Sunday, 21 June 2015

'Austerity' is Class War Waged by the Rich.

Image by Yvonne Forster.
I haven't been on many A to B marches over the last few years due to doubts about state sanctioned protest but I managed to get down to the Anti-Austerity Demo on June 20th in London, and was glad I did. The part of the march I was in was made up of a wide mix of people and groups; gay people (with a LGSM banner!), straight people, Unions-lots of Firefighters-Green Partyists, disabled people, women against domestic violence, students and lots of 'independents'. They were older people, younger people, parents with children, kind of like wider society really. What we were protesting against has become euphemistically known as 'Austerity' but is really the further implementation of Neoliberal economics disguised as a response to a financial crisis enabled by...neoliberal deregulation of the financial sector.

The hallmarks of neoliberalism are individualisation, an ideology of free markets, deregulation, small state provision (for the working class, though not for corporations), privatisation (the transforming of public goods into private property) and a continual dismantling of workers rights and protections-in short authoritarian capitalism. It was first implemented in the USA and UK under Reagan and Thatcher in the late 1970s and 80s but also became the dominant ideology of the IMF and World Bank in the 1980s and 90s and was imposed on countries struggling with debt in the Global South, these impositions were known as Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). Some years later it became obvious that the Nett result for these countries was economic stagnation or regression. However SAPs and neoliberalism were not failures from the perspective of the elite because neoliberalism is the politics and economics of class war; the disempowering and impoverishing of the working class and the further empowering and enriching of the elite or capitalist class. This impoverishing/ enriching includes the capture of public goods and services by capital (corporations) which is always in search of something new to turn to a profit. The Tories are a front for corporate interests, a party of the rich and powerful, financed by the rich and powerful, that is why at the same time as pleading poverty they gave tax breaks to the rich and sold off the publically owned EastCoast mainline rail service that was generating a profit and the Post Office that had recently started making a profit. Privatisation is not about efficiency it is about capital/corporation's insatiable desire for new areas to invest in and to make profit from.

In her book 'The Shock Doctrine' (1) Naomi Klein comments that neoliberals will use crisis/catastrophes-either natural or man made- to further impose their agenda, David Cameron and his government did just that. Using the financial crisis of 2008 they, with the help of the corporate media, span a story of how 'austerity' was necessary. Sadly a populace used to receiving their information via a generally right wing media accepted the narrative rarely bothering to seek out alternative voices or explore the history of neoliberal imposition.

'Austerity' is really the continuing of, and possibly the completion of, the neoliberal project to dismantle the social democratic model set up post WWII- a model that included welfare provision, social housing, worker's rights and attempts to restrain inequality. The neoliberal Tories as the political representation of the interests of capital have always been opposed to the social democratic model and now see their chance to finish it off.

When right wing corporate newspapers enthusiastically support a political party you can be sure that party is not going to serve the interests of the large majority of a populace but that simple point seemed lost on the British public-or maybe it wasn't. Maybe that is why the Tories only got 36% of the vote and 25% of the possible vote. Maybe at the start of this next 5 years of Tory rule the British public are realising that they are being subject to the economics of class war and are starting to wake up?

(1) Klein, N. (2007) 'The Shock Doctrine; The Rise of Disaster Capitalism', Penguin Group, London.        


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Blank Editions-a labour of love.

Image by Ross Adams.
The 2012 film 'Good Vibrations' is set in the late 1970s/early 80s and follows the life of one Terri Hooley, a Belfast record shop owner who suddenly becomes aware of the new vibrant punk scene in Ireland. Having had his eyes opened to the raw talent and excitement of an underground music scene going on all around him the entrepreneurial Terri records and releases singles by various bands from the area, the most famous being 'Teenage Kicks' by The Undertones. At the core of the film is a 'regional' record label facilitating a new surge of creativity. Fast forward 35 years and two of the most exciting bands I've seen recently, Tomaga and Housewives, have had recent releases on Hackney record label Blank Editions, the brain child of David Blanco and Will Shutes. After a recent gig at The Shacklewell Arms David kindly agreed to an interview.

Q: David, you are both busy people! Will co-wrote a book on Syd Barrett and is now running a publishing house, Test Centre, with a partner and I think you run a design house, originalblanco, could you say a bit about that- the sort of stuff you do?

A: Yes, I do design most days, I run which is essentially my freelance practice. I work with quite a broad range of people from small start ups, record labels, publishers and do day to day design at Blank Editions.

Q: How did you and Will get together and what made you decide to set up Blank Editions?

A: We met through mutual friends who played in a band we were both really into called Electricity In Our Homes at a Sticks show in Hackney around October 2011.
We are both record collectors and enthused over local bands like EIOH, Hatcham Social, Factory Floor, S.C.U.M, The Horrors, Neils Children, Flats, Disconcerts, bands that were all connected through friendships and had created a community by playing in each other's bands and producing each other. Most of them resided in pretty much the same neighbourhood…we thought this needed to be documented in a beautiful tactile way.
As we began discussing the label and its potential output we found ourselves constantly referencing the very first Electricity In Our Homes E.P that Brandon Jacobs from Neils Children put out on his Modern Pop label in 2008, 'The Shareholders Meeting' E.P. That one record started it all off really, it was incredibly inspirational to us. People were asked to pay in advance for a share of the record, thus becoming a shareholder. You paid £5.00 upfront and you received 0.5% of the 200 records pressed…which equated to 1 record.
We used that one record as a focus for the kind of music we were interested in at the time and the way the actual record was promoted and released as a blueprint for the label.
Right from the start we were both initially interested in documenting off shoot projects from the members of local bands who we really liked. This led into doing the solo record we did with Charles Boyer from EIOH and initiating The Solo Series.

Q: What would Blank Editions mission statement read like?! What role would you hope it will fulfil?

A: To simply document a local and thriving undercurrent, to help illustrate that there is a great community of artists and musicians local to us who are creating really special things and to produce beautiful editions that document these recordings.

Q: The two bands I've seen that have releases on Blank Editions-Tomaga and Housewives-are quite different but both have a dynamic experimentalism and a desire to play with musical form. Is that what attracted you to them? What aspects are you looking for in a band to issue something by them?

A: We were introduced to Tomaga by our good friend Tim Garratt ( Moon Zero) who has produced, recorded and played on several Blank Editions releases ( COP, Niqab, Joseph Coward, Ted Milton, Housewives ) through his recording studio The Moriaki Skyway. Tim was kind enough to recommend Tomaga to us, we fell in love with their debut LP 'Futura Grotesk' straight away and thought they would fit perfectly  into what we were doing with the label. Tomaga’s approach to “ambient” music is unique and so brilliantly realised, their live act is just as engaging as listening to them at home and it wasn’t long before we were writing them to offer a recording. Tom and Valentina are two of the nicest people we have had the pleasure of collaborating with too, which is always pleasant.
We were already really into Housewives, we had bought the tape that Faux Discx had put out in 2013 and it was hands down one of the best things we had heard in a long time. When Tim Garratt wrote to us introducing Tomaga he also told us he had recently recorded two tracks with Housewives, once we heard them we wrote to the band and offered them a 7” straight away of the back of these two songs and without seeing them live. Tim had worked with them so the connection was there and fortunately they turned out to be really nice people too. Tomaga and Housewives in our opinion are two of the best bands playing ambient, industrial, post-punk, experimental music right now, the recent Housewives 7” launch show with Moon Zero and Mphahlele was truly great.
A connection to an existing recording we have released is always something we look for when releasing something new, most things are introduced to us by people we have already released so we fortunately find ourselves often surrounded by things we want to approach as opposed to the other way around, although we do welcome demos and of course are interested in hearing things that are not just from London.

Q:  Blank Editions includes both 'The Solo Series' and 'The Blank Tapes' Do they have different functions?

A: The Solo Series is purely to facilitate solo recordings from people in bands we really like, It’s not really surprising that these days most bands have members recording vast amount of material on their own at home or in studio set ups, this was of great interest to us as one sometimes find this kind of unreleased material to be the most fruitful and beautiful with its own personality that isn’t necessarily tied to a release or any sort of formula. The Solo Series packages these recordings into a 2 song limited edition one time pressing 7” in a handmade sleeve, as of mid 2015 we have released 6 singles in this series with more being discussed
The Blank Tapes services both bands and solo artists experimental work, development work, demos and small run E.Ps, the nature of this series is quite lo fi and fairly spontaneous in its approach, the recordings are normally sessioned in one or two days and as cassettes are made in very small runs, they are pretty low risk plus quick to turn around, it works as a perfect format for these kind of recordings to be released in. The newest sub catalogue, The Blank Community will be completely open-ended and simply be a platform to document material from bands and artists we both love, we hope to edition publications, super small run recordings, albums and other items not completely related to “music” through this platform too. We have just recently released the debut 7” from Housewives under this umbrella.

Q: What made you decide to go for cassette and vinyl as mediums?

A:  I guess they are just formats we find beautiful and collect ourselves we simply wanted to release items that we would want to own.

Q: I was surprised to see you have a couple of releases by ex-Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore! How did that come about!

A: Thurston moved into our neighbourhood in 2012 or so and we kept seeing him around. One day we invited him to the launch we were hosting for the Douglas Hart's solo 7” which fortunately he was going to anyway, we asked him at the launch whether he would be interested in contributing to The Solo Series which he was. He then approached us to release the 'Sun Gift Earth' tape later that year which was Inspired by the comet-chaser Rosetta.
We hope to release more material from both Thurston and Douglas sometime soon.

Q: You and Will have been running Blank Editions since 2011-are you happy with how it has gone so far? What are your plans for the rest of the year?

A: Very much so, we run the label daily in some sort of capacity, but its very far from being a full time job. We have some really great things lined up, we have a new cassette coming out in July by Charcoal Owls and a few other things that haven’t been solidified yet. Hoping to do more stuff with Housewives and Tomaga and also a duo called Mphahlele, Tim Garratt has a few things he is working on too which we are excited to hear. We are busy with lining new things up, its a really good time for this sort of thing. It has been really good fun so far and has solidified many a new friendship which is always nice. We simply want to keep documenting things as and when they happen and make records and tapes you would want to give to your grandkids.
Thanks to David and Will-for more info on Blank Editions visit