HARRIET VERNEY INTERVIEWS MARY McCARTNEY

A quick and lazy google will tell you Mary McCartney has photographed everyone from the Blairs at Downing Street (she actually forgot her tripod when she shot them) to Spice Girl Mel C. An eclectic mix. In the loo at Mary’s west London studio, there hangs her portrait she took last year of The Queen; poised, earnest and well, the queen—it sits brilliantly above the bog. The only other picture in the bathroom is of two leathered and brilliantly wrinkled sun worshipers on their sunbeds in Venice. Him reclining with his jazzy rainbow swimming trunks on and she completely covered up bar her face. She really has photographed them all.

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TIM NOBLE PRESENTS SUE WEBSTER AT THE DOOR

The Door co-curator and London-based writer Harriet Verney talks to Tim Noble about his first solo piece 'Half Cast', on exhibit at The Door.

 

"It's a fucking coffin" ...is Tim Noble’s reply when I ask him to explain "Half Cast” to me.

He is in a foul mood; it's actually quite unbearable. He keeps stomping his foot like a child and I think I just overheard him sarcastically ask the barmaid “how long will a Guinness take to pour?” This is not the usual Tim Noble show. He even looks different. His usual sprouting Jewish curls have been lathered in bleach as though it were weed killer, there is a tufty rats tail at the back of his head which is probably from him hacking his own hair off; like Edward Scissor hands in the dark. His eyes have bin bags swinging beneath them and a once marginally tame smother of marmite-like stubble now looks like an un-managed woodland.

It’s like watching “The Day The Clown Cried.” I ask the same question again.

He ignores me again. Instead he makes a swastika out of pizza crusts and breaks the silence to tell me my beanie looks like something out of Coronation Street. As his bottom lip became like an avalanching cliff edge, the top lip like a wimping willow tree, I knew I was never going to get my answer. I realised that Tim was all about riddles and I've never got a straight answer out of him. It's like pulling a piece of warm chewing gum off the bottom of your shoe or like trying to unknot the kink in a backwards chainsaw chain.

I tell him I’m going to include the entire above “interview” in my write up. He tells me he’ll get someone else to do it. I know he won’t.

Firstly, this is Tim’s debut solo piece. A portrait of his wife Sue Webster. Read into it what you like, it’s a life-size sculpture and it’s wearing a paper bag over its head and a T-Shirt that reads “S.C.U.M.” She is shoved in a doorway, or “coffin” as Tim puts it. “Half Cast” has his macabre sinister humour written all over it.

Half Cast stands in the classic Sue Webster pose. Hands in pocket, a lean to the left, with one foot slightly turned out, it gives the impressions she is an intimidating foot taller than her actual 5ft 3. You don’t even need to see beneath the paper bag to know the look she is giving you. Her stature says it all. There is still something overtly feminine about her too. From the glance of a black curl falling out the brown paper bag to the baggy jeans hanging off her slender hips. The real Sue Webster up close is less like a shark who smells fear and more the woman who smells of Agent Provocateur perfume with a seductive slashing of poison red across her lips.

Secondly, half cast has a slight bulge, a trouser snake. One of those ones clearly visible in a man who wears jeans to tight or one them ones you imagine on a woman who is a trained kick boxer and renowned artist. Therefore Tim Noble presents Sue Webster was a fitting original name for the piece. Casted half from Tim’s body and half from Sue’s.

So what do you get if you put these two ‘other halves together? A Black Whole? Which half is you? I ask Tim.

“The good half” he jokes.

The Society Club hosts THE DOOR, literally a doorway in the heart of Soho and London's first viewable 24 hour outside gallery. THE DOOR showcases British art, curated by writer Harriet Verney and photographer Scarlett Carlos Clarke.

Harriet Verney is a journalist/writer based in London.

Mark Hix

Anything you can do Mark Hix can do better; probably quicker, look nicer, taste exceptional and all the while make it look easier than tying one's shoelaces. Hix is a ‘yes’ man. A modest yes man at that.

He may be infamous for his cock and bull menu but at home Asian food is his forte. An Asian-infused broth with slow cooked meat or shellfish. He massages a mound of dough every night before bed, ready for a fresh loaf of soda bread in the morning;  “relaxing’ consists of writing his weekly food column for the observer and a monthly for Esquire. Last week he researched junk food, his first fast food fracas was in the drive through at McDonalds after eating a Big Mac Supersize-me meal (obviously) and scoffed his way through several pasties at his “favourite fast food joint”, the West Cornwall pasty company (what us mere microwaved reliants would consider all right grub).

Find him on weekends in a baseball hat, a pair of Oakleys sunglasses and yanking a 10 tonne lobster pot up on his bond style bachelor boat in Lyme Regis, where he also has a hotel, an oyster and fish restaurant, and a couple of fish festivals, mackerel and crab. Him (and two thousand guitar welding foodies) hold the record for the most guitars playing one song on a beach at one time during his annual Food Rocks Festival.

Walk into any one of his 7 Restaurants and one is slapped round the face with an abundance of “modern art.”  He is the stinking bishop of the art world, the dirty dog, the black sheep. A fan of old school fruit and veg stall style bartering, he is credited with feeding half the art world for the last 20 years. In return the likes of Tim Noble and Sue Webster broke into his garage to draw phallic obscenities over his treasured Merc to then be paraded (unbeknownst to Hix) through London and down the M4.

He is the meat and two veg on everybody’s plate and the name on everyone else’s lips, and has just opened his 8threstaurant in bankside last July; fear not, there is still plenty of time to get your Hix Fix, in fact, there’s a lot more to come…

 

Cocktail Confessions


The cocktail that best personifies you?
Negroni

Your favourite piece of art on your wall?
A black and white Bridget riley 60’s piece on Perspex

The song that takes you back?
Smoke on the water –Deep Purple, Ian Gillan is playing it at my Food Rocks festival this year.

The book on your bedside table now?
Salar the Salmon/Tunny

Your favourite smell?
Waking up to the smell of the sea when im in Dorset.

 

Harriet Verney is a journalist/writer based in London.

INTERVIEW WITH DETMAR BLOW, AUTHOR OF "BLOW BY BLOW"

If Little Lord Fauntleroy had grown up, acquired a somewhat dandy-ish wardrobe (pink punk suits and whatnot), a lawyer's degree and a penchant for modern art … well that would be Detmar Blow.

Meeting Blow it makes one want to move all ones china out of arm's reach --his hand gestures are almost as wild as his pedigree: half-Sri Lankan, half-painstakingly English and husband of the exotic fruit that was Isabella Blow, about whom he co-wrote a best-selling biography titled “Blow by Blow”.

Detmar has the sniff of aristocracy mixed with a whiff of the contemporary. He grew up in the delightfully dysfunctional Hilles house; an arts and crafts house he shared with a barefoot brother who sort of resembles Heathcliff , an eccentric sister who practically owns the velvet overcoat look, a couple of greyhounds and a pug “Alfie Blow”, a quite nice and very large William Morris carpet (to which the greyhounds took a strong disliking), and now his son and 6-year-old stand up comedian Sasha. He wears his favourite outfit, an “Indian monkey coat” on all special occasions -his wedding, his wife's funeral, his best friend's party and Christmas day- and has broken the frail 20th Century speakers several times blaring out Bryan Ferry and Princess Superstar's "Bad Babysitter" (“my favourite song, she should have made the big time”).

He’s a live wire, a high flyer, a fire starter and a party crasher. The best party, he says, is when he’s by himself. The worst are filled with bankers and other similar bores.

By Harriet Verney

Cocktail Confessions

A fictional character you'd like to have dinner with?
Scarlet O' Hara

The cocktail that best personifies you?
Dirty Vodka Martini

The artist who arouses, inspires, and tingles you?
Jeff Koons

The song that takes you back?
Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix

The book on your bedside table right now?
"The Deserters" by Charles Glass

A Favorite or familiar smell?
Avignon by Comme des Garçons

 

Harriet Verney is a journalist/writer based in London. Photo by Rebecca Thomas.

BLAZING STAR: THE LIFE & TIMES OF JOHN WILMOT

“BLAZING STAR: THE LIFE & TIMES OF JOHN WILMOT, 2ND EARL OF ROCHESTER” BY ALEXANDER LARMAN

The fiercely promiscuous poet and Restoration Dandy of the 17th century, John Wilmot, the 2nd Earl of Rochester, is brought to life in Alexander Larman’s colorful and comprehensive biography, “Blazing Star: The Life & Times of John Wilmot”. In his debut book, Larman highlights not only Wilmot’s salaciousness – a man who died of Syphilis at 33 and had ‘swived more whores more ways than Sodom’s walls e’er knew’ –but the remarkable talent of a complex man in an age of great literary achievement.

What inspired you to write “Blazing Star: The Life & Times of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester”?

AL: “I always wanted to read a really gripping biography of Rochester, and couldn’t find one anywhere. There’s a relatively famous one by Graham Greene that was written in the 20s and published in the 70s, Lord Rochester’s Monkey, but it’s very out of date in the sources that it uses, and it’s inaccurate in many of its assumptions. Most of the ones since then have either been academic in their focus or just fairly boring, and I thought Rochester deserved better. I started thinking seriously about the book in 2008, and did some preliminary research, but my initial ideas were quite wild, so it wasn’t until 2011 that I came up with a more measured approach. Blazing Star is, I can honestly say, the Rochester biography I wanted to read. I hope others agree.”

Did you think the film, “The Libertine” accurately represented the salaciousness of John Wilmot?

AL: “No, not really. I felt that it suffered from a poor script and direction, and its focus was all too skewed to the idea of Rochester as an alcoholic, syphilis sufferer and sex fiend – not that he wasn’t these things, but it just ended up being very reductive and quite boring. One of its biggest problems was that it didn’t convey his wit or decency, and I still think that there’s a better film to be made about his life. Shame, as Johnny Depp’s pretty decent in the lead role.”

What drew you to Wilmot’s poetry?

AL: “I first got into Rochester when I was a student. It was a complete breath of fresh air to find a poet who was entirely accessible and even – that rarest of rare things- funny. And then I started looking beyond the set-piece and smutty poems, and found this amazing and very underrated canon of work – everything from hilarious social satires to deeply touching love sonnets via intricately argued and intellectually challenging philosophical works. I always say that he’s somewhere halfway between Donne and Larkin, but this almost does it a disservice.”

What was most surprising about John Wilmot as discovered during your research?

AL:  “Rochester is a slippery customer, and one of the challenges – and pleasures – of the research was debunking many of the myths about him. There was a tradition, both in his own time and afterwards, of ascribing a lot of hoary old wives’ tales (a lot of which probably existed before he was ever born) to ‘the wicked Rochester’, which has led to him being much maligned for things he never did or said. The same thing goes for the poetry – there has been an awful lot of very mediocre erotic verse that’s said to be by him, presumably because few people would believe it wasn’t. I’ve tried to remedy this throughout the book.”

What attribute of John Wilmot do you most relate to?

AL: “To be honest, it’s not the debauchery that interests me about Rochester, so much as his refusal to believe all the hypocrisies that he was surrounded by. We live in an age where falsehoods and half-truths and exaggerations are broadcast in seconds on social media, which isn’t so very different from the 17th century court, where gossip would fly around the court and streets and make or break reputations in seconds. I try my hardest to reject this, and I think that Rochester’s example is a remarkable and stirring one.”

Being both a debaucherous Libertine and a remarkable poet -someone who simultaneously embraced and disregarded moral and cultural norms of the time- would you consider John Wilmot more virtuous or more of a philistine in his approach to life?

AL: “He certainly wasn’t virtuous, but then he approached life as a grand adventure to be lived to the full, rather than a miserable journey that had to be completed as quickly and quietly as possible. He definitely didn’t like the world that he lived in, but on the other hand he wouldn’t have thrived if he’d been born 20 years before – he’d have died in the Civil War or would have been imprisoned or executed in the Commonwealth.”

When were you first introduced to John Wilmot?

AL: “I first became aware of him when I was at school, because all the four-letter words seemed very shocking. Then I forgot about him for a few years until I arrived at university, and his poem ‘A Satire Against Reason and Mankind’ was compulsory first-year study. I remember thinking it was incredible – and so much more than just the ‘smutty poet’ stuff I’d read before.”

What fascinated you to the Libertine movement?

AL: “A libertine is literally ‘one who defies behaviour that’s accepted by the world around them’, and certainly anyone who wants to write for a living is doing something that goes against society. There’s a deliberate perversity to wanting to spend your life chronicling the tales of people and their times – real and imaginary – and it’s no coincidence that most libertines are creative people.”

Do you think the band “The Libertines” brought light to an era that its fans might otherwise not have known about?

AL: “I have to say probably not – while Pete Doherty is a libertine, I’m not sure that Carl Barat or his other bandmates are much more than competent musicians. Which might be a good thing…Doherty depresses me a bit because he talks a very good game about Albion and reaching a higher state of artistic awareness, and then his music’s largely dreadful and he’s fairly charmless. I think that there are far better libertine musicians out there – Bowie, Nick Cave (who namechecked Rochester in ‘There She Goes, My Beautiful World’), Neil Hannon, Bryan Ferry…and of course you can have female libertines as well, so someone like Miley Cyrus is an interesting one to watch. Amy Winehouse was, but then unfortunately she left before her time – like Rochester.”

Last but not least, do you have any tips you've learned on the way for the aspiring writer?

AL: “Don’t give up, first of all. Nobody gets to write the book that they wanted to straight away. My first conception of a Rochester biography was a weird, discursive thing that would have included fiction, autobiography, mock-interview material and so on. It might have been fascinating (or might not), but it was also unsellable, and so I didn’t seriously reconsider the book for years. Secondly, decide whether you want to write fiction or non-fiction. It’s perfectly possible to move between the two, but one tends to be more associated with one or the other. Thirdly, never underestimate how important advice from people can be, whether it’s literary agents, publishers, critics or just people who read a lot. Writing isn’t an exact science, but it’s also a business, and in order to get anywhere in it, you have to have a very good idea of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And finally, don’t be cowed by the number of books that are on sale in shops. Everyone had to start from somewhere, and there’s no reason why you can’t write something that’s both a deeply personal and heartfelt book and can connect to a wide commercial audience.”

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Larman has written extensively about literature and the arts for publications including the Guardian, New Statesman, The Spectator, the Daily Telegraph, the Erotic Review and the Observer, and also has written a radio play, Jack and Archie, about the relationship between C.S. Lewis and John Betjeman. He also assisted with the editing of another great London libertine's book, Sebastian Horsley's best-selling memoir Dandy In The Underworld. Blazing Star represents the culmination of over a decade's fascination with and research into the life, art and times of Lord Rochester.

“Blazing Star: The Life & Times of John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester” is available for purchase at The Society Club.

INTERVIEW WITH WRITER AND DIRECTOR ALEX COX

Legendary British filmmaker and author Alex Cox recently came through The Society Club during a UK-tour with Oldcastle Books to talk with us about his latest book, "The President and the Provocateur", a weighty, research-driven and gripping exploration into the parallel lives of Lee Harvey Oswald and John F. Kennedy. Cox, known for his cult-classic films such as Repo Man, Sid and Nancy, and Straight to Hell, has continued his prolific career across myriad platforms both behind the camera and on the page, including "10,000 Ways to Die", a director's take on the Spaghetti Western.

For "The President and the Provocateur", Cox spent years researching the history of the Kennedy Assassination whilst teaching the art of screenwriting and filmmaking at The University of Boulder, Colorado. 50 years after both John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald were murdered, Cox provides a chronological account of their lives' strange intersections, their shared interests and the increasing evidence which suggests that Oswald was working for a branch of the government, most likely the FBI or IRS, as an agent provocateur.

During the book launch of “The President and the Provocateur” at The Society Club, you discussed the importance of laying things out in chronological order when you can’t understand something properly. Beyond doing that for historically accurate timelines, do you find that also to be a helpful tool when developing fictional story lines?

 

AC: "I tend to write fiction from beginning to end, so yes, in that sense. I think [with "The President and the Provocateur"] a timeline always makes sense when trying to unravel historical subjects and so the parallel lives of the two men made sense - also as a way to evaluate them both."

How much does music influence your creative process?

AC: "Not so much any more. Unless writing music-themed films, of course!"

Do you outline heavily before embarking on a new project or have a specific routine when writing?

AC: "For non-fiction, I make lots of notes! Less in the way of complete outlines."

Do you believe in the writing “muse” who enters the room and awakens the characters on the page or do you think it’s just a matter of sitting down and writing?

AC: "Just sit down and write. You have to put the time in."

How much do you adhere to structure?

AC: "Structure is imporant for screenplays, less for the non-ficiton stuff."

What is one of your favourite books?

AC: "Moby Dick, the ALICE books."

What advice do you have for the aspiring writer?

AC: Sit down and write!

*"The President and the Provocateur" is available for purchase at The Society Club.

About Alex Cox
Alex Cox studied law at Oxford, and film at Bristol and UCLA. He is the director of a dozen feature films (including Repo Man, Sid & Nancy, Walker and Revengers Tragedy), the author of various scripts and three books –X Films, 10,000 Ways To Die, and most recently, The President and the Provocateur. He lives in Oregon, where he is a volunteer firefighter, and teaches film production and screenwriting at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His films are available from Criterion, the BFI and Microcinema. Visit his site here.

 

Cocktail Confessions with Alex Cox

A fictional character you'd like to have dinner with?
AC: Alice.

The cocktail that best personifies you.
AC: Beer.

The artist who arouses, inspires, and tingles you.
AC: Lewis Carrol.

The song that takes you back.
AC: Uhh....

The book on your bedside table right now... You know, the one next to that sumptuous nightcap?
AC: 
Wooden Os, a book about Elizabethan theatres.