I left England a few weeks ago, after a long night of thunderstorms that rattled the brick walls of the house, great sheets of black rain, metric tonnes of water falling. These were the beginning of the floods that gripped the news for a while (I noticed on one occasion, the Daily Mail blamed the government for the fact that rainwater isn't drinkable; I take my hat off to them).
We played the Benicassim festival in Spain, drinking in the backstage bar with friends, acquaintances, and some currently very famous musicians like the Arctic Monkeys, whose popularity is an enigma to me. Amy Winehouse's gothically silent 14 piece band accompanied us on the coach to the airport at the end of the weekend. She strode into a waiting camouflage-painted hummer instead. Her hair is big. I guess her music exists somewhere far in the background, at most a rumour, a trace, a sort of vaguely defined crutch which may or may not support the fact that people in the press are probably waiting for her to die, right as you read this. Pete Doherty's music occupies this kind of dream-space too. What legendary band was he in again? He's got that moon-calf look, a holy fool, Prince Mishkin with periodical drug busts instead of epileptic fits... wait..... no, hang on.... how does it go again?
So with such ugly mutterings I ran away, all the way to Australia! There, and in New Zealand, we played with Robert Scott, who you may know as a member of The Bats and The Clean. Bob was selling some of his (very beautiful) paintings from the merch stand, as well as hand-made CDRs, in between getting up on stage with a guitar and singing with his silvery, mournful voice. As well as being a New Zealand music legend, Bob also gives guitar lessons to kids and has a band that plays covers at weddings, stuff like Jonathan Richman. I vote Bob Scott for President of the World, with George Henderson of the Puddle as Minister without Portfolio. There’s a DIY ethic in New Zealand that’s so inspiring. If you want to write poetry you just write it and sell it yourself, if you want to paint you don’t moan cos there’s no gallery to broker your work, you just paint and sell your paintings at a merch stand or at the side of the road. The focus is on the making, not the reception, or the selling; all of which should be blindingly obvious but often seems to get corrupted and lost.
I don't know if artists should have values, or really ‘stand’ for anything. Today I think that what they should do is bear witness, in an almost Biblical sense, to what they see in their lives, in their psychic area, use their imaginations to conjure it back into art, show that they were truly here, whether anyone will be listening tomorrow or not. Cos I think a key doubts nowadays might be: 'am I truly here?' How the communication takes form, or what is said, well, choosing that is the fun part. But when art becomes a career, it’s surprisingly easy to lose your way and, shortly afterwards, your soul. Watching Bob at work reminded me what is truly important, and what I should just turn my back on.