I’ve done a lot of stuff this year, it’s been a busy one. Mainly, I’ve been focussing on learning, getting better at what I do & trying to do more of the things I enjoy. I think I’ve succeeded, in some ways. I am sure I have failed in many others, it’s not been the perfect year, no doubt, with both personal disappointments & global disasters, there have been plenty of things that I am delighted to leave in my wake, but there’s been some good, too.
I want to share some of my favourite photographs of the year. It’s not exhaustive, and I likely forgot some good ones, but just a kind of review 🙂 There’s a real mixture of digital, 35mm & 120 medium format here, I won’t call them out because then you’ll laugh and call me a nerd, which might be accurate but still, fuck you, I’ll do what I want.
I’ll start with these working portraits of Lukas Drinkwater, I think these were all taken at his Stroud Polyphonic Recording studio during the 3 day recording session for my ‘A Place Like Home’ EP. He can do monophonic things, too! I’d strongly recommend working with Lukas if you like to make music. He’s a magician and I believe there is very little he cannot do. I hope to work with him again next year.
Here’s a selection of my portraits of my favourite person, best friend & wife, Josienne, taken at various points in the year, in studios, in our house, on stage at Union Chapel and a festival in Bury, Glasgow city centre & a Clydebank beach. You’ve seen these all before, but it wouldn’t be a year in review if I didn’t repeat myself, now would it? I do so enjoy capturing tiny bits of her soul in my little electrical box of light & magic.
What’s next? An important portrait. This is the legendary Scottish musician, Mary Ann Kennedy. She has graced Josienne’s recordings with her harp a few times and hopefully more in the future and I asked her to let me photograph her as she recorded, which is an intimate thing that not all musicians are ok with. She agreed and I took this, which is one of my favourite photographs of mine. I’m hoping she will let me take more in future and I think you can see why.
Here’s Josienne with her friend Belinda O’Hooley at a festival in Bury. That was a good day, they were both just as happy as they look.
These are some shots I took at the Glad Cafe, that’s Broken Chanter, Jill Lorean, Roddy Hart & Flinch. Another good night. I used to hate taking live photographs compared to to studio, but these days, I dunno, I think I’m starting to mellow to it.
And then a pretty cool thing happened. Josienne supported Will Varley at Union Chapel in London, and I got to shoot Will, both during his soundcheck and during the show, and he used the photograph with the white semi-circles on it for his 2022 tour poster! A hero of mine, a wonderful guy, honestly, the Will you think you know is the Will that is there, he’s a straight-up brilliant bloke and I could’ve cried when he asked to use the picture. He only ever uses good stuff for his posters, and to be associated to that is a thing I am very proud of. Doesn’t it look good?
A band called Junior Bill played the same festival, I shot them & I think they used this on their socials. It’s a good shot, eh? They were ace, too, like black midi if they weren’t stuck up pretentious art-school wankers and just really liked The Jam.
I got to see Badly Drawn Boy play live again. It was something else. I don’t know how he does it. He’s so grounded, human, likeable, talented in such a relatable way. I love his music and always have. I remember buying those early 7″s knowing something timeless was going on. And I shot him at a festival and guess what? I only had a 35mm prime, I spent the whole day kicking myself. No filters and just one prime, for a festival shoot? I just packed badly. Ha. I’m quietly hoping I can talk him into a shoot, one day, and I’ll try to take better shots, so in the meantime, he’s what a 35mm Prime does at a festival, laughing/crying face.
Here’s Sophie Jamieson live at Union Chapel, shot on my Pentax 67 with a 75mm f2.8 lens which is a bananas thing to do in a venue, but here’s why I bother:
And here’s Burd Ellen live at … uh I’ve forgotten where … somewhere in Glasgow …
Here’s a few shots I took that aren’t people. Just nice things I saw. Apart from the bins. They were in London, but still beautiful in it’s own way.
Josienne & I made a little EP together, you can find it at the Corduroy Punk Records bandcamp page.
Josienne released ‘A Small Unknowable Thing’ this year, but I did all the work on it the year before, but it remains a shoot that I’m incredibly proud of…
I made a load of videos for this release and you can go see them all at Josienne’s YouTube channel 🙂
One of my favourite projects this year was making the video for ‘Driving at Night’, the first single from Josienne’s new EP. Josienne had a solid concept for her video but it needed help, a thing I am not used to having access to. But I realised that I could, so I reached out to Daniel Odoom via his Odoom Brothers production company in Glasgow and I’m glad I did. Benjamin Ahadzi got in touch and set up a meet where we threw some ideas around. Daniel & his crew are a beautiful bunch of true creatives, and together we made this video, one dull Glasgow evening. I’ll not forget driving while Benjamin hung out the window to get those credit shots. Not OK, really, but above & beyond, no doubt. There was so much more we could have done, and I can’t wait to work with them again.
I’ve been working on a little project for a while now, it’s moving slowly around all the others, but it’s getting there. I don’t even know what it is yet. A motion picture! A TV movie? An episodic YouTube adventure? It’s coming on. It might never leave my hard drive but I dare to hope. Here’s a glimpse of my odd labour of something like love. Keeps me out of trouble, eh?
My IMDb profile might be interesting to you if you want to know more about this stuff as soon as it happens.
I released an EP on Corduroy Punk Records, called ‘A Place Like Home’. Here’s the cover shot, by Andy Low, taken on his Mamiya (I think) RZ67. He’s a careful wizard with light. You can get it from here.
Here’s a collection of the artwork I made for ‘I Promised You Light’. Maybe my best work?
I hope you’ve managed to understand 2021 & your own place in it, resolve it into something you can live with inside your own head then relate it to your place in the universe. Not easy to do but seems important. Keep trying, and don’t be afraid to ask, however difficult that might seem. Good luck.
Josienne recorded an EP at Hackney Road Studios in June (all social distancing & local guidelines were followed, before anyone says a thing, studios are tightly controlled spaces & everyone was very careful to make sure ) & it was announced a few days ago.
I took the cover shot & the promotional shots for it, which have proved very popular so far, so I thought I’d collect it all together here in a post, some shots from recording, some failed attempts at the cover and the real thing. Enjoy!
Here’s Josienne & Mike Hillier, the engineer in the breakout room.
This is Matt Robinson (keys) Dave Hamblett (drums) and me (bass) working on parts in the main room.
Here’s Josienne tracking some guitar in the control room.
And here’s Josienne singing into some huge beautiful delicate ancient microphone.
Not sure what Josienne is doing here, but it looks mighty important.
This portrait of Josienne was taken outside the studio.
And that’s me tracking some bass guitar in the dark, for some reason.
Here’s a gallery of shots taken around Hackney during the sessions, a beautiful, quiet time in the city’s roar.
There’s some of the promo shots we made. Josienne had a really specific idea of what she was aiming for, and it was a concept I loved and thought would be perfect. This was the second time around we shot because I wasn’t happy with the lighting the first time. It was hard to get this look and feel, but I reckon we did. Finally, there’s the cover shot. It’s from the same session as the rest. It was an easy scene to photograph.
Here’s a gallery of some unused shots, B-roll from the day, behind the scenes.
And finally, the cover shot. You can see why this one was chosen. The one where it all came together.
The EP is released on Corduroy Punk Records early February on CD, vinyl, digital & streaming. Josienne has distribution which will put the record in all your favourite record shops. Go ask them for a copy now, it’s a real beauty & so much love went into it.
‘Deleted Scenes’, the first single from my new EP, ‘A Place Like Home’, was the first song I wrote after my last album, ‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’.
I wrote it during lockdown.
I was trying to not write songs about lockdown.
I was also trying to not say that I wasn’t writing songs about lockdown. I didn’t want to even mention it, but everyone asks, so there you go.
I tried to concentrate on considering what I DID want to write songs about. Lockdown was good for that, at least.
I wanted to find something honest & worth saying amid the chaos & self-reflection that lockdown forced upon all but most privileged.
This period of self-reflection created a glut of wankers like me banging on about how they faced a period of self-reflection; I disappeared at least as far up my own arse as the next man, perhaps further, as this article appears to indicate, and so THATS what I wrote about – what I DO think. What I DO want. Not what or might think or might want. I’m not giving advice or speculating on lofty principles.
The people who started tweeting live songs from their normandy retreats, sharing their two-AGA kitchen tales of poverty, covering John Lennon from beside the private family pool while the rest of us queued outside Asda for an hour to get our hands on the government-allocated quantity of bleach, they have nothing to tell me. They shed no insights on my world. But why am I different? I dunno. I don’t consider that I am, but I’m self-aware enough to try hard to be better.
Since I’m also likely no worse, I tried to sharpen my ideology into the words of a song, something firm, bold & honest. I wanted to be clear, focussed, clean, new & free. Nothing unique or interesting about that, but here we are. It is what I did. I tried to describe exactly what I see from the shade where I sit. Whether I did that or not is up to you. ‘Deleted Scenes’ is about the search for meaning & a place in this lying, decaying late-stage capitalist nightmare of a reality we are fortunate enough to inhabit.
You can hear it on Bandcamp from 8th October & I’m working on a video, too.
I’ll tell you what I know.
Hanging around with Josienne Clarke is a fucking trip. Everyone loses their shit.
She’s written extensively about why. The Only Bit That Matters. Go read about it, if you care to.
But you, know, ultimately, scum rises to the top and Josienne’s scum & so am I (council house & comprehensive school blood born & raised, both) so it was always inevitable that we would make music together. It’s a thing we both just do, and yes, it gets complicated and messed up and colonised but both of us would do it in a vacuum.
So, we did. 2PrivateMatters is a stupid name we laughed about using and then did because why not, everyone else just does what they want, now we have, too. What happens is that Josienne writes one of her perfect little sad song things & then I try to impress her by messing it up in Ableton.
Some of you might not know that I used to be in a band called Formication with my friend Kingsley. We played some shows, some festivals, lots of drum & bass nightclub backrooms. We released a great many albums & EPs, appeared on a Wire Magazine cover CD, got reviewed in that magazine a lot. We made harsh industrial noise, extended experimental crazy electronic shit. I heard that Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods saw one of our early shows & I could believe it. We played with two old macbooks and stood around nonchalantly, sounding big, right in their neck of the woods, so, yeah.
Josienne once said that she wanted her voice & songs set in something harder, that she imagined her work led down a more dangerous garden path. I understand why no producer is willing to do that. She can read washing machine instructions in that perfect voice and it makes grown adults lose their mind, it needs nothing else. To really push it out of a happy place feels like double the sacrilege. Unholy. But she doesn’t want to be that. She’s not interested in holiness.
Listen to ‘Cartography’ from Doubts Run Out. That’s all her, one recording she made of her singing straight into a laptop that I did things to. You ever see the TV show DEVS? I enjoyed that. Also the movie Annihilation. Geoff Barrow, Ben Salisbury, The Insects, that whole Invada soundtrack aesthetic, I like that. So I tried it. Also, I wanted to riff on the holiness. It’s kind of choral, don’t you think? The kind of early music that Josienne has actually performed before, but there’s nothing sacrosanct about this abomination. Although, you know what I’d love to do – perform this live. Get a choir, 4 voices, and learn it like it was written by John Rutter then sing it in a cathedral. Conduct it. I think it’s possible. Who knows.
Then there are these other influences. Dance music. Electronic music. A chaotic mess of meaningless genre names. Everyone in folk always wants to be more edgy by using a drum machine. It’s hilarious. Richard D. James said that dance music is folk music and of course, he’s right. There’s nothing new. I always like the question – what is this music for? How, why & when will people listen to it? Is it for dancing, for listening, for impressing birds, accompanying nature walks, getting off your tits, showboating your librarian-like knowledge, for the respect of your peers? All fine!
2PrivateMatters is to confound. I wanted to do something undone. Take a road less travelled. Show there are other things. I’m not interested in hearing another perfect voice cover Little Lord Fauntleroy, but this time, with a drum machine! Jim Moray did that 20 years ago. It wasn’t new then & it wouldn’t be new now. I was inspired by Burial, Four Tet, Koreless, Giant Swan, Req, Loraine James, Forest Swords, Frost, Fake, Hecker, Vainio, Deathprod, Bohren, Oneohtrix, BPB, Rabelais. You know the stuff. Showboating of my own. What can we do with sound, if we challenge ourselves, with source material like this? DoubtsRunOut is the answer. That’s what we can do.
But here’s the thing. This project is a risk for Josienne. Why? Well, because now every time she uses an electronic drum or a synth on one of her solo records, that will be attributed, in some way, overt or otherwise, to me, the bloke. I either wrote, performed, influenced or encouraged it. It’s a reason not to release this recording we made together, because credit is important & she is vulnerable. But she’s also brave & wanted to do this despite the risks.
Realise this – Josienne never felt able to express herself in all the ways she wanted to because her confidence was undermined, gently, silently, subtly, invasively. She never felt that her voice was relevant enough, she wasn’t given free rein over her own life & work. Unforgivable. But she knows what she wants, now. Her confidence grows. You can hear it in her solo work. The synths on her albums were her. I did exactly what I got credit for and nothing more, nothing less.
So please, listen. Enjoy. Try to understand who did what, if you care to. If you don’t, that’s ok, too, but don’t come running to me when I correct the misattribution of credit because I have a zero tolerance policy on carelessness on this, I consider it important, even if you don’t and I am too old / ugly to worry about losing friends.
We made this ourselves, in our house, no studios. We spent zero pushing it to PR people. We put on streaming services and you can buy it digitally on bandcamp. There is no CD version. I made some stickers and then realised, I’d have nobody to send them to. Ha. It’s just a modest little side project. We made it because we wanted to. No more, no less. We hope you can find a way to enjoy it. If anyone would like promotional materials/review copies/a press release, then please ask – Josienne wrote one of those for it and it’s hilarious, but so far, nobodys seen it but me. And to be frank, I don’t much care if it stays that way, but I will send it to you, if you like. Drop us a line.
Here’s some cover variations. I did this photoshoot in a bath. Couldn’t decide which one to use. Ha.
Thanks for caring enough to read this!
I made another video for Josienne’s latest single, ‘Super Recogniser’…
‘Alec Bowman_Clarke, the Director, Cinematographer & Editor, describes his video for Super Recogniser thusly:
“You know that bit in the first Robocop movie where he first comes online and tests his vision & tracking, tries out the gun in his leg and then gets up & storms out to go find his old life and take revenge on Clarence Boddicker and the gang of baddies who hurt him? Well this is a bit like that, but without the acid baths & exploding cars. Like an emotional Robocop, we find our hero rebirthing from her pupa, emerging, testing out possible movement & her odd perception of light, running critical systems checks. She’s a soft, pink robo-singer, plagued by memories of a life & career ridden roughshod over by the careless hooves of an insidious music industry, trapped, milked dry by an inner circle of vapid yes-men. She was a workhorse in a song farm, left with all the blame & none of the credit, so she retreated into the safe, fleshy chrysalis of her own real life. My video documents her glorious, neon-gore transformation into a being to be reckoned with, a butterfly fully in charge of her own faculties & armed to the teeth with song.”
I also made this poster, which I hope you enjoy.
‘Super Recogniser’ by Josienne Clarke is the second single from her album ‘A Small Unknowable Thing’, released on Corduroy Punk Records on 13th August 2021. Pre-order ‘A Small Unknowable Thing’ HERE: ffm.to/unknowable.
I’ve shared a few photos of the sessions but not said much about it. Busy, busy, busy.
First time I met Lukas has significance to me, I’m an imprinted baby duck. I was walking around London with Josienne, feeling thoroughly out of my depth, a little scared of how big & proper it all was, when this famous bloke said hello to us both. Not just to Josienne, though he seemed to mean his hello to her as well, but also to me, like I had just as much right to be there as her and like he was pleased to see us both! In a town where most people at best treated me like I was in the way or on many occasions, openly expressed derision at my presence & involvement. Here was Lukas frickin Drinkwater just casually saying hello to me, in the street! I probably didn’t even say anything back because I couldn’t believe it. Later, we went to the Americana Music awards and Emily Barker treated me like an old friend. I could’ve cried. I might actually have done, because Patrick Stewart’s partner asked me if I was alright while I was standing at the bar and I said I was, it was just a bit overwhelming and thanked her for her kindness and I thought to myself, damn. Maybe I can do this, maybe some people won’t mind me being in the room, one day.
Anyway, here we are a few years later & I am doing it. Living some kind of life. Being the person I appear to be. Living in an honest way that I wrestled from the jaws of loss. Surrounded by love & support. It takes a while to recognise it when it changes, but lives can & will change and I think it’s important to call it what it is when it happens.
And so I wrote some songs about that, about that hope, about that progress, because what else am I going to do? I didn’t have lots, but it felt like a whole thing regardless, a signpost of where I live right now, still yearning for more, hoping the stairs lead up & that there is a reason to climb, however distant it might seem.
My last album, ‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’, I once described as like that tiny dog who goes around starting fights with all the bigger dogs, barking in their faces as they look on bemused. That’s how I feel I sound, listening back, now. I’m still very proud of that record and what I achieved with it. It grounded me, made me certain of exactly what my place in things was. I had as much right as anyone else to exist. Songlines Magazine reviewed my record & didn’t hate it.
But these new songs, they’re bigger. I knew I needed more instruments than I had last time. And there was really only two people I needed to help me. Josienne was going to produce, that was always clear. What else would I want to do? It’s her decision making. Her discernment. Is an idea good, or bad? She just knows. But I had this dream that Lukas might be able to help, too. What a line up that felt like. So I out & asked him and he went and said yes.
We spent 3 days in his studio, Polyphonic Recording, in Stroud. It’s a dream location, and I don’t just mean because it’s a one minute walk from a waitrose with a sushi counter, though it is that too. It’s a perfect playground. Tbh, it’s everything I ever dreamed of that I never made happen for myself. I don’t really understand sound like I understand light. Light is obvious, sound is a twat. But not to Lukas – his level of skill in every instrument he plays (which is, best I can tell, all of them…) is unsurpassed. His judgement, creativity, approach to creating a safe space, sense of humour, it’s all perfection. I knew it would be. He’s funny & serious at all the right times. It’s hard to get me to perform stuff, vocally. These lyrics are pretty raw to me. I can’t do it just anywhere, in front of just anyone. But I could do it easily, with him. If this all sounds a little saccharine then, good, it’s meant to. When I called him one of my favourite people, I meant it. If you’re considering making a record then you should have him & his studio on the list. I can’t imagine a thing he couldn’t do. Recording is such a weird type of magic, but not if you understand it intuitively, in a way that I don’t. Lukas does.
We recorded 5 songs, an EP. Lukas is mixing it now. It’s a bigger sound than the album, a full band. I don’t want to say too much about it other than that for now, but I do have (…no shit…) lots of photographs from the recording sessions. I took these because I loved it, and taking photographs / using cameras & lenses is fun, like microphones & guitars are to Lukas, and also, so Lukas could use them on his website.
See what happens if you work in an atmosphere of mutual respect, lifting people up & being lifted yourself? See what can happen if you work, free to fail, free of shame, free of threat? In an atmosphere that encourages individuality of expression, where some ideas are awful but have them anyway and believe that your friends will have your best interests at heart when they say “do it” or “shut up”? What if that led to everyone being a little better after than they were before, to some kind of personal growth & the making of honest art?
Well, here are some photographs of that happening.
Thanks for working with me, Josienne & Lukas.