Words of Other Meerkats

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by Chris Sloan

Chris Sloan is an intelligent young fellow with the weight of a dictionary on his mind, a jacket on his back and a hefty slice of cynicism on his lips. He really needs to get that looked at.

Human Nature, Eh?

Okay guys, before I begin I’m just gonna give you fair warning, this little piece might just be amongst the most disorientated, ambitious and ‘god damn I sound insane’ string of thoughts I’ve had for a little while…it’s mainly about how our personalities are minimal and more importantly, reactive.

I hope everybody reading this will disagree with me in lieu of more optimistic theories, and everybody learns some science to debunk me, and then everybody knows science and wins at thinking about crap. So with advances in things like cognitive neuroscience and psychology, researchers have discovered one of the big reasons for things from our most basic to our most complex instincts and psychological defences, its survival.  It’s difficult to tell what choices you are making freely and when your biological blueprints are forcing your decisions, and happens far more often than most would like to comfortably believe.

Here’s a little example to get your head round it. Ever notice that a lot of guys get nervous when trying to score?

That’s survival.

Humans travelled in nomadic tribes of around 100-200 people for the majority of our existence. So how many out of that number would not be male, diseased, too young, too old, already taken (likely forfeiting your life in the attempt), not disfigured? …and so on. Around ten maybe, they all have high status within the tribe and know each other, so if an attempt to attract one of them fails that person will never pass on his genes and would likely be killed by his own tribe as a result of their disapproval. He’s fucked, basically, and it was that way for thousands of years. Why do some guys get nervous around women? It’s rarely some profound emotional reason; they can’t get past their survival blueprints involving fear, that’s all.

This is where we start to suck. You see, almost everything we do is influenced by some degree by these survival patterns, and they’re actually outdated by a few fucking centuries. These rusty genetic blueprints cannot evolve at the same rate as our society has over the last 200 years, and this partly accounts for our problems with war, fanatics, authoritarian control, complacency, conformity, organised religion and why democracy just is not working, for a start. Without guidance we cannot overcome said evolutionary predispositions which remain stuck in The Stone Age.  Getting a sense of how influential these hard-wired codes are yet? Tackling these issues individually without addressing this core issue would prevent us from improving our species in the long term (not that you likely care as you’ll be long dead before the issue is addressed).

Cultural influences take away yet more of our free will, sculpting our personalities under massive societal pressure to conform and obey. It has been a while since I studied sociology, but I remember hearing about tribes who gave all their children to the collective village elders to be raised, the biological parents showing little interest about the welfare of the child, and about how various indigenous tribes like the Amazonians would have reversed gender roles (likely because dexterity, agility and balance was needed to hunt in said areas as a whole rather than strength, endurance and speed, but I am both guessing and generalising here). This shows how culture can override biological imprinting, but it’s still another form of unconscious control.

The third culprit of unconscious control in my depressing little triumvirate is the subconscious, which seems to be paradoxically your unfiltered self whilst being an automated response system, and that’s absolutely chilling. I don’t pretend to know about the subconscious however, I’m just pondering how many of my decisions are made by this ‘androidian’ subconscious (not a real word, by the way), with conscious emotion only allowed in at a later stage of the decision, like an afterthought. It’s only a horrible feeling I have, though.

So if evolutionary blueprints, society, and the inorganic feeling subconscious all influence you, to what extent could you have (key phrase) a self-formed personality? How much of your nature can be attributed to these factors? To what extent are the more mentally impaired or imbalanced responsive, correlating to which conditions? I’ll likely never know but the existence of the question will still perturb me. Oh, woe is me with my existential funk!

Our personas are formed by others, not ourselves, and knowing this makes me feel that personal growth is done with others, not singularly. All humans are reactive, not proactive. Props if you can find who it was originally attributed to, but what I am saying can be summed up in the quote “The notion that nature can be calculated, inevitably leads to the conclusion that humans too, can be reduced to basic mechanical parts”. I’m not a determinist however, as I believe in anomalies and this existence alone disproves determinism. Hopefully.

If you stop and think about it we are so similar to bacteria on a macro scale that it is beyond fucked up, almost every natural instinct revolves around surviving and reproducing, and facets of your ‘personality’ could very well be nothing but a complex mechanism to make you more comfortable and efficient at doing so. It’s truly ironic then, that these instincts that cause so many problems are referred to along with natural emotions as the caring ‘heart’ and that we owe most everything good in society to logical thought, the ‘mind’.

As our instincts twist against us through the ages we turn to logic, improve or die, and if we can understand these influencing factors, we can attribute a modicum of control over them. The ‘human spirit’ seriously needs an OS (Operating System) update. Logic saves us, emotion comes after the fact. We don’t know how lucky we are, being able to think up nonsense like this.

I think what I’m trying to say is that you’re simply a response to everything that’s happened to you and your ancestors; you never had a chance to create the fundamentals of your essence. Also editing these survival instinct relics can only be done through science.

Transhumanism for the fucking win, guys.

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High Water Mark

by Ian McHugh

Ian McHugh gazes at things, often – when not playing in converse-gaze band A Plastic Rose. Caught pondering at his converse more often than not, he genuinely spends his time gazing around at many of life’s other mysteries. Once he gazed at himself. That, I’ve often thought, was how the universe was created.

High Water Mark

Once I loved derelict buildings.
Their lonely air of gravity,
Their dead eyed consent.
Now they snap at our disdain,
Their scorn weighs a ton.
New ones turn greyscale on O’Connel Street.
Scratch card scraping our hopes,

When ye were our age, you shut the pubs
on Sundays for your god.
Now we shut them again, for ours.

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by Graham Smith

Graham Smith is a highly acclaimed and award winning music photographer heralding from Northern Ireland but frequently found in all corners of the known world, and their coffee shops. Waitresses beware.

My Photography Equipment (A Rant)

Almost everyday for the past decade I have received an email or been asked in person about the photography equipment I use. That is (approximately) 3600 times I have been asked this same question. Phew!

Currently I use two cameras. No extra lenses, no flashguns, no lights, just two small cameras.

I shoot the majority of my photos with a Ricoh GRD III. This is a compact, pocketable and deceptively powerful camera. It has a fixed focal length wide angle 28 mm f1.9 lens. I have always favoured fixed focal length lenses, I like to move with the camera, zooms have never interested me.

The other camera I use is my iPhone 4. Yes, I shoot on a camera phone and I fucking love it. I use a very simple program called Hipstamatic which comes with many different options for “lenses” and “films” which give different results but I tend to stick to the most basic lens and film which produces a high contrast Lomo/cross-processed style look. Also, as of today since they just updated the program, a very nice black and white film option is now available.

I am fully aware this post will piss off some people, particularly when talking about the iPhone. A camera phone is not a REAL camera, right? Why not? Who says so? I see this as much as a REAL camera as your latest Canon 5D II or whatever the current model is.

The photography world is full of snobbery. I have witnessed this since I started. At first, for me, it was snobbery about not having studied photography and not knowing every technical term or every single past “master” of the art. Nowadays I feel the main snobbery is about equipment. I cannot count the amount of times I hear people say things such as “I will be a REAL photographer when I get such-and-such camera / lens / camera bag / lighting rig,…blah blah blah…”.

Since when did photography come to be so orientated towards equipment and the “perfect” (AKA soulless (in my humble option)) light? The race for more mega-pixels, spending hours editing each photo to remove any “imperfection”, forcing bands into daft poses and concepts etc, etc…

If that is what photography is about these days then I am very glad to not be called a REAL photographer!

I am very happy with my Ricoh. It has really good build quality, a nice sharp lens, produces good images, it feels right and most importantly to me is nice and compact meaning I can take it everywhere I go and I most certainly do. It also does not scream “LOOK AT ME, I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER, LOOOOOOK AT MEEEEE!” which for me is vital in getting people to relax for the type of photography I prefer.

I am also happy using my iPhone with the Hipstamatic app and love the results I am getting. Does the fact that everything is automatic make it not REAL photography? To some people maybe it does and that is fine, but I strongly disagree. Actually, whilst writing this, I have just realised that I treat the Hipstamatic app the same way I used to treat Polaroid photography. Is Polaroid photography more important than Hipstamatic? Why? Because it uses film?

This post is not meant to be a rant to annoy anyone. There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying the latest equipment and having loads of gear to carry around IF that is what you actually want to do. The problem I have is the new thought process that seems to suggest that you must do this in order to be a REAL photographer. Utter bullshit.

My entire camera gear, two small compact cameras, can go everywhere I go, take up very little space and do not cost a fortune. This is not meant to sound egotistical but I have won several awards (ED: most prominently, the Lex Van Rossen, European Young Music Photographer of the Year Award in 2009) and had my work exhibited around the world, using such equipment. I will continue to work this way and if this excludes me from certain parts of the photography world then so be it!

Photography does not have to complicate your life. It can very easily be a fantastic, fun and rewarding compliment to your life, if you let it.

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by Graham Smith

Graham Smith is a highly acclaimed and award winning music photographer heralding from Northern Ireland but frequently found in all corners of the known world, and their coffee shops. Waitresses beware.

Photography Is A Tool

Photography is a tool for me to document my life. I am a nostalgic reflective person. I like to have a trace of where I have been, the experiences I have had and the people I have met. Photography is my way of capturing fleeting moments of this that can then go onto to create a more complete memory in mind.

I also take a lot of satisfaction when somebody likes my work or buys a print to hang in their house. This is, obviously, an incredible feeling and something I do not take for granted but ultimately I shoot for myself.

It wasn’t always this way however.

For six years I worked as a full-time photographer in the music industry. A lot of this job was about to trying to make bands look cool. It was, for me anyway, about trying to please other people and rarely myself. It was fucking frustrating. I was never comfortable or stable in my direction, artistic or otherwise. And so I stopped press work and promo shoots and started being selfish and shooting for myself.

During the last decade of shooting pictures I have spent huge chunks of it feeling frustrated, bitter and uncomfortable which is something I feel I have put behind me now. Nowadays it is all so much more simple – I love photography. I love viewing other peoples photos, I love shooting my own photos, I love putting my own photos out into the general public. Recently I have even loved discussing the subject with other photographers, something I used to despise.

The majority of work features musicians or scenes from the music world for the very simple reason that music is a huge part of my life and my friends. I no longer go out of my way to shoot music related images, it just so happens that 99% of the time that is what is in front of me. I have no wish to go back to the world of commercial music photography, I am glad to have left that behind and no longer think about it.

Photography is an addiction, I do feel empty without my camera being in my presence but it now adds to my life rather than complicates it and as cheesy as it sounds I am eternally grateful I discovered and embraced it.

Stop thinking, stop trying to please others, stop worrying about what other people think – just shoot and enjoy it!

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by Chris Sloan

Chris Sloan is an intelligent young fellow with the weight of a dictionary on his mind, a jacket on his back and a hefty slice of cynicism on his lips. He really needs to get that looked at.

Has the Lack of Innovation in Mainstream Music Signalled a Withering of Expectations, the End of Artistic Horizons or a Perversion in Art?

I suppose I should start this off with a twofold apology, for starters I assured Matt I would ramble on his blog for what must be months now, it seems he has underestimated both my lethargy and forgetfulness, silly man. Secondly, I imagine you’re wondering if I could possibly be any more pretentious after witnessing my title. You have no idea.

It seems more than ever that we live in an age of apathy, no longer is popular music something strange and raw, something artistic at its core. Popular musicians are not judged on artistic merit alone, becoming models, public speakers and dancers, working solely to create the catchy, three minute simply structured mainstream friendly piece for ‘easy listening’. We see this reflected in other aspects of culture too. No longer do we stand in awe of the greatest painters, sculptures, poets and philosophers of our times and instead we end up listening to what ‘Soulja Boy’ thinks about foreign policy? Fuck off. Many of these artists (and I use the term loosely) fit into three easy contrived personas; the angry blowhards, the ‘good role models’ who are anything but, and the everyday lads teaching the next generation to excel only in mediocrity.

Does this mean we need uncaring eccentrics on drugs to storm the music industry once again? Probably.

Why the fuck has this happened then?

It seems the gatekeepers of the music business are economically rather than creatively minded, choosing to pour out replicas of earlier models; the skinny blonde pop star singing the same love songs, the mild indie-rockers who sing much without delivering any sort of powerful message, the ridiculous rapper singing about how bad his neighbourhood was whilst threatening to shoot his listeners and slap a ho, is it our fault? Have the public’s standards lowered on what is art deserving of fame and fortune? You bet they have, and the vast majority don’t seem to care enough to create and push their own alternatives (a frightening parallel with our politics).

So my inane little thoughts on the subject come to this: a music industry concerned only on its profit and keeping a conservative standard of expectations in lieu of taking risks and experimenting with new sounds goes against the very nature of art itself. You shouldn’t expect with certainty anything in art, and if you do those expectations should be thrown back in your face, how many of these popular musicians shock us or make us think, or has the industries bastard child failed to do so? We will not run out of new ground to cover so long as earth keeps changing culturally and socially, so why stick to these strict models on what music is?

I know what your thinking, “You haven’t even listed any alternatives in bands or genres here, you pompous elitist prick”, but I have limited space, and would want to recommend in more detail, if I do write any more on the subject. Thanks for bearing with my puffed up artsy ramblings, I’m away for a smoke, X-Box and lasagne.

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Rebel

by Decky Pill

Decky Pill is a perfectly unstable wave of condensed energy, pulsating at a frequency higher than that of normal life. Some have theorised that he is only visible at night – but studies have shown that he can be seen during the day too.

Rebel

Pikers creek was a mile away,
The riders had ridden hard all day,
Fifteen on horseback tracked their prey,
As they passed Big Rock and entered the bay.

Shots rang out from the bales of hay
Two riders down one on the way,
The Rangers checked but in the fray,
Oscar Foul Hand got away.

The major, furious at his men,
Demanded they gather in lines of ten,
Battered, poked and split with with a cane,
They were put in a room never to be seen again.

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Repulser

by D.J. Rouse

D.J. Rouse is a shadowy figure who cuts a silhouette of finely tuned emotion, sometimes bluntly, violently so. This persona sometimes says what I certainly fail to in everyday life. This persona is not me. That is all I know.

Repulser

Without sounding too melodramatic :

Every fiber of my being is awaiting that moment with a criminal lust,
My arms are empty and they ache for you,
Such a fierce intensive passion I suppose should be restrained,
Or rationed in a way similar to the one being enforced on me,
Memories are rapists that tip toe up behind me and grab me by the throat,
Softly split my jaded, nicotine tinged skin with a deft flick,
And force feed me serotonin only to laugh in my face at the very second they reveal their placebo.
How crafty and indulging they are.
Uncertainty is a cross I’ve come to know and fear and hate and return to,
Seven days a week minus only the brief flirtation with trust and abandonment I get when inside you,
Shapes a man, creates a different one and destroys a probable king,
For in this winter I am nothing but a distorted serial number on the back of a faded teen magazine,
Shoved under the semen crusted sheets in the bed of a prison inmate,
Still close enough to remain conscious, removed enough to be of no consequence,
I’m ultimately nostalgia wrapped in cling film only to be touched wearing marigolds.
I despise yet accept myself, see the holes where I have disappeared into,
Yet have no idea of how to summon the strength necessary to begin the ascension,
I have always been weak enough to assume a princess worthy enough of me,
Dedicated enough, resilient enough would armor me with the ladder out of my pit,
That through some act of love and safety I would be propelled from here into an oasis of calm and serenity,
Such pitiful excuses repulse the repulser, they do nothing but bury guilt beneath the patio,
Next to the torn skeletal remains of the last failed endeavour,
I believe she is still screaming at me, cursing me, I believe because of my eternal need to be relevant,
I’d rather be hated than forgotten,
It is this outstanding egocentricity that makes me unfit to be a man,
Yet – it would seem I still am.

I still wake to find the hair at the tip of my nose outgrowing me.

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by Lauren Carberry

Lauren Carberry has been known for many years to be part woman, part opinion, two parts sugar, one part garlic with a hint of saffron and all baste. Don’t operate any kind of sentient machinery within fourteen feet of her, and beware of her laugh – it’s a distraction.

Glasgowbury As Raw

Early in the day,
Yet a straggle push forward with a definate purpose,
The Rupture Dogs,
One of the first acts,
The sound is still a checking,
The excitement there also,
The barriers have yet to be put up,
In many forms,
Our minds open,
Awaiting the first pure thoughts of the day,
And we are not disappointed,
Scream for us Allan McGreevy,
Poetically but pure,
Drums thrashing with energy,
Base like love thumping hearts,
The crowd thickens regardless of time,
Stopped too soon,
We’ll be coming back for more…

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by Connor Kelly

Connor Kelly is an opinionated young musician and poet from Derry but currently testing out his dictionary and thesaurus on the streets of Belfast and beyond. He has insomnia and enjoys boys and coffee, but not in that order.

Footnote To Revelations (Part I)

I
Can you hear it?
The beat is changing.
Listen.
Can’t you hear it?
Clear your mind and tune in.
Listen to the beat.
The gradient is steepening.
The great acceleration has begun.
Listen to the beat.

What was once a mundane unchanging rhythm, low vibration dischord appearing invincible, ongoing, to the end of time, is now beginning to transform. The beat in our hearts, the beat of time, the beat of understanding, the beat of logic and reason and love.

Listen and you will hear.
Listen and you will feel.
Feel the beat vibrate through every fibre and atom and quark that makes you.
Listen hard and listen deep.

We have spent too long hearing but not understanding, seeing without focus, speaking without acting. We have spent far too long in our blue television worlds replicating the nonsense on screen in our own lives. We have spent far too long sleeping.

I sit in my little room every night hunched over a laptop in a coffee driven Al Jazeera binge. And every night I see dead children.

I see mutilated children. I see children with their limbs blown off. I see children choking and starving. I see children with pieces of hot burning phosphorus lodged in their torso, still alive, screaming while their lungs burn and a doctor cuts open a smoking chest in a last attempt to rescue this Palestinian baby.

I see chunks of ice the size of countries disappear and to be honest I couldn’t give a damn about the fucking polar bears. I’m more worried about the 160 million people squashed into flood planed Bangladesh.

I see so called leaders bath in the blood of my brothers and sisters. Untouchable as the Gods. Glutinous tyrants, laughing from their towers at the idiot masses below. I see them prostrated in front of gold idols, in front of glass temples, in front of the one true beast, Profit.

But I know that they can’t hear the beat. They are blind and deaf and dumb and cannot see the fate that awaits them. They do not know the covenant is broken.

You have heard that it was said, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

You have heard that it was said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

You have heard that it was said, “If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.”

But I say unto you now, The Covenant is Broken!

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by Graham Smith

Graham Smith is a highly acclaimed and award winning music photographer heralding from Northern Ireland but frequently found in all corners of the known world, and their coffee shops. Waitresses beware.

Touring Is Not Glamorous

I write this from a train station in Zurich. Because of a slight problem (aka, a fuck up) a bag, containing money and other items, was left behind at our hotel in Budapest. I am now getting an overnight train to said Budapest to retrieve the bag. And then a train to Vienna to meet up with my band (And So I Watch You From Afar). After the show we will sleep for approximately three hours before climbing back on board the band van and traveling to Milan.

Touring is not glamorous, but fucking hell it is interesting.

There is no natural rhythm. Everything is all messed up yet at the same time seems to follow a very familiar routine. This is not a natural way to live. Or at least not a natural way to live judging by the conventions of the western world in the 21st century. When we eat, when we sleep, when we have sex or masturbate is all determined by the following times:

Load-In
Soundcheck
Doors Open
Stage Time
Curfew
Bus Call

Family, friends and loved ones, although constantly in our thoughts, can so easily fall by the wayside when on tour. This is not intentional. It just happens and can be the bane of many a relationship. Finding someone who understands the life of a touring musician / crew member (or better still, who lives that life themselves) is a difficult thing. Some achieve it, many do not.

Touring is a bubble. The bubble can be both incredibly comforting or incredibly claustrophobic, sometimes simultaneously. Time alone is important. The simple act of disappearing for thirty minutes for a beer, coffee or walk can be incredibly comforting. I try, but often fail, to find a little time alone everyday, to go off somewhere and read a book or just go for a random walk. Often things do not work out this way so my way to get time ‘alone’ is to drive the van. Shades on, music on, coffee at my side, a look of “I am not in a bad mood, just not in the mood for conversation” soon ensures you get a little time to yourself.

My main escape on the road is photography. I document my life constantly with my camera. If my camera is not with me I feel strange, disconnected and naked. Having the camera raised to my eye, or even just in my bag beside me, is my security blanket, my way of knowing that these moments, however fleeting, will be documented forever.

In ten years time I might be the only person interested in seeing these images, but I am at ease with this now.

For a while I thought you had to be incredibly physically and mentally tough to both endure this lifestyle and to thrive and actually enjoy it. I am no longer certain this is the case. I think you just have to be a certain type of person. I know I am definitely this type of person.

I am looking forward to getting home for a two week break after this tour. To see my family and friends, to work on some photography projects, to follow up on fleeting moments with girls, to going to sleep alone. I love getting off tour almost as much as I love being on tour.

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