Letter #67

Good morning / afternoon / evening,

I hope you’ve had a bloody glorious week. I’ve had a brilliant week, filled with interesting ideas and conversations, loads of great music, and some great work news 💙.

This week’s mixtape is filled with songs with a real funk to them, the TL;DRsection has got some absolute gems in it, and the letter is filled with thoughts I’ve stolen shamelessly 😜.


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🌪 TL;DR section 🌪
Interesting things this week:
  1. Fantastic Man has an in-depth interview with Tyler, the Creator that perfectly demonstrates his position as modern iconoclast
  2. Watch this epic documentary on the birth of Berlin’s hugely influential electronica culture
  3. There’s an interview with MIA and Steve Loveridge in the Guardian that gives the backstory to the upcoming documentary Matangi / Maya / MIA
  4. If you haven’t already, then listen to the world exclusive mix from Burial and Kode9 on 6 Music this week
  5. Watch Charles Limb’s excellent TED talk on trying to understanding the neurological phenomenon that occurs when world class jazz players improvise
  6. I’ve found a new source of culture stuff – have a look at Drugstore Culturemagazine
  7. Brett Anderson’s (off of Suede) featured in The Quietus’ Bakers Dozenfeature this week
  8. This is a bit left field, but I really enjoyed reading the story behind John Kaag’s book on Nietzsche and his attempts to emulate him in order to understand his raw form of stoicism
  9. The latest in Resident Advisor’s brilliant series The Art of DJing is from James Zabiela, so obviously worth a read
  10. This enormous GQ cover feature on Paul McCartney has some wonderful anecdotes and trivia in it (trust me)
Bonus read; I included something on the science of sleep that seemed to strike a chord, so I’m following it up with this piece in the Guardian on a new form of treatment to insomnia.
📚 The notes 📚
I’m reading a lot again, which is good. Alongside doing more exercise, and writing more, I think reading is a huge part of what helps me to make more sense of the world. I’ve had a few book recommendations over the past few months (thank you), and I’m on the verge of starting to read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Fiction is a surprisingly big step for me, as I don’t think I’ve read any fiction for probably a decade. This is partly due to the fact that I have a long list of non-fiction I want to read, and partly because I studied English Literature at university – and reading three (fiction) books a week, every week, for three years kind of ruined fiction for me. However, I’m rambling, and before I start High Fidelity, I need to finish Dave Haslam’s excellent Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor.

The book tracks Haslam’s involvement in culture, the hyper-influential music scene emerging from Manchester in the late 70s, and his own continued influence on broader music culture. It’s brilliant, and I can highly recommend it. I think I’ve probably highlighted more passages and paragraphs in this book than any other before, there are just so many gems. So many so, that I wanted to share a few with you.

On the pursuit of trying to understand culture:
“In one way I wanted nothing much: I was happy adventuring in music and the world of ideas. But on another level, I wanted everything. In 1985 I believed if you read lots, went to see as many arthouse films as you could, listened to John Peel and spent your days and nights listening to music, thinking and writing, you could eventually make sense of the world. I really thought that. I really did.”

On Tony Wilson:
“Among Tony’s ambitions for the club was for it to make a significant contribution to Manchester, and not just to its music scene, but to its sense of identity and self-worth too. He explained that one of its aims was ‘to restore a sense of place’. It was always about more than music; it was about ideas, art, fashion, cities, communities, life.”

Referencing a beautiful quote from Maya Angelou:
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

On understanding our personal evolution through culture:
“In The Falling, one of Carol Morley’s films, one of the characters declares; ‘We are all three people. The person we think we are. The person other people see. And the person we really are.’ That might be right, but these things are fluid. If we are three people, all these identities change, grow, develop or regress. There’s a relationship between who I am now and the twenty-three-year-old me. Perhaps one day I’ll work out exactly what it is.”

On finding your tribe:
“When you grow up in a city or move to another city, the biggest adventure and the most valuable reward is to find your tribe. We search for the places that draw the people we share interests with, or feel comfortable with, or attracted to, or inspired by. Tim Burgess of the Charlatans, in his book about hunting for vinyl in record shops, says a great record shop is like ‘a refuge’. The same can be true of a club, an arthouse cinema, a particular pub, a café-bar, a boutique, a bookshop or, as Tracey Donnelly and I found, a hairdressing salon in a nightclub basement.”

And finally, something incredibly close to my heart. On Debris, Haslam’s self-published fanzine:
“Debris had become a kind of mission. Mostly I was trying to uncover music, films and books that were worth celebrating and sharing, but also I realised that there are huge parts of our lives that are under-documented. So, I also wrote about what I thought of as ‘real-life stuff’.”

If you’ve read this far, then here’s a little treat. There’s an excellent interview (of sorts) with Rei Kawakubo (founder of COMME des GARÇONS) in the Guardianthat you absolutely must read. My favourite two quotes are; “the only way to hope to make something new is not to be satisfied”, and “when things are too easy, you don’t think and you don’t make progress”. As I get older, this idea of absolute commitment and unassailable energy and drive to improve things becomes far more prominent than it’s ever been to me. “Commitment has to be on extreme.” 

To steal a final quote from Haslam, who was in turn stealing a quote from Walter Pater; “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.”


As always, if you’ve read to here, thanks for indulging me ❤️.

See you on the dance floor.
Love Will Save the Day

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