Saturday, 30 April 2011

Bad diary keeping leads to fuzzy feeling inside...

A day late for one opening and a week early for another, a symptom of my flu like state bought on from five days of excess rolling into the three day week. A reminder that sometimes an early night is in order. I arrived at the second (perceived) opening with my first ever migraine, Ravi to the rescue, five minutes later I'm tucked up in his warehouse with water and pills. The royal wedding is playing out through the television speakers in the floor above. I shuffle upstairs in time for the procession, Diana, no sorry Kate, no I mean Kathryn, looks actually rather amazing. Phew we've pulled it off, I'm inwardly impressed that we got it right. For a minute their I thought it might be a stuffy number but the dress looks like a modern take on the princess fantasy every girl dreams of (when I say every girl, I don't really mean it, but if we did that's what it would look like). Dressed in a McQueen creation designed by Sarah Burton, it was only last year that Lee (Alexander McQueen) took his own life. It seems fittingly poetic that this was the British label/designer chosen for the task. The Chantilly lace every bit a Parisian bombshell of elegance, creating the modern coveted vintage feel, the shape is classic yet contemporary. With a slightly less exaggerated form, it provides a reference to the fairy tale without becoming a parody of it.

An excellent choice for a well executed day, I would have liked to have seen Harry with his big hair pulled into check, merely on the style stakes, he would have looked debonair next to his balding brother who was literally gushing with happiness.

/New 11//////\\\\

We strolled along to the New 11 exhibition at ACCA it was the perfect size on a sunny day, in and out in 30 minutes. There are around 10 artists on display, presenting sculpture, installation, photography and clothing. I particularly enjoyed the interactive installation with sand, palm tree and skeleton, you enter through a cleaning cupboard which is fun. The clothing work was slightly disconnected, the artist had met other artists and designed clothes for them, which would be great if they were groundbreaking or well made - I struggled to connect with the concept. There was a room full of projections, with a larger than life character adorned in paper hair all over its body jumping around like a children's television presenter. A bicycle with triangle block wheels, it was rather hipster meets t-shirt design in 3D. A room with matt white disco balls shrewn over the floor. It was all fun, but without explanation some of it was lost, either that or there was no message in the first place. The show runs until the 15 May 2011, definitely worth a pit stop. We certainly felt cultural sat in the park post viewing boozing away.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

from Spain with Love

With La Mirada Spanish Film Festival at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image this Easter I am fully covered for bouts of boredom or potential bad weather. I can witness the dramatically bleak uber realism of Spanish cinema unfold surrounded by fellow enthusiasts.

Obviously not all Spanish film falls under such bleak terms, however the genre (if you can forgive me for grouping vast Spanish speaking nations under one bushel) has a tendency to lean towards certain darker deeper accents which are skilfully and unmistakeably Spanish, watch Amores Peros for an inkling of where I'm headed.

Gael García Bernal in Amores Perros, he also starred alongside Maribel Verdú in Y tu mamá también.

The festival is co-programmed by Pedro Almodóvar, screenwriter, producer and director of numerous Spanish language films including (one of my favourites) Bad Education, High Heels, Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown and more recently Volver and Broken Embraces. His life is an inspiring path, born to family of modest means in a small farming town in backwater Spain, sent to a boarding convent school by his family with hopes of becoming a priest. He defied his parents’ wishes following his own path to Madrid where he worked as an administration assistant for Telefonica for 12 years, before going on to become a hugely respected director. Proof that you don't have to follow timetabled rules of development in order to reach your goal, something I remind myself of daily.


My computer wiped away the rest of the piece which contained my picks of the festival including Lucky Star (La Buena Estrella) a film about a butcher who accidently castrates himself and becomes entwined with a one eyed prostitute and her abusive boyfriend. Babies ensue and the plot becomes even more tangled with boyfriend in prison. The female lead is played Maribel Verdú of Y tu mamá también (another excellent film); definitely worth downloading if you can find it.

Lucky Star, 1997


It is now post festival, post Easter weekend and it's been a blast. Lots of parties and messy nights out, I managed to make it to the Directors choice - a surprise film - currated by Ang Lee of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain. We were treated to the 1977 surrealist movie, That Obscure Object of Desire, directed by Luis Buñuel, which flits between Spanish and French language, actress and setting.

The female protagonist Conchita originally given to Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris) is played by two women, Carole Bouquet (French Bond Girl) and Angela Molina (Spanish household name). The actresses change unpredictably creating an extra dimension in the characterisation of the role. It explores the cat and mouse dynamic within a relationship, magnifying the intensity of power of the chase, the mere suggestion of possibility is enough to keep Mathieu (Fernando Rey’s) ego encased.

Incidently there is also another Spanish Film festival in May...

14th Spanish Film Festival presented by Estrella DAMM
Festival Dates: 12 May, 2011 - 22 May, 2011

Monday, 18 April 2011

Eugene von who?

I'm in the National Gallery (Ian Potter Centre) suffocated by dreary small talk emitted by the soon to be purple rinse brigade dressed in money, tailoring, chiffon, the odd hat and copious amount of hair spray. I meander through the masses scanning the room for curious characters, my brain processes them as made up words in an otherwise dull text - trustafarians with facial hair and interesting cable knit, multicoloured aunts punctuated by handmade jewellery and the odd mad professor with the ever arousing bow tie or seamed stocking.

With free moonshine and anticipation as my accoutrements I strike up conversation with the security guard, it proves fruitful when he offers me tips on the how to avoid the scrum into the exhibition. I feel slightly self conscious though and head back to the bar, I'm on my fourth glass by the time my friend from 'out of town' arrives, he seems put out by the fact the free bar closes in ten minutes. We feign interest in the speeches as we move crab like into the gift shop, a welcome distraction to the self congratulating, I'm too young to care about the whys and where's I want to see what the fuss is about. Paul dips out for a smoke, I down two more glasses and immediately head to the loo on the third floor, the clapping ends and I hear the scrum approaching. It appears the show has opened right in front of me, second inside, in my fizzy wino state, I congratulate a very mumsy looking first with a high five.

Dashing through the first room as though it were a supermarket sweep, my brain takes drunken snapshots of the wonderful sketches and paintings whizzing past me. I slow down and focus, absorb, absorb, by room two, I'm gazing awe-struck at the sequential images of Cape Woolamai, longing for the outback, a wilderness to surround me, a horse to ride and camp fire to curl up next to. It’s the Australian dream untouched, I pull out my $20 phone and type in my future destinations, it surreptitiously saves a few, I make a drunken vow with myself and anyone in ear shot to venture to Weatherboard falls, Cape Woolamai, and another even greater Cape, my phones functionality (or lack thereof) alluded me at this point. A return visit is on the cards - I want to search out the mystery destination, which may not actually be as it was a hundred years ago, but worth exploring.

Eugene von Guérard works (even in my hazy state) display painstaking craftsmanship and attention to detail, the inflections of light on the New Zealand lakes and orbs radiating from the trees in twilight. An excellent introduction to the beauty of Victoria and beyond, being in Brunswick you forget where you are.

Eugene von Guérard
Nature Revealed
runs until 07 Aug 2011
Ian Potter Centre
Federation Square

Friday, 15 April 2011

Legal Alien

Since arriving, I have this overwhelming urge to spin around in circles, perhaps the inner notion of restriction creates such a desire. It's as though I want to run as fast as I can, dance as hard and stretchy my body will allow. An internal frustration is trying somehow to find a way out. Perhaps it's loneliness, or the need to find my place in Melbourne, a pub that fits my persona, where there are others, who look like me, dance like me, share the same energy for life, art and craziness as me. In short I feel lost in a city that I believe to have all these things but are just ever so slightly out of reach. I'm an outsider, someone out of 'the loop', I have the researcher tool, honed through years of probing the back alleys and basements of London town, but its failing me here. Everything on the surface looks cohesive, yet when I open my mouth the reactions are different, people operate different codes - rules of interaction. Don't get me wrong I've made progress, but it feels slight - my initial projection led me to believe I would have it all by now, a dance floor, a packed bar, a phone ringing with offers of night time adventures. I was to be riding off into the darkened sky with a crew of bicycle bandits by my side; upon reflection a tough call, internally uncompromising to a fault. But I've seen them, they do exist, the others, on trams, walking the streets, coming out of cinema Nova, happily talking amongst themselves. When I was little is was so much easier - singing, skipping around the play ground, joining hands until there was a big enough gang to play, not anymore. Approaching folk in the street, no matter how 'in tune' they appear is almost laughable, they would think of me as being quite mad. Even when making new friends there is and invisible line between an attractive interest in hanging out and a misjudged enthusiasm that makes one appear needy or uncool. Hide your cards, don't appear too desperate, play it cool, all these glaringly moronic phrases jump into my head whenever I venture into uncharted waters, creating an barrier of uncertainty before I even begin. I miss easy boozy Sundays down Columbia Road, Royal Oak, The Dove, Spurstow Arms, nights dancing at Vogue Fabrics, Alibi, even sweaty Video Visions. So for now I'll forge on alone with my House of Elliott DVD box set and wait for the time to pass.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Free Ai Weiwei

The world is not as it should be, Ai Weiwei has been detained at Beijing airport for being a suspected criminal sic. 'outspoken government critic', his family and studio staff have also received similar 'controls'. This is a far leap from his involvement in the design of the Bird's Nest Stadium for the 2008 Olympic Bird's Nest Stadium.

The artist was ranked 13 in the top 100 most powerful artists by Art Review last year. It's saddening to hear of such injustices happening in China, anywhere for that matter. It's important that everyone is given the same freedoms around the world.

I urge you to write a letter to the Chinese ambassador, here's one we made earlier....

Dear Ambassador Liu,

I am writing to urge you to do everything within your power to guarantee the immediate and unconditional release of Ai Weiwei and others arbitrarily detained in China since late February, unless the Chinese authorities can show reasonable grounds for suspecting them of having committed an internationally recognisable criminal offence. While they remain in custody, the authorities must ensure they have access to their family, legal representation of their choice and any medical care they may require. The authorities must guarantee they will not be tortured or otherwise ill-treated.

I am deeply concerned that since an anonymous online call on 17 February to stage a ‘Jasmine Revolution’ in China more than a hundred activists, many of them active on Twitter and blogs, have been detained, put under surveillance or illegal house arrest, or have simply gone missing. Moreover, at least a dozen lawyers say they have been briefly detained and pressured by the authorities not to take up cases defending those detained, and even told by police to stop tweeting about detained people.

The Chinese authorities must end their repression of calls for peaceful political reform and instead listen to its own people. I am urging the Chinese authorities to take effective measures to guarantee freedom of expression, association and assembly in line with China’s Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which China has signed and declared an intention to ratify.

Copy and paste the letter into an email and send it to

We are no longer in the dark, the internet has allowed those in need and wanting change to speak out, I plan to listen and be counted.

I wish you well Ai Weiwei and I hope that you are released in time for the unveiling of your Pulitzer Fountain work in New York.

=Youtube video to follow once home - here is the link for now.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

From Corsodyl with Love

Something Melbourne doesn't have to offer (aside late night alternative dancing spots in dingy basement clubs and community halls) is Corsodyl. Two days before I travelled to China I found myself strapped (maybe just held down) to a chair just of Kingsland Road, Dalston. As I lay victim, my Greek dentist hacked at the offending bits of bone with a chisel, mercilessly scraping clean the plaque clogging up my mouth and in the process a good chunk of my enamel. I attribute the final flurry of mouth fur to the weekend spent raving in a field in Hackney - the precursor to gum disease. I'd been out for three days straight and found myself in a neurosurgeons bathroom on Sunday afternoon finger brushing, too little, too late. Since that painful episode I have vowed to take proper care of my teeth. Yet this promise hasn't been an easy one, I'm a little lazy by all accounts, perhaps down to poor habits as a child or simply that brushing teeth is dull/forgetful. I've taken to combining the activity weeing or showering. A product I have grown a particular fondness to is Corsodyl. It's like bleaching, for your mouth, a chemical process that somehow feels synthetic yet strangely fulfilling. At first when it was prescribed to me I hated it, the staining and the intense aftertaste, felt unfamiliar and polluting. Over time (and with the impending fear of plaque attack) it has become an itch I must scratch, typically it’s not available in this country. However there is an alternative, Sanocol, same chemical, different taste/sensation entirely. Unhappy with its poorer brother I receive bottles of mouthwash (upon my request) as presents from trips abroad, "err do you really want mouthwash Martina? Yes, please!"

My newest member, fresh from Dubai courtesy of Toro. Next the old bottle available in the UK.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Tribe leader: Zepherin Saint

Here's a biography/interview, I've just completed...

Zepherin Saint, enigmatic producer, DJ, talent scout and co-founder of Tribe records, sits opposite composed and alert. Unabashed he smoothes over my interrogation with an effervescent charm, that softens my line of questioning. Mastery acquired via two decades of flexing vinyl in the eighties London warehouse scene, and lighting up the dance floor for Michael Jackson et al. This tribe chief treads a tight rope between elusive party chameleon and all-around-nice-guy, nom de guerre ‘dream big brother’. His prominence as venerate artist is a far leap from the thirteen year old Cinderfella, who would enthusiastically pack rigging into the back of van for parties he was too young to attend. That was 1983, when folk transformed their homes into clubs, with a subsequent door tax - to cover breakages. Musical education was a diet administered daily; from funk bands (Parliament, Slave) to UK jazz funk, with soul, lovers rock and country (thanks mum and dad) melted into the pot. 1987 came to fruition with the debut release of Give me back your love feat. Carol Leeming, under the pseudonym Boyz in Shock on Jack Trax, regarded as one of the first British garage tracks.

In the years which have elapsed Saint has toured extensively, discovering an infinite appreciation of his music and the genre in general, in the most unexpected of places; Beirut, Syria, Egypt. Feeding into an obsessive love of soul music, Saint has devoted himself to discovering and nurturing new strains from around the globe. Producing a unique blend of afro house, referencing primary roots into a myriad of hypnotic layers, the sound is deep and intoxicating. Saint has attained the optimum position to convey Tribe’s message of One Sound, One People to the masses. Herewith we discuss the man behind that message.

Martina Randles: When did you get your first break?
Zepherin Saint: I finished school and joined a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) and it just so happened that the telephone company apprenticeship was based next to a record label and recording studio that I was devoted to, I followed all their releases, Jack Trax, it was like, the first house UK label. During my lunch breaks I used to go there and hang out. The scene was taking off at the time in London, it was 1987, eventually I gave them a demo and they signed my track, I was 17. We got our dj'ing break at Spectrum in Leicester; I was shocked to find that the house scene had been going strong for a couple of years. It was like a youth centre and they were (jacking) throwing each other high in the air, it was when those sayings 'how high can you jack' actually meant something. The midlands of England captured the essence of House music before London and that was a real eye opener.

Martina Randles: You worked at Blackmarket Records for 8 years; would you refer this time as a rite of passage?
Zepherin Saint: Blackmarket records started in 1988 as a pioneering shop for house music. I was 19 working behind the counter, meeting everyone that came through the door - Frankie Knuckles, Tony Humphries, David Morales. I didn’t go to university; this was my schooling, being able to choose records for all the big DJs around the world. Watching what they felt in a record, the records they picked - what they wanted, what they didn't want. It’s interesting the people that worked behind the counter during that period are like a who's who within the UK industry.

Martina Randles: How long have you been producing music?
Zepherin Saint: Over 20 years; although I actually stopped making music for five years, I was more focused on developing and managing talent through my company Xosa music, then a techno DJ – Jeff Mills put out a compilation of all time choice cuts and he put my very first record on there (Boyz in Shock feat Carol Leeming Give me back your love - Jack Trax), and I was like bloody hell, that’s kinda major, he's a huge DJ globally. Everything suddenly came flooding back to me; why I started music in the first place. I remembered myself at my mum's piano writing that song, I just felt I had to get back in the studio which I already had in the basement of my house just sitting there, dormant. I connected everything back up and thought what I am going to do, let’s just try something…; that was back in 2007.

Martina Randles: How important is construction and authenticity in your music?
Zepherin Saint: I listen to a lot of world music; I make it as well, music with different tempos, different time signatures using more traditional instruments. I use a mixture of synthetic sounds set to traditional rhythms, and live samples performed by musicians from around the world and myself of course. I have a soft spot for Middle Eastern and Afro Cuban percussion. It's exciting to go to another part of the world and experience a new instrument - a Middle Eastern Bozuk, a West African Kora. There is a wonderful sounding Sim Simear, from Saudi Arabia, its primitive looking with four strings; the amount of chords I get from it is unbelievable.

Martina Randles: Where has your music taken you; that you might not have otherwise gone?
Zepherin Saint: I go to Beirut quite a bit to record music and there is a military presence everywhere, it’s a bit surreal, yet very warm and welcoming. Syria was a place I never thought I would go, and I found amazing talent there in musicians and singers.

Martina Randles: As well as being involved in the House music scene you’ve also rubbed shoulders with the likes of Michael Jackson and worked with R Kelly. What do you remember most about these experiences?
Zepherin Saint: R Kelly was very nocturnal, we couldn't go into the studio until after midnight because that’s when he starts his day, he's very talented; it was great working with him. Meeting MJ was bizarre indeed, I was booked for a private party in Bahrain - the special guest was kept a secret. I saw a familiar silhouette but could not place it. He came right up to the booth and stood there for most of the night, dancing with his hand on the speaker. It was a very special moment for me, playing, Don’t stop until you get enough, whilst he danced was probably the highlight of my career.

Martina Randles: Tell me about the birth of Tribe records?
Zepherin Saint: Tribe started in March 2009. At the time I felt labels were focused on quantity and little to do with quality - this was linked to the change from vinyl to digital I expect and labels used this as an opportunity to release more material. There was a gap in the market, and my partner Matt Langrish-Smith and I set about building Tribe together. The first release was a track I had produced for Nathan Adams called Circles. It set the tone and standard for the label and gave us the right step to get noticed.

It’s actually gone beyond my expectations, it never started with a huge plan, we just wanted to get good music out from around the world; the people have embraced us. We are currently on our 20th release of singles and have also released 2 albums with many more to come.

Martina Randles: Spawned from the Tribe label the eponymous parties have become an international success, was this natural progression in the development of the brand?
Zepherin Saint: As a label you got to have more than one avenue as a company and doing events goes hand in hand with what we are all about. Our international presence is continually growing we’re already in London, Paris, Toronto, Miami and Amsterdam. 'Tribe Live' has been really well received and we are definitely planning to do more live events in the near future. The Tribe 2nd anniversary at WMC for me was simply magical. The event has become a reunion for us where we meet old and new friends from around the globe. The expression of all these different energies in one place is a highlight and opening for our year.

Martina Randles: What’s in store for 2011?
Zepherin Saint: I have two albums for completion - Nathan Adams, a world music album both due out this year and there are also plans for Tribe compilations. I recently played in Sydney and Melbourne - the love for deep house music in Australia is incredibly strong so we are making efforts to feed this part of the world more with our style. Our mission is to get to pockets of the world that does not get enough of our music in its club scene and continue to spread the Tribe vibe….. One Sound, One People.