Smoke and…

I have been meaning to write about our ‘influences’ if people still use that terminology. When myself and Joe Duggan started the Chancer magazine we did it as a reaction as what we perceived rightly or wrongly as a lack of literary magazines that said much ‘to us about about our lives’ as a Manchester singer might have said once-upon-a-time and long before he turned into a UKIPper. Of course they existed but we in the People’s Republic of Derry rarely saw them. It seemed to us that there was a certain spark, fun and relevancy lacking at the time. This was (just) before the internet so we were very limited in our experience of things we could identify with. Probably the magazines we identified with were the home-made efforts of the Punk fanzines. The first couple of Chancers were made with a photo-copier and a very long stapler and were certainly imbued with the same punk spirit as those of a previous generation. If I remember rightly we had Norman Wisdom (chosen by Joe I think) on the front. The third issue (maybe as a prophet to the Abridged) picked by me had a soldier at the Russian front writing a letter home. Probably a 12 year old with a computer and some coding knowledge could better design a magazine nowadays but those were different times. Just doing something with no money but a lot of passion was an achievement in itself.  There was definitely a Bukowski thread that ran through a few Chancer issues but the novelty of guys pretending to be Charlie B wears a little thin after a while so it moved beyond that.

When the Chancer ended the Abridged was pretty much a clean slate. We were heavily influenced by music and by bands like the Sisters of Mercy, And Also the Trees, Fields of the Nephilim and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. We still are. There are numerous music references and puns throughout each issue. I was delighted to have Simon Jones and Justin Sullivan in the Abridged. Music is also great at connecting people. Hugh Mulholland, the curator of the MAC in Belfast very kindly asked me to curate a show there in 2015. I gave it the name of a song by World of Skin, a Swans spin-off project. I asked Pieter Hugo, a South African photographer to be in the show and gave him the rationale. He said yes because he was a big Swans fan. We’ve even named entire issues after songs. Last year we curated the Why is it always December? exhibition and issue at Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, the title taken from a 1000 Violins b-side. Weirdly it was played on Radio for the first time since John Peel in the 1980s did during the run of the show. We’re glad someone was paying attention!

The magazines and exhibitions I edit and curate are intended to overwhelm whether through bombast or something slightly more subtle. I’ve mentioned before they are in a way trying to replicate the feeling of a great gig, smoke, lights, screaming guitar or even something naked and alone on a stage. As ever there’s always the ambivalence so it’s never quite clear what is meant. Maybe we’re the smoke and lights, maybe the screaming guitars or sweaty bodies. I found myself on stage recently at the Cuirt Festival Galway on one of our very rare Abridged readings and it’s safe to say the stage is not my friend. Whilst I might not like what they’re saying or doing I have huge admiration for anyone that can get on stage without lots of vodka or ahem recreational substances. Next time we’re definitely having a smoke machine!