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Emailed the Second Draft of the novel out to readers for comments last night.

It's out there now. It's not just vapourware. I feel both pleased and drained.

To celebrate, I've been listening to Mick Harvey's Sketches from the Book of the Dead.

I posted previously about how we saw his excellent CD launch on Saturday night. The synchronicity between his album and my novel hasn't escaped me. Both are about memory. Both are about the dead.

The stand out track on the album for me so far is "The Ballard of Jay Givens", about the suicide of the best friend of Harvey's father.

Here-- a little present for you, on this wet Melbourne morning:

Mick Harvey - The Ballad of Jay Givens by Mute UK

I keep thinking of changes I want to make to the novel. Finishing the second draft means I can finally see what it is, as opposed to what I thought it might be. This is good. This means I can strip away everything that doesn't belong, and strengthen everything that does.

I'll start the third draft in July. I have the Emerging Writers Festival and Continuum to get through first.

Hm. I really should post about them.

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I know almost nothing about hip-hop, and only discovered Sage Francis because the extended version of his song Sea Lion features both Will Oldham and Saul Williams. So I had no idea if or how popular he is.

(For those equally ignorant: Sage Francis is a white rapper from Providence. He's credited with being a father of the Indie Rap movement, and his work is very progressive/political/poetic, rather than gangsta rap.)

Popular enough to sell out the Forum, apparently.

We saw him there as part of the Melbourne Festival. The venue was packed. A huge cheer rose up as Francis came on stage wearing a black wig. It was just him and a backing track. But he filled the place. He was fast and passionate, funny and smart. The audience down the front loved him, waving their arms, singing along. We were sitting up the back, because we're old. But even we were bopping our heads along to the beats.



Speaking of Saul Williams - he has a new single out. "Explain My Heart". You can download it for free off that link. It's different to his previous work - more of a straight-up song than a rap - but the tribal percussion and fuzzed-up guitars are fantastic.

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Jesus. Peter Hook is touring here in September, playing all of Unknown Pleasures live.
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Watching Later... with Jools Holland.

The Big Pink are one of the bands in this episode. I've heard their song 'Dominoes' on Rage. But it doesn't capture how Jesus and Mary Chain they are. There seems to be a fair bit of that going around at the moment - shoegazer meets JAMC meets Joy Division. Not really goth. More post-punk. The New Black, as it were.

Here's The Big Pink:

And here's The xx. They look like bruisers. They sound like fey electo musicians who've just discovered Joy Division. Perfect music for a grey Sunday morning in Melbourne.

And here's next big thing in the new black: O Children. There's a strong Andrew Eldritch/Pete Murphy vibe to the vocals.

Any other suggestions?

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Last night, we saw The Man in Black, Tex Perkins's lanky, greasy-haired, suit wearing tribute to his idol, Johnny Cash.

We had centre front row seats at the Athenaeum, so close that our knees brushed the stage, the foldback monitors blocked our view, and every time Tex left his mic stand wobbling I was afraid it was going to fall on me. Our necks we sore from craning back to see, but you couldn't get closer to the band without standing on stage.

The set was just a black backdrop, the instruments for the backing band, a pair of old fashioned square mics, and a stool on either side of the stage.

Backing band The Tennessee Four came on in darkness, and kicked off 'I Walk The Line'. The lights went up. Tex loped onto stage, dressed in a sharp black suit, strumming a battered acoustic guitar.

Look, I don't claim to be an expert on either Cash or Perkins. But hearing these songs played live, with Tex's deep voice and long-legged charisma was fantastic.

After the first few songs, he brought out Rachael Tidd to be his June Carter stand-in. Between songs they retold the story of Cash's life, from his cotton-pickin' youth, through the Folsom Prison concert, to the death of June, 'Hurt', and the last song Cash ever sang live, 'Ring of Fire'.

So it was a bit more of show than a straight concert. Tidd and Perkins shared an easy, joking chemistry, and the narration put the songs in a context. It was a little strange to see Tex Perkins, the wild man of Australian rock, the Beast of Bourbon himself, telling daggy scripted jokes. But his love for Cash was obvious, and infectious.

The show reminded me of Shaun Micallef's recent show "Good Evening: The Sketches of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore". It shared the same pleasure of seeing an experienced performer come full circle, confident enough in their own achievements that they can subsume themselves into a tribute to the artists that inspired them.

The band came back to play 'Long Legged Guitar Pickin Man' for the encore, and then a medley of Cash's hits. As they took their final bow, Perkins brought out a little six-year old girl, who was obviously terrified to be on stage. She hid behind his legs, and then covered her face with her hands. I'm not sure if she was his daughter, or Rachael Tidd's, but she was very cute.

As everyone was leaving, I peered over the foldback speakers, trying to see if there was a setlist. Instead, Tex had the lyrics to 'Man in Black' written out for him. Oops.

A great show. 

Here, have a taste: Tex Perkins, Rachael Tidd and the Tennessee Four performing 'Jackson'.

And just because it's exquisite: Johnny Cash, 'Hurt'
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I've discovered a new band. I think I might be in love.

The band is The Indelicates. They're British indie-punk, sort of a cross-between Carter USM and Bis. And like Carter, their lyrics are a mix of clever vitriol and bittersweet romanticism.

Here, this is as good an introduction as any: 'We Hate The Kids', by the Indelicates. (It's a live video. Don't let that put you off.)

(There's lots more up on YouTube. I particularly like 'America' and 'Our Daughters Will Never Be Free'.)


Jack of their record label, they're releasing their second album through their own web-label, Corporate Records. Here's the Corporate Records logo:

Which gives you a good idea of where they're coming from. :)

Anyone can sign up to Corporate Records. Albums are released as the Radiohead-style pay-what-you-want model.

Trent Reznor has been pretty scathing about this model: he said you should either give your music away for free, or charge what you as an artist believes it's worth. Because it's pretty gutting to pour your heart and soul into your work, and then have some snotty-nosed teenager says it's only worth 50 cents.

The Indelicates look at it slightly differently.

Simon Indelicate wrote a thought-provoking article arguing that the only reason recorded music was able to be sold at a profit for the last century was because there were certain bottlenecks to the production and distribution of music. And now those bottlenecks are falling away, it's questionable whether it will even still possible to make any money from music:

Perhaps the closest model for the future of recorded music is the sad, funding-dependent, workshop-running, pleading and dwindling subculture that still writes poetry while dreaming of the infamy of Byron. I don’t know.

Here's a far more optimistic view from [ profile] elmyra's post Why Content is a Public Good:

Consumers' relationship with art and artists will change. It will be a lot more direct. Art isn't the shiny disc that you buy from Tesco's anymore. It's the project that your favourite artist announces on their blog and asks you for funding and posts updates about and that you wait for with increasing excitement.

I'm thinking about this a lot at the moment.

Obviously this all relevant to the book I'm writing. It's about how the music industry has changed since the 90s, after all.

But I'm also thinking about this because the Kindle and the iPad are going to change the book publishing industry in exactly the same way as the iPod did to the music industry.

And if you're thinking "oh, but an electronic device will never replace the tactile pleasure of a real paper book", congratulations! You can sit in the corner over there with the vinyl collectors. They said exactly the same thing, and they were just as wrong.

Information doesn't want to be free. It wants to be easy. Convenience and availability trump quality. That's why VHS beat Beta. That's why everyone's listening to tinny MP3s instead of DAT tapes.

So what does this all mean for an unknown writer working on his first novel?

I'm writing this thing for people to read it. I want it to be published. I want it to be taken seriously, which seems to be the big thing a publishing house can offer to a new release.

Am I wasting my time?

Is print --and the novel with it-- finally dead?

Or is this a brave new world, just waiting for bold new pioneers?


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Chladni Patterns are patterns created when you pour sand or flour onto a plate and resonate it with a musical tone. The tone usually comes from bowing the plate or using a electronic tone generator.

Meara O'Reilly uses her voice.

What I love about about this video is how she changes the patterns from soft and blurry to sharply defined just by modulating her voice.


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February 2019

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