Monday, 28 December 2009

2010: expect more/big stuff

...and after that brief retrospective, now is the time I promise ridiculous amounts of creative things which I almost certainly will not achieve all of. But you have to aim high to get the best of yourself! Coming from Jez Kemp in 2010:

-An acoustic EP recorded with Matt Langley of The Library Suits - this really will be acoustic music (unlike Without Fear), but recorded with real professional equipment!

-The debut ACOUSTIC WARRIOR EP - 4 tracks of dance music made entirely from acoustic guitar sounds

-An EP about Britain, featuring some new tracks but also my UK open mic smash hit "Paedophile Immigrants Selling Drugs To Our Kids"

-Badly-photoshopped oceanic fairy tales starring Jimmy The Dolphin and a host of other creatures who live in Underwater Disco Village

-Several short stories, including the cheeky and humorous The God Market, more tales of time travel in the South Pacific and the superhero adventures of Jesus And The All-Stars

-The second Jez Kemp album with cracking songs (such as "I Brought Down The Average" and live favourites "I Believe In Dinosaurs" and "Sunshine") featuring real guitar/bass, programmed drums and orchestral backing!

-One or possibly even TWO full-length novels (well, 60,000 words) of sci-fi/fantasy/comedy gold.


I also have a higher priority of finding a full-time job. So completing all of these things is raaaaaaather unlikely - but they're all in the hectic pipeline that is my head. Gotta set the bar high :)

Here's to a new year, take it easy kids.

2009 round-up

Well that's another year. Still time for something to go horribly wrong (or, I suppose, amazingly right) but here's a quick summary of my year:

-Temping. Take my advice, don't leave your cushy council job when the global economy goes into meltdown.
-Girlfriend. Met an amazing kiwi girl, AND managed to go out with her, AND still together 11 months on. More than makes up for the first point.
-I have written 2 books, finishing my trilogy - satisfaction ahoy.
-I have written and recorded my debut album with just an acoustic guitar, my laptop and some sticky-backed plastic - more satisfaction ahoy.

And yeah other than that just settled into New Zealand life. It's pretty great bro.

Just a quick thanks to all you guys for putting up with my spam about books and music, I know I've been pumping out a lot of it the last few months :)

Hope you all had a great Christmas or whatever celebration you do/don't have, and have fun bringing in the new year. I'll be on a kiwi beach!

Jez


www.jezkemp.co.uk/withoutfear



www.jezkemp.co.uk/nolies



www.jezkemp.co.uk/nonever


Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy kiwi Christmas

It's summer, it's hot and it's Christmas, and despite being a paid-up atheist I'm quite happy about enjoying a celebration and wishing good times to others. So whether it's summer or winter and Christmas or yuletide or Saturnalius or none of the above, have a good time, get drunk (unless you're driving!) and stay well.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

The Evolution-Hitler myth - let's explode it once and for all

A frequent argument against evolution by creationists is that it's a pre-text for Hitler's racial policies and ethnic cleansing - the idea that you could "improve" the human race through selective breeding. This bizarre argument comes up more frequently than you might think, even amongst well-known and "respected" followers of creationism ad intelligent design.

It is time to put this myth to bed once and for all with a VERY simple reasoning:

Evolution: The scientific explanantion for how life developed on Earth, how animals react and adapt to their environment, and how creatures divide into species.

Hitler: A man with evil, twisted ideas about racial "purity" who used a fascist state to commit genocide.

It's hard for me to see how anyone can confuse the two. Saying that Darwin and evolution are responsible for Hitler and the Holocaust is like saying nuclear physics are responsible for atomic weapons, so therefore nuclear physics is evil and/or not true.

Even if teaching people about evolution and natural selection encourages them to starting killing Jews and gypsies - which frankly, it doesn't - nothing changes the fact that evolution is just a non-moral, biological explanantion of how life developed.

Please share this, either on facebook/twitter/etc. or by word of mouth, and let's stop the creationists hiding behind one of the lamest arguments in the history of bad logic.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Listen to my album on last.fm

I was updating some of my internet web stuff for my new album and was amazed to find I have been paid by the website last.fm. Paid a whole 1 penny!

Obviously it's not something I can retire on, but I would urge you all to check out my last.fm page and hear the album in full there:

http://www.last.fm/music/Jez+Kemp/Without+Fear

With any luck I might triple my earnings at the next quarter :)

Monday, 14 December 2009

Dear Silvio Berlucsoni

Dear Mr. Berlusconi,

As a human being and a citizen, you have a right not to be smacked in the face.

As an oppressive media dictator and arrogant right-wing gazillionaire, however, it is extremely satisfying to see it happen.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The Library Suits - awesome band who need your vote

I've been plugging my own stuff like crazy lately, so it's about time I plugged somebody else's.

The Library Suits are a great indie-rock band from Essex with cracking songs, pumping rhythms and singalong tunes. They've brought out a mini-album, a real album, and a single with a video, more of which I'll talk about later.

Right now though, they have reached the dizzy heights of fame by appearing on the Hollyoaks Music Show. They're one of 9 bands who got the chance to appear on TV, hang out on the Hollyoaks set and compete to appear in a real episode of Hollyoaks.

So um yes VOTE FOR THEM, you can do it by clicking this link below. It only takes minute and they really deserve your vote!
http://www.e4.com/Hollyoaks/doitandwin/RnuFfGTlK7NbsUxyNqVoQX/vote.e4?guid-id=JR4AsrkuO3rLTyUdxuWynw

Saturday, 12 December 2009

WITHOUT FEAR album out now

The album is out now - you can hear all 10 tracks on the player below and you can buy it at the following places:

iTunes
http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/without-fear-2009/id341535568
7Digital
http://www.7digital.com/artists/jez-kemp/without-fear/
Tunetribe
http://www.tunetribe.com/product/jez_kemp_without_fear?id=2992500
Napster
http://free.napster.com/view/album/index.html?id=13444788
People's Music Store
http://peoplesmusicstore.com/musicformonkeys?product=548475
Deezer
http://www.deezer.com/en/music/jez-kemp/without-fear-2009-434666
Lala
http://www.lala.com/album/2522297268344849874/Jez_Kemp/Without_Fear

Alternatively you can send $5NZ or £2GBP (+P&P, ie $2NZ or £2GBP) to info@jezkemp.co.uk via Paypal and I will send you a real CD!

Many thanks to everyone for listening and supporting me during this project. I'm still blogging the individual tracks of the album so watch out for those. The 3 remaining brand new tracks from the album are #3 "Lighten Up, No Thanks", #9 "One Last Parting Shot" and #10 "The Holy Texts".

I'm off out soon into the wind and sun for my busking launch gig, wish me luck!

Cheers
Jez
www.jezkemp.co.uk
www.jezkemp.co.uk/withoutfear




Band website hosting
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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Without Fear Track #01 - Animals

I'm blogging each track from my debut album Without Fear, in no particular order.

Here is "Animals" on the player!



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For you facebook viewers, here's the link to the youtube vid:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=thATXkbrRV8


Music
Along with "Lighthouses", "Animals" is one of the first tracks I wrote for my renewed solo project. It was a complete change of scene from the straightforward indie-punky-rock of F451, and I loved having a song that was cheeky and bouncy but still very me. It's remained one of my strongest songs (in my opinion) and comes out at almost every live performance - both of these are to do with the fact it's easily playable on just one acoustic guitar, unlike a few of the other album tracks. I like it and it's a great choice to open the album with.

Lyrics
The full title of this song was "The Animals Reject Their Names". I've since learned that basically awkward long titles don't help cool songs get noticed. But that's the gist of the song: animals rebelling, breaking out of the zoo, roaming the streets, and generally causing a ruckus. It only mentions lions and elephants by name (or sometimes tigers), but I like to thing of baboons and marmosets and wildcats and giraffes galloping and screeching and swinging from TV ariels. Just try and picture it.

By the lion enclosure, I wanna expose ya
I wanna get closer, before your life will be over
Just remember that it’s

It’s in na-na-nee-na-na
It’s in na-na-nee-na-na…

It’s inevitable, one day they’ll have us up against the wall
It’s inevitable, one day the animals reject their names

They’ve had enough today
They wanna live with their own names
They’re on the streets today

By the elephant enclosure, they’re ferocious and older
They’re angry and they remember, all the days of your slaughter
Just remember that it’s!

It’s in na-na-nee-na-na
It’s in na-na-nee-na-na…

It’s inevitable, one day they’ll have us up against the wall
It’s inevitable, one day the animals reject their names

They’ve had enough today
They wanna live with their own names
They’re on the streets today

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

No Never launch- it begins!

The book is out now! It can be purchased from http://lulu.com/jezkemp

Right now I'm in the comfy surrounds of Pit Bar, Bats Theatre. Books + cupcakes + friends + beer + music + balloons + more beer + book quotes on cute coloured cardboard cutouts = launch fun times :)

I will be tweeting on twitter at twitter.com/jezkemp and under the tag #nonever

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Without Fear Track #8 - The Future's What You Want it To Be

Continuing my blogs about each track on my new debut album Without Fear - in the order they were uploaded. Hence today's track #8 "The Future's What You Want It To Be", or just "The Future" as I refer to it sometimes.

Hopefully you can hear it on the player here!




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Music
Another musical departure for me, The Future... is catchy but laid-back, slow-tempo, and takes its time building to a powerful finish. It's almost a gentle, airy song, the reverb'd vocals drifting with the chords until the bridge comes in.
Watch out for the strings/organ-esque sound in the final chorus - as with every track on Without Fear, all sounds are made by acoustic guitar. I had great fun making this sound by
-playing each note in the scale (F# minor I think)
-over several octaves (3 I think)
-cutting off the harsh pluck at the start of the note
-fading in the rest of the sound
-copy & pasting each note loads and loads of times, cross-fading them together to create a "whauuuuuum" of each note, and gluing them together
-giving each note its own track, thus creating a "map" structure to place each note
-assigning a top, middle and bottom note for each bar, thus creating a chord, and fading in each "whuuuuuum"
-add chorus, reverb and delay to the whole group of tracks to smooth out the sound!

Sounds tricky explained like that, but it's really intuitive once you're there editing! I'm going to do some Youtube videos explaining how I made all the sounds I did with just an acoustic guitar, it'll include this one.

Lyrics
The theme of the song is a basic question: how come the world doesn't look like we thought it would? Flying cars, living on the moon, etc. etc. etc. But beneath that - and clearer towards the end of the song - is the point that we make our own future, and we are making it right now. Who cares that we don't live on the moon? (yet) Is it really a problem that we don't have flying cars? (yet) These are distractions, gimmicks. Getting people living on the moon is hardly worth aiming for when we still have starvation, wars, poverty, joblessness, HIV, people living under dictatorship and others living by superstition and under religious doctrine.

It is up to us to make the future that we want to live in, and the things we often dream of the future being are rarely the things we should be changing now.

There is also a cameo from Ecco the Dolphin in the second bridge ("there's no dolphins who travel through time"). Playing the megadrive was part of my childhood - I thought it would be fun to throw in a line from one of my favourite games. Also that's why there's a megadrive controller in the Without Fear artwork! :)

In the future, nobody is older
In the future, everybody always looks young
In the future, everybody’s hot forever
In the future, everybody’s song gets sung

Tell me why, nothing ever turns out like we write, in space age or sci-fi
Tell me why, we all think it’s gonna be fine

We could like in a world where people take video with their eyes
But we might find that we would never have the time
To be free, to be free
The future’s what you want it to be
The future’s what you want it to be

In the future, our energy comes from water
In the future, everybody lives on the moon
In the future, there’s shiny robots that cure cancer
But I don’t think, the future’s any time too soon

Tell me why, nothing ever turns out like we write, it’s the future but not quite
There’s no dolphins who travel through time

We could like in a world where people take video with their eyes
But we might find that we would never have the time
To be free, to be free
The future’s what you want it to be
The future’s what you want it to be

Take your science and technology, is that what you want it to be
Superstition and plastic surgery, is that what you want it to be
Success at any cost, or do you want to live a life with balance
Time accepts no apologies

The future’s what you want it to be
The future’s what you want it to be

Friday, 27 November 2009

Brand new handmade album copies

Fabric-lined handmade copies of my debut album "Without Fear". For just $5NZ, what's not to love?

Friday, 20 November 2009

P.S. Lighthouses

By the way, Lighthouses is where the album title "Without Fear" comes from. Just wanted to mention!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Without Fear Track #2 - Lighthouses

I'm going to blog about the music, lyrics and background to each of the 10 tracks on Without Fear as they get uploaded. Obviously it's to drum up more interest ahead of the release, but they'll also act as more detail to back up the track-by-track guide on the brand new Without Fear minisite.

This means I have to backtrack a bit and cover two tracks (or three in a way) which have already been online. The first one is track #2 Lighthouses, which you can hopefully hear on the player thusly:



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Music
Lighthouses is the first song I started writing for my renewed solo project, coming together during the dying stages of F451 in November/December 2007.
The chords that make up Lighthouses' chorus had been knocking around for some time - I'd often play around with chords that use those top two open strings that really ring, even if the notes (B and E) don't especially fit with the chord (or sometimes especially because they don't fit).
The riff is nice and simple, but sometimes the best ones are - most great riffs aren't about the riff itself, but the relationship between the individual notes and the backing chords. This is one of the most frustrating things about being a solo acoustic guitarist or even a single guitarist in a band, becuase you can't play a riff and chords at the same time (much as I try), and listeners can't hear the brilliant mixture that you can in your head.
Originally the song had a middle part, which would break down into quiet - often prompting people to clap, thinking it was the end of the song, a genius idea if I do say so - before striking up for one last chorus. However, I tried this on an initial demo at Matt's (of The Library Suits) though, and it came to a ridiculous 5+ minutes - so with the end fading out anyway, I scaled it back to a nice and sensible structure of just verse-bridge-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus. The chorus repeats the same first line four times anyway, so I think it's quite enough for pop and indie fans.
Have a listen out in the second half of each verse for the backing keyboard-esque sound. This was made by playing a guitar chord, fading in the volume from zero, and adding chorus and delay effects. I struggled when mixing the track to make it sound loud enough as a part in its own right, but then I remembered its a backing part, and even if you can't consciously hear the sound, it still makes up part of the music.

Lyrics
Lyrically this marked quite a change for me, since it wasn't a) railing about politics, or b) railing about politics. I've always resisted writing songs about myself or my own feelings because I'm the only one who's seen them, and I'm egotistical enough without expecting everyone to hang on my every word about my life, plus - most importantly - there's far too many singer-songwriters whining on about their small, narrow, personal experiences which vary from boringly domestic to sadly pathetic. I don't want to be one of those people.
Still, here it is, a personal song from Jez Kemp. It's hard to pin down the theme and the feeling - it's guarded yet hopeful, it's about regret yet it's positive. The general idea is that we shouldn't forget the mistakes and regrets we have, because they're what make us the real stuff that we're made of far more than the bright, happy, easy times we're lucky to have.
There's several references, including those of self-harm and prostitution (using, not providing!). I'll probably blog about self-harm in greater detail another time, but here it's enough to say this: it was a part of my youth, I'm up front about my scars, and - apart from the upset it caused my friends and family - I don't regret it at all.
Regarding prostitution, I think most human beings find the topic a big grey area - while it's wrong that many women through history have been forced to sell sex for money, we shouldn't criminalise or demean those women who do it either unwillingly or by choice. (Don't let "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" mislead you about how unglamorous, upsetting and dangerous prostitution is for most women around the world.) Anyway, the song refers to one experience I had, which I admit to - the incident itself was a drunken blur and something I never deliberately set out to do, which sounds ridiculous but is true - and while I can't claim to be a saint over it, sometimes you only know where the line is after you've crossed it.
Another line refers to the Atlantic - this is an admittedly rather ordinary link to my first experience couchsurfing, when I stayed with a lovely girl in Lisbon (Portugal) and we saw the sun setting over the Atlantic. I can't describe in words here how it was meaningful, it was just one of those points where the spirit of the moment captures how your life is changing.

So there you have it, a song about identity, regrets, and personal hope. To the casual observer it might appear a wholly negative song with the dark lyrics, but real humans can deal with varying degrees of dark and light in the same situation - it's a song about understanding yourself, so you can accept your past and make your future.

To finish up, here's the lyrics:

I know what you’re here for
The wisdom of the traveller in blazing sunsets
But you won’t find it here no
You won’t find it now if you don’t know what it is yet

And I’ll tell you how, I’ll tell you how to live
Without fear of the past or the future
And I’ll tell you now, I’ll tell you now
To live without scars is to paint with water

And I will be your friend, and I will take my time
Tell you all the things that you shouldn’t have to hide
And I will be your friend, and I will take my time

I can see by the lighthouse
All of the regrets and the scars that are mine
I can see by the lighthouse
Out across the sea, for what feels like the last time
I can see by the lighthouse
To live without scars is to paint with water
I can see by the lighthouse
Hold onto your regrets, they’re what make us who we are

The sex that I paid for
Sometimes you have to cross the line to know where it is now
And the scars that I made myself
Sometimes you have to draw a map if nobody else will

And I’ll tell you how, I’ll tell you how to live
Take your youth and please never waste it
‘Cos all I have to offer you now are my scars, and the view across the Atlantic

And I will be your friend, and I will take my time
Tell you all the things that you shouldn’t have to hide
And I will be your friend, and I will take my time

I can see by the lighthouse
All of the regrets and the scars that are mine
I can see by the lighthouse
Out across the sea, for what feels like the last time
I can see by the lighthouse
To live without scars is to paint with water
I can see by the lighthouse
Hold onto your regrets, and the crazy times we’ve had

Monday, 16 November 2009

Without Fear: the debut album December 2009

I finished recording the album! Minisite coming soon.

Just in case you've not seen it, here's the artwork and tracklisting:



1. Animals
2. Lighthouses
3. Lighten Up, No Thanks
4. The Tsunami, The Tank And The Barcode
5. Shark In A Goldfish Bowl
6. J-Lo Is A Rich Materialist Bitch And Represents The Block In No Way Whatsoever
7. Sunlight On The Cemetary
8. The Future's What You Want It To Be
9. One Last Parting Shot
10. The Holy Texts

Friday, 13 November 2009

How not to write an action epic disaster dystopia

I love dystopia. I really do. Several of my books are based on it. Okay maybe "dystopia" and "apocalypse disaster" qualify as separate genres, but this is just a very quick blog to say why you should not pay money to see 2012 the film.

I've seen the trailer. It looks terrible. It looks like how stuff.co.nz describes it here:

By sticking to a rigid formula - five or six intercut story lines, estranged husband emerges to save the day, and some vague nonsense about "love conquering all" - Emmerich has become one of Hollywood's most reliable cash-cows.

This will be a terrible film. It will be terrible because the plot will be awful. It will be terrible because it will have a perfect, meant-to-be ending with Big Meaningful Music to accompany it. It will be terrible because any historical basis it rests upon will be hacked and abused beyond recognition. But it will mostly be terrible because his other films, which the trailer resembles so perfectly, were also terrible.

I quote from the stuff.co.nz review page comments section:

Hamish: ...If you did enjoy Independence Day, Day After Tomorrow and Godzilla, this film is for you. I will definitely buy this on Blu-Ray when it comes out.

Independence Day? The film where the dog jumps to safety just at the last second, and where Will Smith beats up an alien with his bare fists? Godzilla? The film where Godzilla managed to trick the helicopters by hiding in a skyscraper, and then tricked the submarines' torpedoes by making them hit the submarines that fired them? These films were terrible! They were fucking awful! I was 15 when I saw Godzilla I still thought it was awful.

There is an old old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover", but you know what, sometimes you can judge a film by its trailer.

I could be wrong. This film could be genius. It could be brilliant. If it is, come and tell me, by all means, write in caps lock on my blog or facebook.

But seriously. What are the chances it is?

I have two comparisons. One is the Clash Of The Titans remake - while I thought it was going to be awful and butcher the legend of Perseus, the trailer actually looks damn awesome:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcBNHZEiX0g


AND guess what? The music has been done by Matt Bellamy from Muse. You can hear it in the trailer!

My second example is simply that of District 9. If you didn't get a chance to see it at the cinema, find a way to see it. This is a brilliant, gripping, credible sci-fi film, and made for just USD$30m I bet it's ten times the film 2012 will be.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Work Permit ahoy

After 5 months of faffing around trying to get evidence, my application for an NZ partnership work permit has been processed and approved in 24 hours.

Pretty good for any immigration agency eh?

Remembrance, white poppies and the 2-minute silence fad

Okay this is something I feel quite strongly about and I have things to do, so I'll keep it short.

Today is 11th November, where people in the UK and around the world mark Remembrance Day, remembering those who have fallen in both World Wars and other wars. This is a good thing and I definitely think a few moments' silent reflection are a good thing. However there are a few things about the way it's all done that I don't like.

Silences in recent years have jumped from 1 minute, which was fine for most of the 20th century, to 2 minutes. All "serious" events now have 2 minutes of silence, as if 1 minute is somehow not respectful enough. But I'm surely not the only person who thought 1 minute was fine.

Silences are also thrown around far too much, like it's the only way we can come to terms with anything. The Friday after 11th September 2001, we had a 3 minute silence in school. Someone somewhere thought it was of such gravity that it needed 180 seconds. Not only was it unnecessary, it was also inescapably political - we marked it because it happened in America, and because it was terrorism. Vastly higher numbers died in the 2005 Asian Tsunami and when Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, and I don't remember any silences then; the event was elevated to some higher status because these dead people had been killed by Muslims. September 11th was horrendous and I don't wish any disrespect to anyone over it, but it's a mark of personal shame that I didn't walk out of the classroom. I was in the supermarket when a national 2 minute silence was being held after the 7th July 2005 bombings in London, which were also shit, but I carried on walking around doing my shopping because I don't see why we stop for some things and not others.

Secondly, I dislike the requirement of wearing the red poppy for 2 whole weeks before Remembrance Day itself. It's like Christmas in the UK - somehow we can't just mark an event on the day itself. With the run-up to Christmas it's a commercial thing to sell more stuff; with the poppy 2 weeks, it's again some kind of competitive grief, like the jump from 1 minute of silence to 2 minutes. Any politician (or any person on TV) seen not wearing it during this 2-week period would get instantly shot down for being "disrespectful". I understand the poppy as a symbol for remembrance and the Royal British Legion, but it's just a symbol.

People should be able to mark their grief in their own time and way on the single day we have without facing anger or abuse.

Finally, I also dislike the overly military aspect of Remembrance Day. Yes, it is kind of about the military, and it is good that we recognise soldiers who have died in just wars to protect our freedom (e.g. World War 2) and other stupid wars where they should never have been sent to their deaths (e.g. World War 1, Iraq War). But there is no recognition for the civilian cost of war and there is no recognition that war is a bad thing; if anything, Remembrance Day comes across to me as pro-military and wrapped up in outdated ceremonies that have no relation to the real wars going on right now. This is why I approve of wearing White Poppies for peace, as a way of marking Remembrance Day. The White Poppy movement symbolises both remembrance and an awareness of the need to campaign for peace. It's surely just as important to remember the dead as it is to stop making more of them.
http://www.whitepoppy.org.uk/

Monday, 9 November 2009

In Defence Of Flyposting

So yesterday I went flyposting in the bustling metropolis of Wellington city. I was putting up posters for my book launch and it was good to see my posters up with others for various events. I was going to write this blog anyway, but felt it was more important after coming across this blog describing why "flyposting is evil". Not just discourteous or even wrong, but EVIL!

Let me describe 3 places I have lived:

Chelmsford - flyposting not allowed, very little flyposting. You can get a good picture of Chelmsford from reading a previous blog entry - it's middle class, relatively clean, and rather dull. There's very little flyposting, although to be fair, there's hardly any cultural scene to poster about.

Bristol - flyposting not allowed, but lots of flyposting. Bristol has a thriving music, arts and cultural scene, and clearly has a lot of people who don't care about breaking the law putting up posters. This isn't to say that they go up anywhere - the council is quite hot on it, and even idiots are respectful enough not to post straight onto the Wills Memorial Building. But admittedly some parts of the city centre look less than tidy. I found it hard to feel angry though, as these posters described and showed a busy cultural scene I'd never seen before, and in a public way - and what alternative when there is no proper official place for local community advertising?

Wellington - flyposting is accommodated and allowed, there is lots of it. Wellington City Council in their wisdom has set up big drums and boards dedicated for flyposting. This gives a proper and legal outlet for Wellington's busy arts and cultural scene, with professional posters for big council-associated events side-by-side with DIY posters for local gigs and events (such as mine). True, flyposting does go outside this, but it mostly happens on abandoned properties and dilapidated shop fronts - and I would argue that these properties look better and are more useful with posters than without.

Personally, my argument for flyposting is roughly the same as grafitti - it shows a town or city has life and events and soul, while banning it makes a place look sanitised, clean and boring. Okay, I haven't lived in some dodgy towns in the North of England where the flyposting is out of control and the grafitti has no talent, and grafitti should always be either artistic or political (unlike the tagging and pointless shit varieties you get).

On a more political level, I have to agree with this article by Urban75 and Naomi Klein's 2000 book No Logo. The plain fact is, big corporations have huge amounts of money to put their images and their messages telling you to buy their products all over public spaces, and the only differences between their legal billboard advertising and the flyposter's illegal A3 posters are a) having huge stacks of money and b) having an authorised space to do it. In so many places, local bands and artists and promoters and theatres and individuals have no place to post messages and events about their local community. Just to bring the point home, the entire purpose of corporate advertising strategies is to sell products and make money, nothing else. Local posters are often about making money too, but they also have a number of myriad functions about enriching the local community and keeping people informed. (Plus the money made also stays in the local economy!) While out yesterday, I saw a poster on a wall - not an official board or drum - entitled "POETRY READING AT PEGASUS BOOKS". The message wasn't "buy this shit, it will improve your social status", it was "come and hear poetry read in a local bookshop". Anyone who thinks that flyposter is evil and/or should be criminalised is heartless and, worse, thoughtless.

However, I'm not advocating breaking the law, and you shouldn't have to - ironically I roughly agree with Bigmouth's blog on the subject of following the European model, which is what they seem to have done here in Wellington. As with grafitti, providing a proper authorised outlet fulfils a number of functions:

-Restricts the amount and mess of unauthorised flyposting on private property
-Encourages the arts scene by providing legitimate advertising for local people, groups and events
-Shows members of the cultural scene and flyposters that the council want to co-operate rather than punish

So there it is, my case for flyposting legally and sensibly. If your local council doesn't have boards or space for local people to post local events, ask them why not.

By the way here's that image I sent from my phone the right way up. Not sure if I can rotate photos on my phone!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Reasons I might, or might not, get published one day

Okay, I like lists, and I like writing bad things first so you end on the good things. Let's begin!

- I do not give a capital shit about what's trendy, or what's in, or how to style myself in the "current market". I don't give a damn about schoolboy wizards or teen vampire dramas* or whatever new fad the creative world wants to market. If I wanted a job where I had to act like someone else and produce work I didn't like, I'd work in advertising. Pursuing a career is about compromise, but there's a difference between being practical and selling your soul. Which is all very principled ... but it's hardly going to help in the world of The Publishing Industry.

- I don't go in for "conventions of the industry" as one agent said in an interview, listing things she liked in new authors. I am committed and dedicated and professional, and none of these things require the arcane traditions of any industry's conventions such as schmoozing with the right people or restricting who, how, where and what you talk about. Which is again great ... but not helpful.

- I'm outspoken and stubborn. I reserve the right to speak my mind, especially if I'm being bullshitted or taken for a ride. This doesn't engender me to anyone in a professional industry who's looking for a safe working relationship. I'm unashamed about this, and stand by outspoken comments I've made - whether slating a truly awful nu-metal band in a 2002 music review, or describing how a music promoter took our money and did something completely unacceptable to our original agreement - but it's not going to help me.

- I'm outspoken and political. Professional agents and publishers who want to maintain a sleek public relations strategy probably don't want a client bleating on about Palestine and Westminster and the UN.

- My writing is unconventional. Even my newest books, which are my best and most engaging work so far, are set in a bizarre fictional world I conjured out of my head/arse. The Publishing Industry will tell you they want originality, but what they really want is saleable, conventional orignality that strays from the norm just enough to give it a catchy soundbite.

- I live in Wellington, New Zealand. While I love it here, I can hardly have coffee with darlings in London or New York.

- I write science fiction and fantasy (often shortened to SF), which is by no means a busy market, and establishing a name for yourself as a credible SF author is hard.


Okay, so that's quite a negative outlook, and it's not even an exhaustive list. It also looks quite angry, which I'm not, just passionate. Okay maybe just a little angry :)

Anyway, here's the positive stuff. I'm looking forward to this!

- I'm YOUNG. There's no shelf-life like there is in rock music - I have a long, long time to become an author.

- I'm a musician as well as writer. I can, and will, and do cross-promote myself in both fields - and the more I produce in each field, the better the promotion.

- I am tech-savvy and internet-friendly and I love engaging with people online and offline. I combine the patheticness of an internet geek and the glitter of a real-world socialite in one buzzing ball of self-promotion, both online and offline.

- My stuff's good! Okay blow-your-own-trombone time, but I've had an energetic buzz from seeing people reading this trilogy and enjoying it. I think it's largely down to adding surreal-yet-casual comedy in the vein of Hitchhiker's Guide or Terry Pratchett, and I shall be working more on the humour in future works.

- I'm original. Noel Gallagher was asked once about pop music, and his reply was something like, "well I'm laughing, cos I write all my songs, so in 15 years I'll still be getting paid". In the long run, it's original people with new ideas that make progress and see the rewards.

- I don't necessarily need to beg and plead for a leg-up from The Publishing Industry . In the 21st century world of internet ideas and personalities, I may easily be able to gather enough intial success and momentum - enough to get noticed - all by myself.

- As much as it looks like I dislike anyone or anything associated with "the industry", if anyone actually came to me and convinced me they a) liked my stuff and b) understood it, I'd be over the moon and a keen, engaged, co-operative partner. These people are out there. I just have to find them.


So, a whistlestop tour round the feelings, worries and hopes in my mind of attaining a professional, realiable writing career in the future. Personally, while I realise being a stubborn little gobshite puts me at a distinct disadvantage, I'm hopeful that my dedication and self-belief will get me somewhere. It's the only thing that's got me here so far.

Oh, and the quality of my work. But that was never in question, right?

*I am a fan of good, original vampires though, such as Brian Lumley's Necroscope series.

Flyposting

Just been flyposting round Wellington city centre- great fun! More soon.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Getting published? Um, yeah, or nah...

A question I get asked very often when I tell people I write books is "oh are you published?", after which I usually explain what Print On Demand is and that's how I make/sell my books. Ideally, I've wanted to become published ever since I started writing when I was 10, but it's a goal I've become more realistic and even a bit cynical about.

Getting published by a real publisher is like an author's equivalent of getting signed - and I've been there, in a band where the goal was to get signed. In that circumstance, being honest, it was pretty shit, because when the industry rejects you, you blame yourself for not being good enough or for not working hard enough. There's also the angle of how (un)commercial you are, which shouldn't matter but it does, and it's another thing you can (and I do) blame yourself over. The mission to get signed was one of the pressures that contributed to the band splitting up, and my goal since then has been never to let that kind of pressure and self-blame affect what I do.

It's a feeling I took with me changing my focus from music to writing, and it's why I like print-on-demand - I can write my books, make them available, do a little promo, and leave it at that. I'm not desperately hawking my wares round agents and publishers, getting rejection letters after my work's chucked in the slush pile or not even looked at. That goes especially for this trilogy, which - despite being roughly a combination of Terry Pratchett and Iain M. Banks, two hugely successful authors - is even more unconventional and arguably uncommercial than a political indie-punk-rock band.

But this comfy situation has started to change. My wonderful girlfriend has seen me writing, not just the books but other bits too, and suggested that I look up some journals to write for and send stuff off to publishers. This is great - before now, I've never had someone special to give me that kind of support, even if it is a little scary pushing myself back into that zone again. And secondly, the other day I saw the film Julie and Julia, where there are two stories of writers becoming published - one the old-fashioned way back in the 60s, the other through simply being a blogger with a popular and saleable idea. It made me sad watching it with the background feeling of never being published, and I was thinking up a self-pitying blog to explain why I'll never get published, before realising how much of a wanker I'd be if I did. You don't want to read it and I don't want to be that person. So I've decided to get back into it, to try and climb that impossible mountain.

Expect a follow-up blog with more soon.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The clash between evidence and public opinion

Normally this would just be a facebook status or twatter tweet, but I thought it merited a blog.  Mark Easton writes the BBC's blog on the UK - his latest entry is on the sacking of Professor David Nutt, Chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The gist is that Nutt has been making comments in the public arena on drugs policy, when the ACMD is supposed to simply provide neutral evidence, even though his comments are based on evidence.

"To suggest that taking ecstasy is less dangerous than horse-riding, or that cannabis is safer than alcohol and tobacco - however true that may be - is to say the unsayable in the political drugs debate."

I'm not a massive fan of drugs: they're sometimes or often dangerous, and personally I get nervous around people on cocaine or other drugs who get lary and unpredictable. But laws around drugs should be made on evidence, and they should make sense. This isn't to say that cannabis and ecstasy aren't ever dangerous, but it's clear government is too scared to make or change policy on the basis of evidence in the face of public opinion - which is never balanced on the subject of drugs. This is wrong. Government should listen to the public but politics is about explaining your position and convincing people, not pandering to panic.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Short story!

Check it out, 2min story :)

Camden

'Steve? Steve come on, pick up,' said Dave into the phone needlessly as it rang. He jumped up the steps of the underground station two at a time, dodging old people and couples.

'Mate, where've you been?' came the reply.  'I've been waiting here for ages.'

'Sorry man the tube got held up,' apologised Dave hurriedly.  He fumbled with his ticket at the gates while holding his phone.  'One day they'll get mobile coverage underground.'

'Huh, one day,' said Steve on the phone.  'Are you here or what?'

Dave burst out into the grey daylight outside Camden tube station.  'Yeah, I'm here now, where are you?'  He scanned the crowded pavement, getting jostled by people on all sides, but couldn't see his friend.

'I'm right here outside the station.  Standing by the signpost.'

'Really?'  Dave looked awkwardly through crowds of smoking youngsters and chatting friends, but saw no-one by the signpost.  'There's no-one here.'

'Seriously mate, I'm right here, have been for the last twenty-five minutes.'

Dave pushed through the crowds, coughing on the air.  Everyone seemed to be smoking around him.  He made it to the signpost, where still Steve failed to appear.

'Look mate, I'm sorry I'm late, but there's no need to pull my leg.'

'I ain't pulling your leg mate.  What happened did you get off at the wrong Camden?'

'Don't be stupid, there's only one—'

Dave stopped, then looked around him.  Young men with coloured mohawks shared cigarettes by the railing, while old men in flat caps shuffled by with newspapers tucked under their arms.  Above him, the old buildings were stained black with soot.

'Oh no,' he moaned.  'I've got off at the 1976 branch.  I knew I should've changed at Edgeware Road.  Go and get a drink, I'll be there in half an hour.'

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Atheism and Secularism - spot the difference

Just a quick blog to explain the difference between atheism and secularism.

Atheism, as most people know, is the belief that there is no god of any type. Strictly speaking this just refers to god(s), but most atheists also reject ideas about spirituality, afterlife, and other unseen concepts such as chakras, auras, energies etc.

Secularism is the belief that religion should not be a part of government, public institutions, large organisations and/or (to a greater or lesser extent) public life itself.

Many people lump them together, but they are very very different ideas. To look at them bluntly, sure, they are both technically "anti-god", and many atheists are secularists because they simply don't like religious influence over their lives. However it's quite possible for spiritual or religious people to be secularist too.

I am atheist because I don't believe there is a god. Very straightforward. I won't bang on about it here.

However, my atheism personally leads me to secularism, and it's more than simply due to disliking organised religion. I am allowed to be atheist without fear of punishment or persecution because society allows it. I'm grateful for that tolerance, and I think everyone should have the freedom to personally believe in whatever religion they like, no matter how wrong or crazy (unless it hurts people). This is why I am a secularist, and I think everyone should be secularist: it is, ironically, the only way to protect people's religious freedoms - whether they have a religion or not.

I know there is much confusion over these issues - I'm going to post another blog with some detail and examples about secularism, so if you've got any queries, give me a shout and I'll include your questions.

For now though, I ask you all to please support the cause of secularism, whatever your religion or culture.

P.S. No-one expects the-!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Chelmsford, Essex

As most of you will know I am not a fan of my native Chelmsford or Essex. For those of you not familiar, Essex has a reputation, largely about Essex girls. This is not news. But it's been interesting to visit while being back in the UK to see friends and family, and I thought I should write down and explain the reasons why I dislike(d) it quite so much.

Firstly, I can't be too harsh on either town or county because that's where my friends and family live, and still live - for whatever reason, almost all of them still live there, so it's not quite as horrifying as say Darfur or Iraq. Also, as one friend pointed out, it's the place that's made us (our group of friends) who we are today.

That said, I've always felt I was a reaction against it - both Chelmsford and Essex have a thorough lack of culture, variety, things for young people to do, and anything cosmopolitan. This is reflected by its lack of cities, and the fact it's next to London, where many people work and have fun. The only thing that distinguishes Chelmsford from the county it's relatively safe and middle class, although this kind of confirms its thoroughly boring nature. Obviously I was always going to have a hard time for being an unconventional young person anywhere in the world, but as a whole, Essex is somewhere where ignorant youth and conservative old age manage to find common ground.

I'm generalising of course, and I should remind everyone that prejudice is a bad thing and it's important not to judge people you don't know. However, if we weren't able to generalise, we'd be unable to describe a LOT of things in the world; if we have to put caveats and exceptions in every statement we made, it would take a long time to actually say anything. Also I grew up in Essex, so there's nothing much "pre" about my judging ;) My point is, there is a definite culture in Essex where it's hard to be openly different, progressive, intelligent or left-wing. Use long words in the pub and you get funny looks. Walk up the High Street without slouching and you get a troop of kids in bling and track suits trailing you, doing impressions.

So ... what was my impression of Chelmsford the last few weeks? Has it changed? Yes and no, I think. Certainly it's different, mostly in the form of new developments - the centre is starting to look like a functioning town, rather than just a high street with some odd pubs scattered around. Sadly there's still a dearth of independent shops and cafes - I swear that for every £1 of investment in Chelmsford, £2 goes back out via the chain stores with their head offices and shareholders elsewhere. But there's still some hearty people putting on live music, and even a promising venue in the form of Barhouse, where I had a great night playing with other local acoustic acts and seeing friends. There's still interesting people hanging out on the fringes, which is good. I saw several foreign people while out and about in town too - not muslims, as you might stereotypically expect - which in my view is a promising sign in terms of having a cosmopolitan mix of cultures.
Overall, in general while it looks a bit different, I'm not sure the place has changed that much really.

The sad thing about Chelmsford is that a lot of interesting young people who like interesting things go to university and never come back. Then comfortable to well-off conservative couples move in because it's safe and a great place to have kids (apparently). Combine this with a large number of professionals working and partying in London, and you have very little pressure for the dynamic cultural exciting things that a large town should have. I say "should", I guess it really depends on your point of view. Also I should point out there are these kind of things going on - they're just not so many, under the surface and disconnected. You have to root around and get to know the right before to find them.

And of course, it doesn't help with people like me leaving and complaining, instead of staying and doing something about it. But sometimes tides are very tough to push against.

So there you go, a rather meandering and quite biased view of Chelmsford and Essex. I could go on and on with details of varying relevance, but a) thankfully I shan't, and b) I'd like to leave you with one of my lasting images of Essex. I was handing out anti-war flyers in early 2003 on Chelmsford High Street, and a girl no older than 10 walked past saying "I think we should bomb the cunts".

Some of you might not understand the many reasons why that moment still horrifies me so much, nor why I think it sums up a dominant streak in Essex culture. But hopefully you will.

Adventures without sleep

I'm writing to you from the transit lounge of Hong Kong Intl airport. I've got a lot of time for Hong Kong airport, which is lucky because I have to spend so much time here. I'm in the middle of my longest-ever flight - "longest-ever" purely because my stop-off is 8 hours long. Maybe it doesn't even count as one flight. But it does for me becuase I can't be bothered to leave the airport - maybe I should, but it's always a lot of hassle to leave/enter airports, especially ones you don't have a visa for.

So to recap - I got 6 hours sleep on Tuesday night, then 3 hours sleep on Wednesday night, before leaving Heathrow at 12noon on Thursday and arriving 12 hours later here at 7:00am in Hong Kong. Yes - 12 + 12 = 7. Bizarre. Thankfully though, when you fly with the world, the night is very short (unlike the 12-hour flight I made the other way to LDN last month, completely in the dark). This afternoon, I have do it all over again - a 12-hour flight departing at 3:00pm arrives in Auckland at 7:00am - and yet somehow I'm feeling roughly okay. I'm still feeling pretty rough though as well.

Back to HKG. It's hard to compare it to Heathrow when I've never come in or gone out of Hong Kong, but the transit and depature gates area is quite nice - a looooong central channel, splitting into 2 at both ends, with all the gates next to each other, together. There's racks and racks and racks of seats so you'll never be made to stand, and there's FREE WI-FI, confirming it as a proper airport (I'm looking at you Auckland!). Heathrow has free wi-fi, but then again Heathrow a horrible mess of grey on the outside and a horrible mess of shops, crap and confusing layout on the inside. And I didn't even have to go via Terminal 5 - a lady next to me flying all the way from Newcastle to Sydney is probably 16,000 miles away from her luggage right now. (I've just noticed the Wikipedia article for Terminal 5 has no reference whatsoever to the debacle of its opening in 2008 where several hundred thousand items of luggage were delayed by months or have never been receovered.)

So, in terms of my favourite airports, or maybe make that leastunfavourite (a new word I declare!), Hong Kong is up there with Wellington's charming and practical small airport and Rarotonga's wonderful "is this really an airport?" collection of palm trees and outdoor benches.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Currency

Normally the rate of British pounds (GBP) to NZ dollars (NZD) is between $2.5 and $3 for every £1. So consider my horror when I recently checked the rate and saw it's about $2.1 or $2.2. I don't have riches and I don't make my living playing the finance markets, but it still affects my money.

However, I've found one silver lining. I'll be ordering a test copy of my new book soon, and in the next month ordering a bunch for the launch at the Pit Bar (Bats Theatre, Wellington) on 2nd December. Buying these in dollars suddenly makes them that little bit more profitable. Huzzah.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Moving TV/radio

I saw and heard a couple of things on TV/radio this week which moved me. I'm not usually squeamish or sentimental, but for whatever reason I found these accounts very sad and quite chilling.

Last night was the The Force, a TV documentary of a real murder case from start (discovering a burnt, unidentifiable body in a suitcase in the countryside) right through to its end. The whole account is tragic, right from the start where they can't even identify the body. But towards the end, they show the killer on CCTV carrying a large suitcase up to his flat with one hand, light as a feather; then straight afterwards, it shows him dragging it out along the ground, clearly holding something very heavy. Very few films or programs have made me feel so cold.

Earlier in the day, I listened to Michael Buerk's program The Choice, starting a new series on BBC Radio 4. This interviewee was Stuart Howarth, a man who was abused as a child by his stepfather in lots of horrible ways I won't mention here. It was strange and yet very human hearing the man's obvious love and adoration for the father figure he remembered despite the terrible nature of abuse. But what I found most interesting was his reaction to his mother, after his stepfather had been sent to prison, finally revealing that he wasn't Stuart's real father at all: "I hated her". It seemed very strange to hear how a man could love his abuser so strongly and yet hate his mother for something which seemed comparatively irrelevant.

Not the most uplifting blog post I know, sorry if I've darkened your day somewhat. But I think it's good and right that these kind of programs are on and out there. They remind us that bad things really do happen, in a way that doesn't glamorise or trivialise the mundane and human side of these events.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Yes, it is an outrage

AUTOTUNE. You probably know it from wonderful fellows like T-Pain who use it to sing like a robot. But autotune has been around for ages helping pop stars sound plastic and inhumanly glossy.

In my last band we found it useful for ironing out some glitches - basically, we weren't pro singers and you want to make a nice recording. Our producer would draw a tiny line on a graph just in the little bits where our voice had done something funny.

But I was fervently against the use of it all the time. Relying on it like some kind of crutch! Especially the true EVIL of automatic autotune - letting the computer automatically work out what note you wanted, which would barbarically destroy the individual nature of your vocals. It's an outrage against music and creativity!

Except now I have found it's very helpful for my album. So now it's less THE DEVIL ITSELF, and more kind of my friend.

I've been peeking around at the draft files for my forthcoming 10-track acoustic-rock album, and the good news is there's a lot of promising stuff laid down already. And since I'm recording with extremely limited equipment - my laptop's in-built webcam microphone! - I'm quite happy to use anything I can to make it sound nicer. And this includes autotune, particularly on backing vocals. Say for instance I've got 4 tracks of vocals that all have single-note "ah"s - I can just group them together, add autotune, and click the box that says "automatic pitch correction". And the backing vocals all come out neat and tidy!

I'm a philistine aren't I?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Tories wetting themselves

David Cameron had a big speech today where, as usual, he tried desperately to be his hero Tony Blair. For all that Cameron criticises Blair, he acts like him and appears tragically jealous of the genuine (if a bit weird) adoration Blair inspired.

Cameron made his big pitch on a personal basis rather than policies, which gives a fair indication that the Tories don't actually have any. It's fair to say that Labour have run out of steam and run out of ideas, but at least they had some in the first place.

There was a moment of shocked indignation where Cameron rightly pointed out that Labour have not helped the worst-off as much as they should, but wrongly claimed that it was "left to the Tories to help the nation's poor". Cue the entire Conservative Party wetting themselves like over-excited puppies with excitement that people might think they, the right-wing party of right-wing British politics, are on the side of the Average Ordinary Common Man In The Street. Yes Labour have alienated ordinary middle and working class people as well as the rich, but it's mostly on an emotional level about things like red tape and Political Correctness Gone Mad - things which are equally a result of the state, not just the government of the day.

The worst part was finding out that William Bloody Hague is likely to be our next Foreign Minister. WBH was the first leader of the Conservative Party after 1997 and took the party dramatically to the right, appealling to xenophobes and racists when they made Europe and immigration their top priorities. Foreign Ministers have to TALK to other countries about stuff! WBH doesn't even LIKE other countries!

The sad icing on the cake was hearing a clip of The Killers playing as Cameron got up on stage. Massive Attack made a public statement in 2000 after the Conservatives used their music without permission, saying "Massive Attack have not and will never support the Conservative party or their policies". I know the Conservatives are likely to win the next UK election, and that The Killers are not overtly political themselves and not British (they may not know the Tories' policies, or the policy-shaped hole where there should be some), but I like The Killers and I do not like the Conservatives. So this made me sad.

The Flight

I've been back in the UK more than a week now but still wanted to tell you about the flight from NZ. This is the third time I've done a 28-hour flight, and it was probably the least worst one. I flew with Cathay Pacific stopping off in Hong Kong, and was pleasantly surprised to find the entertainment gear had been upgraded since my flight out to NZ last year - you can select movies and pause them and just watch/listen to stuff when you want. It doesn't sound exactly space age, but it's better than having to wait for that film to come round again to catch the 10-minute bit you missed the first time round. I saw several films which weren't that amazing but certainly enjoyable - I recommend Monsters Versus Aliens, a highly enjoyable film with a great turn by Hugh Laurie as a cockroach-man-scientist (doing his normal English voice!). I was also very impressed by Cathay Pacific having the Manic Street Preachers album Journal For Plague Lovers on the music list!

Then again, all the distractions in the world can't help the fact it's two 12-hour flights, one after the other. It's bad enough being underslept and not knowing what day it is, but when you find yourself saying "wow only 3 hours to go", that shows how horrible it gets.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Clarification - Tarantino

Re: my previous post, just wanted to clarify that I actually like Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2 very much, together they make a great double-film with an excellent story that explores lots of themes along the way. I even enjoyed some of the more obvious "references", such as they cartoon-sequence of the girl slaying her master in Vol.1. The film is almost a cartoon anyway and it really added an extra dimension to the movie.
The kind of thing I was talking about are the grossly-extended fight scenes that go on forever, such as the House of the Blue Leaves scene where she kills about a thousand zillion bad guys without a scratch, inbetween killing several bigger bad guys like bosses in an arcade game. I can't tell whether Tarantino is being serious with these or taking the piss, but a) it's a reference lost on people like me, and b) I was bored either way.

Writing a trilogy #2

Let's talk about references!

There are lots of references in my trilogy - some are accidental, some are deliberate, and a few are highly deliberate. A very select few people in the world who might guess one or two references might work out one of the major twists in the story. However, I have a firm policy on references not being the core part of the story - many many times, directors and writers use this excuse of "homage" to create work that is either copied or boring or both. The biggest example that comes to mind is Tarantino, who seems to stitch together entire films out of references to parts of popular culture and sub-culture that many people have missed (e.g. large parts of Kill Bill). If the fun of insiders understanding a particular reference is the only thing of credit in a book or film, then ordinary outsider readers/viewers will find get bored and won't be able to connect with it.

I've worked hard to make sure references in this trilogy are simply fun additions, icing on the cake etc. Most in this trilogy take the form of anagrams and throwaway jokes from sitcoms or comedy books - I'll admit to a strong love of Red Dwarf and Terry Pratchett, both of which who I grew up with. Or sometimes the references are simply in larger, broader themes; just as my sci-fi book Devolution takes the war on terror (T.W.A.T.) as an important theme, this trilogy refers to political and cultural ideas in Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four and other classic dystopias which are brilliant and ask questions that remain valid decades after they were written.

But still, they are just sideshows to the story and the plot and the action that drives it all. This story, its concept and ideas/combination of ideas are mine, and likewise it's essential for any author who wants to build a career or an identity as a creative person to create work that is individual to them.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Gig

This is kind of another test- I'm seeing if I can attach a picture with a mobile blog post. My camera phone is actually terrible but if you can see three guys sitting down, that's my mates The Library Suits! Just an acoustic set, I'm on next :)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Writing a trilogy #1

I've just finished writing my new book which is coming out in December - it's called "No Never", as you might know, and it's the third part in a trilogy. So I thought I'd write a little bit how and why I've been writing this set of books and what writing a trilogy involves in general.

I started writing this trilogy about 18 months ago in March 2008. Just a little back story - my band F451 had finished a few months before, and I had some vague plans, but I definitely lacked purpose. It was on a train journey from Slovakia to Poland, via every snow-covered hill and village (yes, even Zywiec), that I had an idea solid enough to start creating an entire trilogy from.

I started writing the trilogy like I write all books - with the end first, and maybe the start too. Some authors wax lyrically about how they just "let the story flow", how they're just guiding for the characters and don't really know where the book will end up. Excuse me, but this is mostly claptrap. Yes, it's important to give your characters flexibility and let things like conversations and connections develop naturally. But any published writer who doesn't know how their story ends either a) is lucky to end up with an exciting read or b) has written a godawful boring story filled with dozens of pages of characters having everyday thoughts and doing everyday things. And believe me, there are lots of these books around.

That said, I have a personal taste for starting with the end - my favourite films include Fight Club and The Usual Suspects, and I've definitely been inspired the last couple of years by Iain M. Banks' sci-fi books. These all have stories with a big plot twist right at the end, which almost demands that you go back and read it or see it again. This "watch/read-again" tactic isn't just satisfying from a creative point of view - it also increases the dedication of fans who appreciate skilful craftsmanship, and doubles the reader's value for money. They can read the same book all over again and get a completely different experience from it, watching out for cleverly-laid hints and ambiguities that had them fooled the first time round.

Talking of tactics, I must admit, straight up, it really is technically only one book. One main reason for splitting it into three small books was getting the extra coverage (and maybe a bit more cash). Imagine if it was one book - author spends 12-18 months slogging his guts out to write one big book, everyone looks and says "meh", then forgets. This way, I've brought out 3 books in one 12-month period - people say "meh" at first, but then they say "meh?", then they say "meh, I've heard of him twice now, let's have a look at this book". Furthermore, publishing each chapter for free every week after release gives me a chance to keep shouting about it.

Actually, if we're doing confessions, here's another one: I really started with the title. I just had a single word phrase in my head, "noupnoliesnonever" - I thought it could be a futuristic thriller or something a little bit cheesy. But this merged with ideas I already had for a story, and it turned out to be the 1 in every 100 ideas you have that works and becomes something you can run with. True, I've had to work hard with this 3rd book to fit the title "No Never", but a) it's a trilogy, 2/3 ain't bad, and b) it sounds COOL. Which is sometimes way more important.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

I'm in Britain already

Waiting for my flight at Departure Gate 4 of Hong Kong Airport and some blonde woman in the line already has a copy of The Sun. Never mind how, or where, or why ... I can already taste Britain.

No Never artwork - fish & minotaurs ahoy

Okay okay, the book is not technically finished yet, but seriously - I'm in Hong Kong airport for the next 60mins with nothing to do, and then I get on a plane for 12hrs where each seat has a plug socket. It will get done.

Here's the cover art you've all been waiting for. It's taken a little longer to do than the others, largely because trying to draw a minotaur with tessellating fish is trickier than it sounds. Or exactly as tricky as it sounds. I bet even Neil Buchanan would've had trouble. Still, it's pretty cool to have not just one but two mystical creatures on the cover :)

Friday, 25 September 2009

Bye Wellington

Just got on the plane to Auckland, off on my voyage back to Englandshire. See you soon!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

10 years playing and 15 years writing

2009 marks my 10th anniversary of playing music and my 15th anniversary of writing books.

I started writing books at the end of Year 5 in mid 1994, age 10, when a short story turned into a full length novel of 60,000 words. (It was about bugs forming an army and going on the rampage against humans, very cutting edge I know.)

I started playing classical guitar in junior school but gave up at age 14 because it was boring and I wasn't very good. However, late 1999 (age 16) was when I first started writing songs and playing electric guitar in a band with my friends.

There's not really much more I wanted to add. They're both a bit vague to do something to celebrate. I might get something together for when I hit 15 or 20 years.

P.S. Holy shit, imagine 20 years of anything. That's ages!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Going "home"

Well, my original 11 months in New Zealand are nearly up - seems to have gone past in a blur, much quicker than when I went travelling in 2003 for 6 months. Maybe it's because I'm older. I'm going "home" for 4 weeks to see friends and family before getting on a plane with a one-way ticket to Wellington.

I say "home" because the word has several different meanings. Technically I moved out when I came to NZ, so in the main sense it's no longer my home (neither Britain nor my parents' house in Essex). Then again, "home" sometimes means where you grew up, or where you associate with, and while I don't associate with Essex much it's definitely the biggest chunk of my past and upbringing. I guess "home" can sometimes refer to a place in time rather than the world.

THINGS I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO
There are a few things such as kitchen roll, sliding doors, insulation (sorry NZ, thumbs down for all of these) and other minor comforts which will be nice. I'm also looking forward to a nice long bath simply because our flat doesn't have one. However, mainly I'm looking forward to seeing my family - which now appears to include an 11-year-old child and an Ethiopian man, but those are separate stories entirely - and friends, including Captain Chronic, Sebastien Gebali, The Badger Boy, Le Pomme Vert, The Raven (Prince of Weston), TAFKAT (Taking My Chamber), Starman16 and many more besides.

I'm going to miss lots of things from NZ, especially the wonderful Kiwi Girlf, but luckily I'm coming back :)

Friday, 4 September 2009

Songs to be played at my funeral #1: "Night Vision" - Hell Is For Heroes

When I die, I won't be around any more, so I really don't give a shit what happens at my funeral. Then again, we're all vain human beings, and we all like to take a personal interest in a future that really won't matter to us. As a taste of my vanity, here's a song I certainly wouldn't mind played at my funeral - Night Vision by British "post-hardcore" band (yeah whatever, pretentious bloody sub-genres) Hell Is For Heroes.

It's a literally awesome track, with a great tune and very clear lyrics that are simple but powerful. It's got buckets of purpose and energy - every time I hear that drumroll my heart rate doubles. And it's actually got quite a cool video too.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5LiAvIRvd0

Under a blanket of fear
Down a bottomless pit
I've been waiting for this night to open my eyes

Wide awake i see in the dark
See the fences breaking apart
Get together with my old friends
Once again we breathe in the air
Escape to somewhere far from nowhere
Where the sky's been tainted red
Where the sky's been tainted

Up on a bank by a stream
Trading memories for dreams
Fading echoes and pictures
We burn at the seams

And now our wings are painted gold
They'll make idols of us yet
Empty promises they sold
Reach their best before dates soon

I can see it all
I can see it all
I can see it all
I can see it all

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Part #2: Politics of Hate and Conservation of Cultures

The second and concluding part of my essay/blog/article, part 1 can be found here.

Here's another view - a video I saw recently was the highly intriguing, if slighly controversial, TED talk by Stewart Brand on "Environmental Heresies". I'll embed it here because it is very interesting:


http://www.ted.com/talks/stewart_brand_proclaims_4_environmental_heresies.html


Early on he makes the comment: "I used to have a very romantic idea of villages, because I never lived in one". His point that people are headed from the subsistence-based, family-based, traditional villages to the freedom of the cities is a reflection on the above discussion about preserving cultures and ethnicities.

You can be as romantic and idealistic about traditional "values" and "ways of life" as you want, preserving them artificially on a grand scale is like using a rock to dam the Amazon River. Put another way, it's easy to have a misty, nostalgic view about traditional farming life before mechanisation and combine harvesters - but not enough people want to cut crops by hand to make it a sensible reality.

The BNP are an evil, hateful, ignorant, wrong party. But it's important to know where they are evil and hateful, and where they are they ignorant and wrong.

Claims that Britain and other European countries will become Islamic states aren't just based on fear, they are shockingly incorrect - many Muslims wouldn't want to live in an Islamic state just as we wouldn't want a puritan Christian state; more to the point, there are immigrants of all colours and religions coming into Britain, not just Muslims, all of them embracing the British idea. China has a huge population, whose massive growth is due to rise if/when the unpopular 1-child policy is dropped (as seen in Shanghai recently); Chinese immigrants to Britain and their children would be just as concerned about living in an Islamic state as the white people in Barking, Romford, Bradford and Leeds. Finally, as immigration increases from all parts of the globe, the secular and multi-cultural fundamentals of British society will become even more important for all these different cultures, ethnicities and religions to live side by side.

Where the BNP are simply wrong is the misguided notion that everyone will become the same "coffee-coloured race", just as so many different languages and cultures tribes have died out. At one end, to turn around to the indigenous tribes of Brazil, Africa, India and Thailand and say "you can't have the internet" just because we have a rose-tinted notion about preserving cultures is absurd, bordering on fascist. One day satellite internet will become affordable and pardon my French but f**k me they will order their 12-month broadband subscriptions in their droves. At the other end, assuming that humanity will water down into the same race if globalisation and immigration are left unchecked is as farcical as saying everyone in the same city will listen to the same kind of music, or wear the same clothes, or speak the same language.

Yes, on a long enough timeline the racial variety of the human race will decrease. This has happened for many thousands of years, from homo sapiens out-succeeding other human species (e.g. neanderthals) to the Toba catastrophe that wiped out most of the human population and, therefore, the potential human gene pool. However, even at this stage, we are thousands of years away from the human race looking uniform, and there are countless possible ethnic mixtures and combinations to go through first. And that's if everyone was forced to get sexy with people of other races - I can imagine, even hundreds of years from now, some spotty-faced descendant of Nick Griffin sulkily delcaring "well I'M not marrying a darky".

Races become minorities slowly, and slip into isolated corners slower still, and eventually disappear even slower still. Yes it'll happen, but we'll be genetically engineering our children to have green skin and blue hair long before that.

6 months (and a bit)

Yo

This blog's not really intended for personal stuff (not sure if the whole "my first rave" thing counts...), but me and Kiwi Girlfriend hit 6 months the other week. It's been pretty damn awesome and still is, so just wanted to say. :)

My first rave

Recently I went with some friends to a genuine warehouse rave in the outskirts of Wellington city. It was rather awesome.

Half the fun - getting ready. We had five of us at our flat for pre-rave drinking, make-up artistry and general pratting around. I didn't really know what to do for an "outfit" - ended up with someone else's self-made t-shirt ($8 NZ) with pink feather glued to the shoulders + a trail of blue fairy lights over the chest. Hells yeah.

Rave itself was great fun - getting there wasn't easy, but that's the point! - a real warehouse/construction site with big speaker stacks, UV light and green laser light thingy. I'm not a fan of drum'n'bass or techno or electro - I barely know the difference between them all - but the music at first was varied and tuneful which was great for dancing. Took some bad photos, until the fire poi crew turned up, which made some awesome photos. Eventually the cold got to us and the tunes turned bad and we went home about 1:30ish (rather early for an old-fashioned rave...)

For $10, pretty damn good and a fun night out. There were some safety issues - e.g. a guy climbing up to the roof, drugs or not, what a twat. The next day we had black stuff in our noses, hell knows what we were breathing. And I don't think I'd want to attend an real overground club or event doing the same kind of music - the music definitely wasn't something I could take seriously and half the fun was mucking around and having a laugh. But it was definitely a kick-arse night of fun times :)

P.S. Sent some feedback to the organiser(s), who replied back comprehensively and politely. Clearly very very cool people.

P.P.S. Apparently the warehouse rave thing never happened back in the 80s, so it was the first ever one in Wellington :D

P.P.P.S. The "crystal ball" move didn't catch on and I was left doing it alone, which is strictly forbidden. Disappointed, Wellington! It will be coming soon!

Spring?

Apparently it's Spring in New Zealand. The first day is officially 1st September.

And I would cautiously ... agree.

There was some lovely weather about a week ago - blue skies, sun and the highest temperatures since last summer. Now it's gotten cooler, a little wet and VERY WINDY. I'm reminded of when I first hit NZ in October, and yes I recognise the wind and rain.

It's hardly optimal - in my head, it's still winter if I still get 5 minutes of glacial meltwater from the hot tap before anything warm, or if I still need a canary in a cage to test the temperature of the bedsheets before getting in.

But Wellington is it's own kettle of fish - apparently the daffodils are already out in force further up the North Island, and I must admit the general weather is worlds away from the horrors of March in the Northern Hemisphere.

Still a long wait for summer though...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The NHS may not be perfect but it is based on PRINCIPLE.

I put it to you, US conservatives, that your anger over Obama's healthcare proposals is a front. You are panicking because you are terrified things might actually change.

Writing a blog post is hardly leaping to action or changing the world, but I've been watching the healthcare debate in the US degenerate into mudslinging and lies, and now this article - bringing the NHS into it - has angered me a lot.

1) The NHS is nothing to do with American healthcare. Just because Obama wants everyone in America to have decent healthcare doesn't mean you need to crap your pants because it's "closer" to the NHS. If I built a two-storey house I would be "closer" to the moon, but I wouldn't be Neil f**king Armstong. Universal healthcare probably wouldn't work in the US and no-one, not even that big black bogeyman Obama, is asking for it.

2) Most of the shit you've heard about people dying on NHS waiting lists is, I suggest, from the 90s after years of under-investment by the Consverative Party (yes, they are the conservatie party in Britain, it's in the name). Labour investment over the last 12 years might have been inefficient but that doesn't mean it's been ineffective. The NHS works better now and people very rarely wait over a year for an operation.

3) "Rationing". Where does this word come from? We don't "ration" our healthcare. There aren't limitless resources, but we give everyone the same decent standard of care - not excellent, as in private hospitals for the rich, but certainly good - regardless of their ability to pay. We call it "free at the point of use" - the country is taxed to provide healthcare for all. And it's not just based on priciple for the hell of it - it actually works too.

4) Yes British people moan about the NHS, but there isn't a politician in the land who would suggest scrapping it, and not an electorate that would ever send one to Parliament.

5) While I'm sure there are lots of improvements that could be made, my only criticism of the NHS would be that more money (note, not less!) needs to be put into domestic care and ensuring patients are fed properly. I worked as a Domestic Service Assistant at Mid Essex Hospitals Trust and feeding a ward (or sometimes two) with hot food they they liked was virtually impossible (never mind the terrible pay). Elderly, disabled and mentally-handicapped patients often require extra time and attention to be fed properly, and in my view adding resources to this area would bring highly efficient results in improving patients' health.

That is all.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

NO LIES 11th and final chapter!

The last chapter of my book "No Lies" is now up on the internet free to read and download. Czioc has been captured by looters and taken to Rhajallington - but without new orders and the world dying, is there any point escaping? Answers and a BIG finale are here:
http://www.jezkemp.co.uk/nolies/chapter11.html

Have you enjoyed the book? Please let me know! A lot of my friends who bought real copies said they enjoyed it even more than "No Up" :) If you did like it, please please please do one or more of the following!

- Buy a real copy (because it's nice to own a real book) from http://www.lulu.com/jezkemp
- Tell your friends, there's "share" links on the site but you can simply copy the web link here, or even just tell your friends to google "jez kemp" and they'll find it :)
http://www.jezkemp.co.uk/nolies
- Donate some money via paypal (because it's awesome if you could spare a dollar/pound for a good free book)
[ send to info@jezkemp.co.uk ]
- Invite your friends to the facebook group (easy peasy!)
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=22947316733

For all of you left hanging, open-mouthed, on the edge of your seats by the finale, fear not - the third and final part of the trilogy is coming later this year. NO NEVER will be released at the start of December 2009 :)

That's the end of another book, but I've got plenty of other stuff including music and short stories on the near horizon, so I'll catch you soon.
Cheers!

Jez



www.jezkemp.co.uk/nolies