang. It was management.

“Anything?” she said.

“No,” I said.

“Well, we are where we are.”


“Just keep on going.”


And I pressed the button to disconnect and looked at everybody.

“That was management. Are we just carrying on like this?”

And everybody responded with great enthusiasm.

Friday, 15 February 2019

The end of work.

Trewin had a giant whiteboard on the floor in the middle of the room. He navigated it like a game of Twister. I was slouching on half a chair, drinking my fifth deep mug of coffee and shoving tobacco up my nostrils until it burst out of my ears. The sun shone outside and while a musical project was up and visible on the computer screen beside the window, the speakers sat undisturbed.

We were plotting, literally, for another project.

The technical term is avoidant. This is avoidant behaviour. I am very guilty of this sort of thing, and that’s why I know it when I see it, and, after years of battering my head against the tendency, wilfully indulge in it. It is the only way to find peace, and you cannot complete a work until you find peace within it—be it the peace of carelessness abandon or the peace of some kind of holistic achievement. A spell of avoidant behaviour is the ageing of the steak. It is the non-watching of the watched pot. It is the abandonment of all heretofore accepted responsibility justifiable only by arrogance and solipsism. No, wait...

Anyway we threw our arms up and down and touched our chins and held our fingers over our mouths and talked about character arcs and thematic development and held our heads. I span around a lot in the old wheelie chair, throwing up ideas about chase scenes and desolate locations while Trewin drew arrows in that whiteboard turquoise colour from person to trait to scene and gave up little chunks of propellant. And then this. And then that. All deeply interpersonal and with a possibility of gaining compulsory attention. Every idea brought forth ten new ones until we had to reign it back in again to keep the whole thing manageable. Never too much. Which trapdoors should we leap over, and which should we sidestep?

But we never lost enthusiasm, which was good. Tiredness came but it came after we'd worn good routes on the island in the middle of the floor. We smiled as we gave up but I looked out the window and said how I didn’t like the day. I’d left the house without a jacket for the first time in months.

Ed arrived and my brain was a broken cog, whirling to no effect, so I left. On the way home I was so cold I sang to myself to distract from it.

The next few weeks will bring a lot of work that we are in no way prepared for. Such is the method.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Buy and sell.

We had cancelled another meeting, and with the freshly neutered day I walked into Brighton to meet Woman from her dungeon of work.

The two of us were ten jovial minutes from home, and just walking into the gigantic Hove Tesco, when management called me on the phone.

“Pick up a basket now,” I told Woman.

Management laughed through the speaker.

We sauntered through the vegetable aisle as management talked about the release of the new album. Woman picked up a cauliflower and looked at me with her eyebrows raised. I nodded.

I jabbed an excited finger at the courgettes. Woman scrunched up her face. 
On the way here we had passed a man talking loudly on his phone.

“Yeah. Yeah, that’s a difficult one to challenge,” he said into his hand.

Woman and I walked a few steps in the night, then talked without looking at each other.

“It is,” she said.

“It’s a very difficult one to challenge,” I said.

“It’s true. It can’t be denied.”

“I know.”

And then there I was, not ten minutes later, hanging out beside the vine-ripened tomatoes and loudly talking lead times and effective project management and revenue streams into the ears of shelf-stackers and mothers wearing slip-on shoes.

I walked casually and mulled the Philadelphia while management chatted about things that would happen, and what my part to play would be and why they would be good. Since these things were first mentioned, maybe a week or two before, I’d discovered a little burst of enthusiasm in myself which was helping things fall out of me here and there that might be of use. I had, in fact, been working.

But now management talked of opportunities and of plans and of reality. And of history. And of potential. These are things that I have faced up to before and found no benefit in. Maybe they excite some people—but not me. The last time I started to touch on those things and what they might mean, I developed a chronic pain condition.

So the floodlights shone on the minced meat and I picked some up, as Woman and I had decided to have bun-less burgers for tea. I make very good burgers. It’s something I make well without really thinking about it. I felt good about making dinner.

I told management that I’d been working hard on creative stuff and that I would send her what I’d done.

I felt empty when I hung up. I figured that from here on in I would be forced to open up a little more than I’m comfortable with. Sometimes I get caught in strange little loops of solitary habit that only get shown as the waste-of-time/road-to-absolute-misery they are when somebody asks me about what I’ve been up to, and I have to turn up my palms and show them. Suddenly I’m going to have to open the box of mystery and show off what I’ve been hiding in there. And now that that’s about to happen, I don’t understand how I got here. I don’t understand why there’s a box. I don’t understand why I’m in this room. Stop looking at me like that. I don’t know why you’re treating me this way. It’s just a box. It’s just a few pieces of paper. I don’t know what they mean. Please don’t make me scream. Not here in the middle of Tesco. I just wanted the burgers. I just wanted to walk Woman home. She’s buying mayonnaise and rainbow peppercorns. How did things end up like this?

The reason the meeting was cancelled was sickness. That’s a good one. I'll have to use that.

Monday, 4 February 2019


Our manager was due to drive up from the South West, but she had to cancel due to the snow on the roads.

Things were running fairly smoothly, she told us, but sometimes she likes to come up and check we’re all OK and tell us what plans she’s made, what people she’s been talking to, what our aims need to be for the next few months—things like that. These meetings have a reputation as ending up a bit boozy, but that’s slowed down a little, of late.

One thing that has perhaps contributed to this has been a change of location. It’s been about a year now since we moved operations out of the shared house and into our palatial studio. The thing is, though… I liked that lampshade. Well, it wasn’t a lampshade as such. It was a shirt. It was a perpetually damp shirt, draped around a lightbulb.

Our manager is happy we’ve moved on. She would often stay over in the house, and I have no doubt that her drive home the next day would necessarily include a stop at a pharmacy for some kind of cream or other.

“You’re manager of Phoria, right?” The pharmacist would ask.


“That place on the hill?” 


A pitiful shake of the head.

“...this one’s on me.”

And our manager would limp to her car with a crooked back, smothering herself in ointment with both hands.

But I liked the place. We could kick the floor, there. Things peeled and fell apart. The house stank with the effort of slight improvement, but we were never able to lift ourselves out of the swamp. The doors all sat uneasy on their hinges—especially the ones removed from their frames and stacked against the wall, blocking the hallway. Vacuum cleaners ran, but they rumbled like 4x4s over the black encrusted lumps of chewing gum that enhanced the carpet. Tables looked like bits of trees that had rotted into shape after being thrown into the room. Cushions burst unevenly with makeshift stuffing and dusty display cases creaked every now and then, holding unread books and unused old toys found and brought in from the street for no other reason than that they needed a home.

The front garden had boat engines and a moss covered sofa with springs sticking out of it, and you had to walk through overflowing rubbish to get to the front door, which you had to break in to, because nobody had a key.

When it rained, and you were in the house, you had to put a jacket on.

We used to sit in the lounge and treat it like a railway waiting room. Any ghosts in the house no doubt looked on and grew fearful of us all. We were often disturbing and rarely sober, passing sheets with figures on showing how we were doing, discussing release strategies and whatnot before folding the pages into ashtrays and later on mopping up beer with them. Everybody smiling, sitting on the floor, laying across each other and listening to music and talking about where we were heading.

Now we do things in a chandelier strewn cathedral. The walls are pure white. There’s a picture rail. The windows are large and look out onto trees. The place is filled with antique furniture that’s comfortable. The carpet is actually fitted.

I can’t pretend it’s not nice. And I also can’t pretend there aren’t little islands of squalor that speak of who we are—but they’re islands on a calm sea. The old place was one single tempestuous bog. I loved watching the bubbles rise out of the swamp and burst. That doesn’t happen any more.

(I also love the chandeliers and the ability to breathe and the relative fearlessness with which I now enter the studio, but that’s beside the point.)

So instead of driving up, our manager booked us in for a conference call, and I joined in from home—a damp, bug infested hole in the ground near Hove seafront. Home. I drank coffee brewed in a stained espresso maker on a crooked oven that snaps the electric if you turn it up too high, and sat in unwashed clothes on a paint-stained chair while we talked about everything we were going to achieve. I cooked bacon and sniffed richly at abandoned glassware while she talked. My eyes were dry. It was cold, because of the drafts, but I wore layers and spoke calmly.



All milky and lava-lamp-ish the street-lights reflecting on my big red car bonnet as I curl it round at night all sound and echoing engine...