Saturday 16 September 2017

Pan Review of the Arts - No.4


MIKE HARRINGTON is a web developer, comic book and sound design artist who, for the latter releases, goes under the band name, STRUCTURE. With an EP - Lunar Dawn - forthcoming, Mike has most recently released a drum n‘ bass album, Machina Complex, on the new Wellhead Records label.

Wellhead Records was founded by KIRSTY HAWKSHAW. She is a trance and house artist and songwriter, known for her signature angelic vocals, initially in the early 90s‘ as part of Opus III, (producing two albums and the hit debut single, 'It’s A Fine Day'), and latterly as a solo recording artist and collaborator with other producers in the field.

LIAM GATES is Wellhead Records‘ manager and web presence developer.


Mike, for the uninitiated, how would you describe drum n' bass and jungle and your own interpretation of it?

MH: Drum and Bass / Jungle, or whatever you’d like to call it, for me, is all about the tension; the build up of the dischordant sounds and hyperkinetic beats to tell a story or theme—what I like about it is there’s some of the most talented and prolific producers in any genre in our field. We are constantly searching for new sources of inspiration and sounds to twist, turn and freak in our own creative ways.
  Drum and Bass also is a lifestyle; while I don’t consider myself a purist in the strictest sense, I know many people who take their music seriously, and those passionate fans are why I do what I do every day—keep their ears tuned to something fresh and new, and in doing so, gain a new fan of the music so it constantly grows and expands.

How did the tracks evolve for your new album? By a pre-conceived idea or by happy accident?

MH: I generally write out a concept outline including tracklistings well in advance for any release I’m undertaking; this helps keep me focused on the task at hand, and also allows me to be a bit more of an editor in how I choose my sounds, how I sequence them and put them together. The idea behind (Machina Complex) was to follow up from the Simian Soldiers EP, and to focus on the main character (in the comic book) Jordan Alcott; without giving too much away from the second screenplay I’m writing, it delves into how he came to be, and the realization of what he is, as compared to what he thinks he is. It’s an interesting project and I’m working very hard to bring the entire project to fruition! Recording wise, it took a little under two years of constant recording to craft out the project.

You are also a comic book / graphic novel artist and web developer. What led you to recording in the first place and is being a recording artist now a priority?

MH: Well, I’ve always recorded conceptual recorded album projects, and in my mind, tied a visual to the music I’ve written (with the hopes that they will be produced into eventual films and video games), so my music has that quality to it—I like telling interesting stories versus just creating dubplates that never get released. I’ve held fast to my music for a very long time; recording, revising, creating and now it’s time to share my work with the world.
  I would say recording, drawing and creating is a triple priority for me; for example, there’s a song I’ve written for my next EP project (The Lunar Dawn EP) called “Seven Minus Seven”. That song was inspired by my scriptwriting for the spinoff TV / Comic Book project from Simian Soldiers called Terra Force One, which focuses on other adventures my characters go through (outside of the Simian Soldiers story arc). It’s my hope that I can produce enough recorded soundtracks to have original music in every single episode (similar to what you see on the TV show Empire).

I hear drum n' bass as using more subtle, more ambient textures than in its formative years and these are highlighted in your album. Is it therefore still music primarily to dance to, or enjoy in more sedentary environments?

MH: My music is first and foremost geared to make you dance, or excite you in whatever environment that you see yourself in; just don’t send me your speeding tickets. Seriously, I make music that you can enjoy and in my humble opinion, create a timeless quality and not throwaway music (as Drum and Bass is generally considered by some). I just recently got a message from a fan on Dogs on Acid about a track I wrote in 2000 strangely enough; that must have made an impression, so much so that he asked about it and what I’m currently doing seventeen years later.

Who, or what, are your own musical influences?

MH: I would say my biggest influences are the classic atmospheric/tech step drum and bass producers and DJs' first hand; Grooverider, Fabio, Goldie, Rob Playford, LTJ Bukem, Nookie, Blame, Origin Unknown, Justice, Calibre, Marcus Intalex, Photek, etc. I generally follow the older labels like Good Looking, Metalheadz, Ram, Moving Shadow, although there’s some newer drum and bass producers making classic drum and bass sounds in new and interesting ways like Naibu (who I recommend if you want to pick up where Photek left off with Modus Operandi btw!), but I’m always keeping an open mind really—you never know where your next inspiration will come from!
  Non-drum and bass wise, you’ll find me being inspired by reggae, dub, pop, and industrial, which I then meld into my own recorded works; and if you ever want to talk about my Kate Bush, The Cure or The Blue Nile obsession, then that’s a conversation all unto itself!

How did the link-up with Wellhead Records come about?

MH: Strangely enough, I had connected to Kirsty Hawkshaw through my friend Matty Earles (of GLR fame) if memory serves me correctly way back in 2004-2005; she needed a website done, and I had made a name for myself over in the UK, working for Adam F, Fresh, and Grooverider on various projects through Jho Oakley (shout outs there old boy!), and my work was chosen to represent her artistic visions within music for a while. We fell out of touch for a while and about a year ago, I messaged her and we reconnected like nothing had ever happened which was great.
  She was telling me about her label Wellhead Records and what she wanted to do for artists on the label which piqued my interest, and after a few conversations with her Label Manager Liam Gates, we got on like a house on fire and the rest is history. I’m not only excited, but actually quite humbled to be a part of the label, and their hard-working team is ensuring that all of my releases will be out on a timely schedule, and for once, fans can purchase my music in any formats they desire.
  After dealing with so many labels and bad contracts, Wellhead Records is a breath of fresh air, both in business and in simply the way they treat their artists; respect is something they carry as a high priority and that makes me want to do everything I can to help them be successful in their pursuits.

Kirsty, what will Wellhead do differently from your experience with the record industry in the Nineties?
KH: I could write a book's worth of an answer to this simple question.  But, in a nutshell, times have changed.  We now live in a digital era, where it's sadly in some ways ruled by 'data', on demand streaming, and connections.  Wellhead are not misers in this way, in that we promote our 'collective' via each others mediums - well some of us do anyway.  In the 90s,' if you had a record deal, that really was quite a huge thing.  There would be a whole team of people making phone calls, big budget videos, and labels would invest in their artists with wads of cash – however, at the same time, they owned your soul in some way and that can get a bit depressing.  Wellhead are not interested in owning anybody. We are more into empowerment and assisting independent artists who are good at making music, can mix their own stuff too, and who make music with the right intention. In the 90s', you had an an A & R person looking after artists, press management, magazines for promotion, and most music was released on hard copy.  Wellhead don't as yet press vinyl or CDs', purely due to the initial outlay. We are a seedling label, but we would definitely consider it at a further date. There is still a growing market for vinyl, and many young people are now curious about it, which I think is excellent because vinyl not only sounds better, it smells amazing! We want to work with people who end up having a positive experience and who see how they are progressing. Liam is working on an exciting new aspect of the label where our artists can have daily updates on their streaming hits, and maybe get an insight into areas where they need to work on, like social media posts, etc.. It can all get a bit tiresome, but we do live in a digital era now.
What are your priorities in terms of the types of music, and types of artist, you'll consider?
KH: I don't have a 'type' as such. Wellhead is non-genre specific.  I believe in the laws of attraction, and we seem to be just bumping into people who have gravitated towards us - who like the vibe of it.  People can of course self-release quite easily these days, but often it's quite a lonely existence doing it yourself, and it's nice to get some kind of feedback etc..  We are a collective of colourful minds and skill-sets and we all help each other out as best we can.  Gone are the days of big budgets and domineering marketing. What you will get from Wellhead is genuine people making quality music for all the right reasons. We tend to avoid drama queens and those who want to be famous or rich - it doesn't work like that, and we are honest to the people we sign.  Our artists can do what they want as long as the music is good enough for release. They are in control of themselves and we just nurture that.  We don't just take anybody on but, instead, we try to accept music and the people who make it, who we feel we can work with harmoniously, and who are self sufficient.  Most of them have day jobs too and are really hardworking types.
Liam, what is your role at the label and what do your responsibilities entail?

LG: We consider the label as a collective of individuals who all bring their talents and skills to the table. Working closely with Kirsty, I aim to collate the ideas of our artists and make them a reality. We're still very much a growing label (as Kirsty said, a 'seedling'), so we're still very much finding our feet, but we'll get there. When it comes to my responsibilities, I jump in where needed! I really do like to like to be as hands-on with things as required. I build releases for our artists and make sure the music 'gets out there;' advising on where artists can also develop, such as their online presence.
  One thing I am working on is a new portal where artists can log-in to view live data, see presence reports and also download statements and accounting information about releases that relate to them. I feel that this will really help us to be the transparent and open label we are aiming to be; along with assuring our artists of everything that is happening. From reviewing where we are so far, communication with artists regularly is something that we really want to improve and develop on- hopefully the new portal will be a step in that direction.

Big thanks to Mike Harrington.

You can purchase the Structure album Machina Complex here:

Equally big thanks to Kirsty Hawkshaw and Liam Gates for their time.

Check out Wellhead Records here:

You can keep up to date with Kirsty’s other activities here:

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CHRISTINE MURRAY is an Irish poet and web developer. She developed 'Poethead – A Poetry Blog' nine years ago. She graduated at Dublin's Art History and English Literature at UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy. She qualified and has worked as a city and guilds conservation stone cutter with the Office of Public Works/Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. She is primarily a page poet but has written poetry for vocal performance. Her ‘Lament for Three Women’s Voiceswas performed at The Béal Festival of New Music and Poetry (Smock Alley Theatre, 2012).


How and when did you become a poet and what were the circumstances?

CM: I have always been a reader. I exhausted my parents book collections at a young age. We had short story collections, novels and prose collections including books by Mary Lavin, William Trevor, John McGahern, James Joyce, Brian Friel and Samuel Beckett. There were a lot of theatre works, biographies, maps, theatre programmes and countless fairy tales (both Irish and International). In fact, they had everything but poetry in that library. There were some religious texts too. I do remember discovering 'The Song of Songs' and feeling that it sustained me because I was not culturally religious. My traditions are Scottish Protestant (episcopal) and Roman Catholic and there was a fair bit of intermarriage right throughout my family history.
  I became interested in poetry in my teens. I was sent to Irish College for two summers (an Gaeltacht) in Dungarvan and I became interested in song. I don't have a great singing voice, but the songs caught me for life and I began adapting their structures and repetition in my own writing (humming and singing). When I became a stonecutter, which is quite an isolated activity in a workshop near a lake, I hummed and composed but didn’t write anything.
  When I went to UCD to study Art History and English Literature, I was bored with the way that we were taught English. English Lit. was (James) Joyce-heavy and we did not study women poets save for 'Aurora Leigh' (Elizabeth Barrett-Browning). I spent hours in the library looking for women poets and escaping lectures. I found Sylvia Plath. I will never forget the feeling. I read 'Kindness' and everything that had surrounded me to that point vanished in her words. Here was the visceral truth and she was not present in our curriculum. I was devastated when I learnt that she had died. I think I went through a mourning period because her poetry was present, alive, vicious and then it was gone. I read everything by Plath, and moved on rapidly to (Anne) Sexton, Ní Dhomhnaill, Boland, Mina Loy, and H.D. I educated myself in the UCD library and from there began a lifetime of searching for a quality of voice that I felt as 'absence'. I began to read translated works also including Nagy, Sachs, Tuominen, Lorca and others. When I left college I took that sound with me. I got my degree in Art History and English, although the only thing that interested me in English was Old and Middle English.

You state on your blog that current cultural discourses still leave out the influence of women poets in the canon. In what way, or ways, do you believe this situation could finally, permanently, change for the better?

CM: Firstly, we must acknowledge the absence of the early modernists, the Irish language poets and the experimentalists from the canon. This is incredibly difficult to do as it is embarrassing to note that most anthologies leave out these women poets of early modernism and their crucial dialogue within the development of the state. In many anthologies and companions to Irish Poetry, including the forthcoming 'Cambridge Companion to Irish Poetry,' (ed. Gerald Dawe) there is a desert from the foundation of the state until the 1970s'. The early modernists, the poet anarchists (like Dorothea Herbert) are absented from the canon. This is not unusual or confined to Ireland by any means. It concerns me that our current group of experimentalists and post-modernists have no heritage to speak of and that students are not studying or contextualising these women. We must acknowledge and respect their work. This is a work of necessary reclamation. In my case, it is a devotion. I want to see them celebrated and included in our narrative. I want to see their influence on contemporary women and how can that be achieved if they are ignored to the point of degradation?
 Platforms like Poethead and Billy Mill's 'Elliptical Movements' are doing the work of reclamation. We are providing spaces where the reader can find them. We are independent, unfunded and supported by our readers and correspondents’ enthusiasm. Poethead is predicated on searchability: the use of indices, tags, categories. It is incredibly busy. Acknowledgement for these poets should come through enhancing their visibility, through their inclusion in the cultural narrative through celebration, through anthology, through plaques and visual reminders like paintings or busts.
  I would like our colleges to have dedicated reading rooms or journals named for these women. It is not difficult to create curiosity, nor is it difficult to sustain it, but the will to do so must be present. Their cultural absence is appalling. We must acknowledge and celebrate them.

You also state that the emphasis on the book as a product reduces poetry to a 'narrow conservatism.' Do you think the internet has helped liberate the form from the confines of the covers, or drowned out new voices through its sheer size?

CM: Absolutely. When I began Poethead I had to cajole women to send me work - now it is booming. If we construct the platforms and spaces we increase interest. The irony of it is that I can compress the whole Poethead site in about 3 seconds, but it took me nine years to create it. The colleges are not doing enough to promote poetry and to create editors familiar with a wide range of forms. We need to bring on editors and writers with a wide literacy in form, in experiment, in translation and with tech knowledge. Ireland lags in terms of parity of esteem, the visibility of women and in bringing poetry out to a new readership.
New voices need to be confident and brave in their work. If we create the platforms for them, then they will be able to become visible in the field. We must trust the reader in this. The reader will find the poet. However, if we keep showing the reader the same ten poets, they will go off and read elsewhere. Time to update our thinking.

In your blog post 'A Woman & A Poet' you state, 'an editorial draw to nostalgia and poetic safety leaves us in the mire of mediocrity and canny self-dialogue' and that 'this cowardice extends into the media who rarely review poetry books and who generally like safe bets.' What is the cause of this mutual conservatism between poets and editors and how do you feel it might change?

CM: A lot of investment goes into single poets who enjoy editorial confidence, this creates two-tierism. Media will pick up on a funded poet or MFA student who has invested in getting published. Editors and poets expect a return on their investment, be it through bursaries, prizes or fees. The situation is absurd - poets come from everywhere. We are limited by small publishers who push their lists into the media and gain a platform for their poets. Because the poetry market is modest, very few poets get this type of push and they have to push themselves. If we increase the market through bringing in the avant-garde and through respecting our forebears, we increase the readership. The seduction of micro-management and PR may push a few poets into greater visibility but they carry a huge responsibility to the canon, which they may not be able to fulfill.
  Editors are market-oriented. They will back what sells and they will cut off and cut out the experimental, the translated, the new poet. Therefore, we need spaces and platforms for poets to become visible. Platforms are needed to get reader attention. This is why colleges and journals should be looking into creating spaces like Poethead for a new generation of writers. It irks me in the extreme that what I have been doing for nine years, providing a service, a space for poets, is distrusted or causes displeasure. I don't give a fig. I do it because I would have liked a space like Poethead when I was a young poet. I know, in many ways, how to develop the space from my own experiences as a poet and writer.

What would you say is the current Irish Government view of the Arts as a whole?

CM: The arts are marginalised. I feel that we need to draw officers and board members from the Arts community and not so much from the business-to-arts community, especially in literature. We need knowers and doers, not businessmen and women. We need people with a knowledge of the importance of Arts infrastructure, archives, and the nature of literature to make the literary space a less degraded space for the writer. It should not be a degraded activity to be a writer, to be susceptible to plagiarism because the work is not properly copyrighted, archived or respected unless one is a Heaney or a Tobin. Oh, please! Respect the poetry writer’s space in the canon and their devotion to the activity of writing.

Finally, what poetry-related projects, outside of Poethead, are you focusing on getting published?

CM: I just had two groups of poems published in anthologies in India and Ireland. I have submitted a book of experimental work in Ireland and England. It is hard to get it published because it is imagist and minimal and our editors are quite forty-line traditionalist in their conservatism, but I can hope.

Many thanks to Christine Murray for interrupting her busy schedule.

You can find out more about Poethead here:

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 The Strange World Of Willie Seabrook by Marjorie Worthington, Spurl Editions

Who would name the explorer, occultist and cannibalism-experimenter William Buehler Seabrook, 'Willie' on the cover of their book? There is something amusingly, contrastingly, quaint about Marjorie Worthington's narrative voice; a gentle, upper middle-class, self-depracating tone and even martyring quality as she willingly follows in her husband's self-absorbed, sensation-seeking tread. Worthington is no doormat – far from it – but she indulges Seabrook's harboured whims as much a committed fan as a wife.
Marjorie Muir Worthington, born in New York in 1900, aspired to be an artist, attending various art schools during her early years. While still in high school she began selling poems to magazines. She then turned to journalism, which she studied at New York University School of Journalism.
  A memoir of Worthington's third husband, originally published in 1966 by Harcourt, Brace & World, this reissue is an account of their travel-filled time together; from their first meeting in Paris in the spring of 1926, to their divorce in 1941, up to Seabrook's suicide in 1945. It isn't made clear precisely how Worthington met Seabrook; only that she saw their first meeting as the inevitable climax of already having been smitten by the journey to Paris itself. 'I set sail on that April day because I had earned and saved up enough money to pay my passage on the De Grasse and wanted to see Paris – and also because I was completely, unreasonably, idiotically in love – and, as the song goes, my love was there!'
  Certainly, as a journalist, several ex-pats writers were already known to her, while Seabrook soon widened their circle. Stella Bowen, painter and ex-wife of Ford Maddox Ford - for whom Seabrook held a fractious, but committed regard – generously offered the new couple her long studio flat on the second floor of a warehouse beside the Toulon waterfront. '2 bis Quai du Parti. Toulon. Var. France. That was our address for seven years, more or less. The core of my life, really. The best and the worst years, and surely the most exciting.'   By now, Cape & Smith had published Spider Web (1930) – her first published novel.
In truth it was six years, after which she accompanied Seabrook back to Africa for him to gather first-hand research for his next book. Ultimately, whatever was procured was utilised in his next two, as encountered in these pages: Air Adventure (1933) and The White Monk of Timbuctoo (1934).
  Despite an affair there with Raymond Bauret, Worthington returned with Seabrook to France; however, his increasing reliance upon alcohol and bondage sessions with call-girls was turning the working journalist Worthington into his nurse. By 1933, the couple had moved back to the U.S., to New York, and – to his credit - Seabrook consigning himself to the Bloomingdale Asylum for the Insane for some six months. Still, a darker tone pervades the prose:

'The morning of Willie’s departure came at last. There was an early knock at the door, and when I opened it a tall, muscular young man entered. He was the bodyguard Willie had hired to travel with him and deliver him into the hands of whoever was to put him behind bars. I have often wondered whether Willie would have been ultimately better off if someone had recognized this seemingly desperate request to be locked up for what it was: the almost inevitable and predictable course for sadism to run – the point at which it becomes inverted and turns into masochism. Willie’s image, not only to the public but to his intimate friends, was one of strength and aggressiveness. No one heard the voice inside him crying out for help, real help. Not even those of us who loved him the most. He had bossed and bullied and beguiled and charmed us for so long that the image was fixed, and it would take more than even he knew how to convey to change it.' 
Ironically, despite his condition, the experience would produce what would become his own famous memoir; Asylum (1935). Meantime, Worthington sought solace maintaining a correspondence with Bauret; but she knew that 'whatever common sense I had, which was never very much, made me realize that both Bauret and I, in our different kinds of loneliness, had been reaching toward each other for comfort, but that Bauret was really in love with the desert, and I with Willie, and that therein lay our true destinies.' Here, in New York, the couple finally tied the knot.
  'We were physically drawn to each other, and yet I was totally unsympathetic to all the business of chains and leather masks and the rest of the fantasies that were so important to him... I knew I was on dangerous ground there, and now that the ground was crumbling under my feet I couldn’t do anything about it. I was no longer any help in that department of Willie’s life...' (p.180).

Seabrook appeared to believe he needed a constant companion, despite continuing to live as a self-indulgent loner. After he and Worthington divorced in 1941, Seabrook soon married again; to the artist Constance Kuhr, with whom he bore a son. Just four years later, he committed suicide. Worthington would spend the rest of her life in New York and Florida, writing and lecturing until her death from cancer in 1976.

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'Pan' will return in November. 'Pan Review of the Arts - No.5' in 2018.