Manchester author Austin Collings and Wirral musician Liam Power join forces on new spoken word release BLADE JOGGER, Getintothis’ Cath Bore enters their murky, mysterious world.
Listening to BLADE JOGGER, we find ourselves precisely 22 minutes and 11 seconds in the future. This future fictional world. Or is it?
SWENDAB, a new drug, is doing the rounds. It is raining. Protagonist GAZ-15, an ex-bouncer, ex-lover, and full-time fuck-up is a desperate man; he rebels against the greyness of his life, but is trapped, with no way of escaping.
On the night we meet GAZ-15, he goes AWOL. Lost in ‘the hallways of always’ of yet another SWENDAB binge. The rain continues to fall. It doesn’t stop.
Spoiler alert: BLADE JOGGER isn’t Book at Bedtime.
The words written by Austin Collings and underlain by an electronic soundtrack courtesy of By The Sea‘s Liam Power, is an uncomfortable listen. But, notably, we go through quite beautiful almost serene moments as well, with unexpected spots of bitter-sweetness.
“The whole thing is shot through with traces of pain,” says Austin.
“Cold memories are eating into his brain. He used to see himself as a shit-hot bouncer/lover but now eye-contact worries him. And then it starts to hurtle through different emotions from pensive to hysterical,’ Austin adds.
Of course there’s an obvious bleakness to the snapshots we see of GAZ-15‘s life. But such very clever bits of dark humour too, as Austin cites master creators of surreal worlds Samuel Beckett (‘Krapp’s Last Tape… is similar to JOGGER in that it’s written in the style of fragments from the museum of a memory’) and Franz Kafka (‘Metamorphis is another in the sense that I always read it as a domestic-horror story about a man with a terrifying hangover’) alongside ‘powerhouses of comforting piss-taking pessimism’ Charles Bukowski and Thomas Bernhard as big influences.
‘I’ve always been drawn to absurdity. There’s humour in struggling in ignorance,’ he adds.
Narrator James Stannage’s broad northern tones give a 1960s kitchen sink drama feel to the recording.
Not, Austin says, an intentional move but, “that magnificent crop of writers and films are written into every fabric of my being – including my socks. I like the way the likes of Alan Sillitoe and Albert Finney disagreed with the world.”
GAZ-15’s addiction to SWENDAB and his pursuit and need for it is a significant part of BLADE JOGGER. It seemed remiss not to Google “SWENDAB” and find out what it actually means. Nothing, as it turns out; but it is the name of a moderately successful racehorse.
“Having spent 9/10’s of my youth standing outside betting shops waiting for my dad to dream big the nag-connection is not lost on me. It’s also a nod to the whole notion of BAD NEWS, of our contemporary addiction to the war of information: celebrity deaths and terror in all fake or real guises etc. Everything is ridiculous if one thinks of death.”
As we accompany GAZ-15 on his night of pain, memories present to him and us in a confrontation; the story appears to be a very political work, politics with a small p, “GAZ-15 has become political but he doesn’t know why he is political. Like so many of us, he is a political prisoner who exists in the open.”
Austin calls the work not prose nor poem, but ‘more as an extended monologue that works like a graph of an unresolved mental crisis set to music.’
It’s a visual and aural feast. The artwork created by Jason Vaughan (‘Those images are sublime, like staring at a rusted bridge in the sun’) and Liam Power provides the soundtrack – produced by himself and Bill Ryder-Jones – because Liam ‘can create sounds like the horror of a brown bill that make me realise what I’m afraid of and also oceans of bliss that remind me what I love.”
Liam said: “I’d done something similar for our Nick (Power) for his book Holy Nowhere, some soundscape things…he’d put on YouTube”.
“Austin had this…already recorded, he’d heard them, and said (to me) would you do something similar… I don’t think we intended to release it or anything, it turned out quite interesting.”
An understatement indeed; and what we’re accustomed to from By The Sea is quite different to rather quite chilly, unsettling dystopian vision you’ve created. Electronic music and By The Sea aren’t two things one views as natural bedfellows.
He adds: “I suppose the last album touched on it a little bit but…there’s no pressure doing anything where I don’t have to write lyrics or sing. That’s the hardest part. So I just really enjoyed doing it. (it) was quite easy to write to as well.
“I have a tendency to get quite bored when I’m three minutes into writing a tune. To be able to chop and change really fast and move on straight away to something that doesn’t have to sound like the last one is really enjoyable. There’s no constraints.”
He continues: “I’ve always love fiddling with synths and effects, soundscape stuff and John Carpenter soundtracks. I’d just been to see Kraftwerk at the (Liverpool) Phil when I was doing it I was massively on a Kraftwerk buzz. It’s a lot more fun because there’s not as much pressure and I knew it was going to be completely different. I don’t think anyone’s expecting it to be By The Sea tunes, I’ve made that quite clear!’
Liam used one synthesiser, an OP-1 ‘which is only dead small’ and borrowed a drum machine from The Coral’s James Skelly on a couple of the tunes.
He explains: “I made quite a lot loops and tried to layer it as much as I could. There’s bits of everything in there. There’s one track on it that’s really like Squares by the Beta Band or a Portishead tune, whichever way you want to look at it there’s a mix of everything. Mainly did it with one synth and using Logic a couple of things I’d bought on Logic. I was moving different sections to fit different pieces of the poem so a lot of editing really. A lot of trial and error!”
BLADE JOGGER’s title is cheeky nod and a wink to Blade Runner, and of course we hear a feel of the original soundtrack from Vangelis on this, your recording. ‘I love the soundtrack and it’s definitely inspiring…amazing but I couldn’t imitate it. I don’t have fifteen grands worth of vintage synths!’
The press release says the music for BLADE JOGGER is Samuel Beckett soundtracked by Delia Derbyshire. Getintothis asks Liam if he’d care to comment on that?
‘I love any radiophonic workshops. It’s fine by me. Austin just calls me Delia Power now,” Liam smiles.
- BLADE JOGGER is released on December 15 on War Room Records on 12″ vinyl. The launch takes place the following night at Make, North Docks, Liverpool with Pure Joy, …Go Galactic, D.A.N.I.E.L, Beat Les and Nick Power DJ.
Listen to a clip of BLADE JOGGER below.