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Things we like… Ron Mueck, “Couple Under An Umberalla”
A lot of things about this production are quite curious in themselves. This is a stage adaptation of the much-loved book, which received a lot of praise during its first run at the National Theatre. With some of the original cast following its transfer to the West End, this is a production that doesn’t quite strike a chord with everybody in the room.
It tells the story of the autistic Christopher Boone, who finds his neighbour’s dog murdered by a fork. A garden fork. A tale of family separation and the difficulties that Christopher, played superbly by Luke Treadaway, faces on a daily basis. But more drastically when he decides to move to London, is what follows. With such an array of characters around him, not all quite delivering the strongest of performances, we get to know Christopher and his personality traits quite well. Family life isn’t great for Christopher, and with his A-Levels looming, which he is sitting early, it’s understandable why he seems a little all over the place, but it’s quite difficult to believe how some family members respond to his situation.
The design by Bunny Christie is absolutely superb. The building of a child’s train set is inspired, and there are numerous moments that instigate an involuntary gasp; the aesthetic of this production is by far the most pleasing aspect. The trouble is the way in which all of the astounding moments of walking on walls and lighting up London with figurines, actually make all of the realistic and banal moments far too realistic and banal: in these moments we start to miss the real four walls of a room, but we shouldn’t because the majority copes so well without.
The stage adaptation isn’t one to fall in love with, and it has Simon Stephens, whose reputation precedes himself, stamped all over it. Granted, that’s far from a bad thing; there are moments where his ideas suit the large scale production now being staged in a much larger venue than where it was born, but there is ample reason to have reservations about whether there was nobody else more suitable for the job. The switch from being staged in-the-round as it was initially, to now being in a traditional proscenium arch is one that may have had some hindrance. It’s quite easy to imagine why in the Cottesloe, this was a must-see, but it’s not quite living up to every expectation in its new home.
31 Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES
Box Office: 0844 579 1971
See before 4th January 2014
Photo Credit: Tristram Kenton
This article was originally published on: http://whatspeenseen.co.uk/ and is reproduced with permission of the author and founder of the site, Adam Penny.
Pae White: ‘Too Much Night, Again’, 2013, installation, mixed media. Courtesy of greengrassi, London. Photo: Andy Keate
Beneath the high glass ceilinged exhibition hall of the South London Gallery, a dense mesh of red and black thread engulfs the room. The interweaving lines form a tunnel that draws the viewer into the space. Within the network, the threads are animated by the emergence and dissolution of large letters that are gradually deciphered to spell UNMATTERING and TIGER TIME. This site-specific installation by American artist Pae White is inspired by a period of insomnia and her consequent reflection on the transience of our existence. Such existential questions are alluded to by the simultaneously substantial and transient quality of this textile installation. However, it is White’s perceptive negotiation with architecture that is the most compelling feature of this exhibition.
Responding to the ‘relentless ethereality’ of the exhibition hall, White constructed the work to be simultaneously in conflict and sympathy with the space. Indeed, from certain angles, the threads coalesce to form a dense, angry mass of red, black and purple, clashing boldly against the serene white walls. Move slightly, and the illusion of substance collapses and the threads elegantly fall into geometric harmony, echoing the fine lines of the building, drawing our gaze upwards to contemplate the site itself as an extension of the artwork. The fluctuation between substance and nothingness is reinforced by the unusual word UNMATTERING written on a monumental scale down the length of one wall. TIGER TIME, White reveals, suggests the menacing quality of insomnia, ‘concealed’ and ‘lying in wait’.
With a vast and incredibly diverse career, White’s work shares one common theme: a specific and often unpredictable response to place. Previous works have been sited in a decommissioned French synagogue; a disused Venetian warehouse transformed into an elaborate birdcage with hidden impersonators mimicking birdsong, and a sound installation of German bells programmed to play love songs throughout Dusseldorf. More recently, White’s work has involved increasingly large-scale public art commissions: her signature thread installations in LAX airport; an outdoor exercise park for dogs, and future plans to re-design London tube stations with enormous Kelvin light-boxes to provide a ‘wash of optimism’ for seasonally-affected Londoners. In each piece, White displays an unusual ease in relinquishing control of her art and letting the site influence its outcome; the reflective surfaces of an installation that depended on her native Californian sunshine were transformed in the dim January light of a Berlin gallery.
This flexibility and willingness to collaborate is apparent in ‘Too Much Night, Again’. White is openly grateful for the collective effort required to assemble the vast textile installation. In total, the work involved 48km of yarn, 4,725 eye screws, 8 people, 2 weeks and 18 pizza boxes. This joint effort is testified by the presence of the 18 pizza boxes piled at the end of the installation, alongside White’s ancient running shirt; a ritual aspect of her studio time. This unique signature style is seen in other pieces: her marital initials were embroidered into custom bus seat covers, ‘just for kicks’. And in the corner of a vast metallic stage curtain, White scanned her thumbprint, rather than the standard artist’s signature.
‘Too Much Night, Again’ is an impressive installation, and well worth visiting for its immersive, experiential viewing experience. However, I can’t help but feel that White’s artwork is paradoxically more successful outside the art gallery. Her work is most vibrant and exciting in its engagement with the public, often with a practical concern: ‘sculptures often do something for people.’ All of her projects are built around her persistent questioning: ‘how does art engage with the world?’ The textile installation at South London Gallery draws our attention to the ‘relentless ethereality’ of the site, though it also highlights the limits of the exhibition space, raising the question: is art more effective in public spaces than confined in art galleries?
‘Too Much Night, Again’ Exhibition Dates: 13 March - 12 May 2013 Admission free
Tuesday - Sunday 11-6pm Closed Mondays
Current exhibitions: Eoghan Ryan: Oh wicked flesh! 5 March - 12 May 2013
To innovate is to ‘make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products’.
I am as opposed to beginning with a dictionary definition as the next bohemian arts writer, but here I feel unable to compete with the Oxford’s authority. Innovation, then, arrises from a need for changes. New methods are used to meet new demands, and when a different device is called for, new ideas are tested for the ultimate goal of producing it. This is innovation.
Art may seem the very antithesis of innovation: the frivolous plaything of the creative-minded and unserious, which can be put to no real practical use. But of course any connoisseur in the study of (or even modest interest in) culture will know this to be the very opposite of what art is. Art’s very role is innovative. Art has always championed new methods; new ways of saying things in response to universal or select need. When art was beginning to mirror the reason and empiricism of the new technical age at the start of the nineteenth century, the Romantics sought chaos and the depiction of nature’s sublimity in their canvases; when portraits were becoming insincere and cold, the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood introduced purely aesthetic values and a focus on classical beauty to art. These were movements that changed the established norm; movements that reacted against dogmatic paradigms and responded to the human need for a visual antidote (or in the case of music or fashion respectively, a sonic or sensual one).
The Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood sought classical beauty and innocence – John William Waterhouse | Hylas and the Nymphs (1896)
If you were to name the most innovative artist today you would probably answer ‘Damien Hirst’. Certainly, that was my initial thought. He was invited to design the Brit Award Statue this year and the 2012 exhibition of his work at the Tate pulled in a record 5.3 million visitors. He is probably the highest earning British artist (The Times Rich List figure of £235 million is said to be an understatement) and I think it is fair to say that he is admired as a confident maverick and innovator by those who do admire him. Many of his works, to me, are stunning and very moving. And I have always liked his ironic treatment of art.
Damien Hirst | Revelation (2007)
But when I thought more about Hirst I changed my mind. Although it may be novel for an artist to have such wealth and fame, Hirst would be better described as an anti-innovater. You see, innovation by very definition strives to meet needs. The Romantics responded to a need to be reminded of the power of nature over stifling pollution. And whilst Hirst’s sharks intrigue us and we are hypnotised by his beautiful butterflies for a while, we are only momentarily dazzled. We do not need Hirst. In fact, the expensive price brackets indicate the very not needing Hirst. To buy even a souvenir plastic skull at £36,800 is to display excessive and utterly disposable (in the sense of being disposed with insanely) income. Instead of reacting against society as the Romantics did, Hirst is the very product of it. His pieces are stunning and can prompt reflection and philosophising, but his work is disappointingly inevitable. The fact that he is an architect who hires teams to produce the works is entirely anti-innovative itself; no striving with new methods there. Instead, a rather traditional notion of hiring a workforce to carryout one man’s vision.
The 21st century itself is an age of anti-innovation. We are saturated with products we do not need – products that we merely desire, or think we need after sitting surrounded by advertising. Perhaps the reason for my initial thought of Hirst as an appropriate subject of a feature on innovation is because of his status as a definitive – probably the definitive – 21st century artist. He will certainly be written in the art history books as having been one of the greatest innovators of his time. But being remembered as the most prominent artist of a period doesn’t make that artist an innovator.
Today, our society is ordered through hyperlinks and behind firewalls. Our innovators are the ones that come rough and ready, and raw: quite the opposite to Hirst’s gleaming plastics and perfectly symmetrical diamond-encrusted skulls, we seek something more realistic. Our needs are met by Banksy climbing a ladder to make art on the side of the buildings our sterile offices reside in, or Matti Braun’s pathway across dark water upon logs through an exhibition of delicately beautiful silk screens . Perhaps they will not be such large contenders for the art history books, but true innovators and antidotes they undoubtedly are. In spite of them though, anti-innovation may be the most innovative paradigm that the 21st century ever produces. And Damien Hirst? The embodiment of that: art’s definitive anti-innovator.
Rosie is a writer, musician and artist, working and freelancing for BBC Music Magazine and Homes and Antiques Magazine, living between Bristol and London.
Last Christmas my mum bought me a Kindle. As a die-hard English Lit student, I ceremoniously threw it back at her across the sitting room, much to the alarm of my grandparents. I refused to betray the musty pages of hardbacks, the safe confines of the library; in retrospect, this was definitely a sign of final-year-induced Stockholm syndrome, whereby I had fallen in love with my captor: the book.
A year later, at a safe distance from the Modernist section of the library and with a more regular sleep pattern, I can see the appeal of the Kindle and, dare I admit, regret my violent rejection of it. Books are increasingly redundant, an anachronism which may soon be comparable to lugging scrolls or stone tablets around on the tube. A book is essentially a container for a text to be consumed by the reader.
Bookart, however, posits the book itself as the primary experience of reading: the text is secondary. The avant-garde artists of the 20th century began interrogating the conceptual and material form of the book, partly as a strategy to bypass the hierarchy of the traditional gallery system. The aim being, that ideas could be disseminated in accessible, democratic forms available to people who might not otherwise enter art galleries. Bookart, or Artists’s Books, are works of art realized in bookform. If the text is transferred to a digital medium, the work loses its significance.
In other words, Bookart HAS to be experienced as a book. No Kindles allowed here!
Bookart theorist Johanna Drucker insists upon the ‘difficulty of trying to make a single, simple statement about what constitutes an artists’s book’, and excitedly questions the many different interpretations produced by this ambiguity:
Is a book restricted to the codex form? Does it include scrolls? Tablets? Decks of cards? A block of wood with one end painted with a title, like a conventional spine? A walk-in space of oversized panels hinged together? A metaphysical concept, disembodied, but invoked in performance or ritual?
Luckily for us, this unique and innovative genre of art can be found, perused and purchased at the little red bookshop just off Old Street: the Bookart Bookshop. I made a visit on a snowy Friday afternoon to investigate.
I was met with a treasure-trove of beautiful and innovative creations.
The first artist to catch my attention was Susan Johanknecht, lecturer at Camberwell Arts College. Her pieces include a small box to be opened, which is filled with cards of text and images reading ‘Who Will It Be’? Another piece by Johanknecht is a small black square that opens as a concertina of images, a popular technique in Bookart, gesturing at artisanal practices. Already, the bookshop was undermining my conventional expectations of what a book might be.
Another piece, by artist Uriel Orlow, is found in a cardboard box. Inside lies a small pink notebook with the title ‘What the Billboard Saw – La Ville Mode d’Emploi’.
The excitement of experiencing these objects is not in reading them, but reveling in their material qualities: the tactile nature of the works and the childlike experience of opening them, unsure of what might be found inside.
Another artist worthy of mention is John Bentley. His extensive selection of bookworks displayed in the shop includes a piece that catalogues paper debris found in Harrow, entitled Concerning the poetry of Lost Things.
His works displays an interest in the poetics of place, with bookworks exploring Brixton, and other London boroughs.
Tom Philips work, ‘A Humument’, has become somewhat of a canonical work in the Bookart field.
His book is a re-working of the Victorian novel ‘A Human Document’, in which he painstakingly illustrates each page, revealing only fragments of text in his intricate reworking of the found material.
The bookshop houses bookart across the scale, ranging from more expensive, limited edition pieces, that really make collectible items, to more inexpensive pieces designed to be produced in multiple copies, tapping into Drucker’s idea of the ‘democratic multiple’.
The cheaper items are just as endearing and whimsical, including a £1 pamphlet entitled ‘I love you’ (a quirky potential V day present!) and a funny little piece called ‘Interviews with Gary’.
The Bookart Bookshop was founded by Tanya Peixoto in 2002, and she has done an inspirational job of bringing a specialist walk-in bookart bookshop into the heart of East London’s art world.
As well as a place to find, sell and buy books, the Bookart Bookshop also presents discussions, meetings, exhibitions, lectures, book launches and educational activities, all focusing on the never-ending debate surrounding bookart.
The bookshop presented me with an alternative concept of the book as an art object: not just a carrier of text. I can see the appeal of reading novels on a handy digital device, but these unique and beautiful creations reminded me of the enduring power of the book!
I definitely recommend a visit.
LOVE REVOLUTION - Christo Viola
Born in Italy but raised everywhere, inspired by her narcissism with an innate sense for creativity, Christo studied Fine Art and Fashion Photography in Rome at ISFCI.
She specialises in photography and researches human sexual behaviour, shooting woman in sexual attitudes as the subjects of her work. Her first portfolio, named Bordel, is about sexuality and fashion.
Christo believes that fashion and sex are inseparably united to make a beautiful body that lives in contemporary society. She also believes in LOVE as a function needed to unleash creativity.
Christo always tries to be a messenger with her photos to help all women all around the world watch themselves in her works like a mirror in order to experience freedom and access their feelings.
She says :
My life as an artist began when I was 10 years old cutting the clothes for my BARBIE.
Inspiration came from loving my mother and spying on women’s bodies in the fitting room of fashion shops.
When I was young I started my studies about Anthropology and Sexuality, I absorbed everything into my aesthetic sense and fashion.
Now I use my pervasive camera to trace the beauty sexual behaviour of women. Special thanks to the body that look good thanks and to the taste and aesthetics of well-dressed people.
Things we like… Chunky Move’s ‘Mortal Engine’
By Benn Cody
Day1: to say the least, Edinburgh is always a beautiful city, but the Fringe brings so much vibrancy and creativity, it truly is the only place to be in August. My first day has already left me at near burn out! Waking up at 5:30am for a train, arriving, collecting tickets and accreditation, quickly leaving things at the travelodge (which, by the way, feels like you’re climbing a mountain every morning due to a steep hill-not the best thing as you’re waking up!) and then straight into 5 shows.
Depending on your view point, this may be a lot, or not many at all-either way, I can tell you it’s tiring!
The first show was at The Traverse, recognised internationally for exceptional productions, especially in new writing. The show is called 'Mess’. I had high expectations on this as I saw Caroline Horton’s previous (and absolutely superb) production of You’re Not Like The Other Girls Chrissie, and I was not disappointed. Dealing with a hard topic (anorexia), this beautiful and very funny piece of meta-theatre blended pathos and entertainment brilliantly well. I felt that for the first of many (31!) events this week, that I was off to a good start!
Next, I saw 'Remy' at Paradise in the Vault. A 30min show that was set in napoleonic times. From the reviews and copy, i was worried that it was trying to deal with a lot in such a short space of time. I was wrong. Based on a soldier regaling stories of love, childhood and warfare, and utilising benches, hay and flowers to represent characters and animals, it was a clever and enjoyable piece. In my opinion, the show needed some more development, perhaps extending the run time to offer a more easy to follow and perhaps linear narrative. Parts were hard to follow but all in all, a great first show from a brand new company from East15.
Then, a short run to Summerhall to catch Dead Memory House. I was instantly intrigued by this as the company had quite literally created an entire flat in office space and, as the show begins, you’re invited in to the beginnings of a house party. Melding site specific, promenade (to a degree) and attempts at a non-linear narrative, it was definitely an intriguing show. The design was simple and effective and complimented the piece exceptionally well. I did feel that some delivery was weak and, whilst the story had great moments and some poignancy, it didn’t feel finished. With more time to work as an ensemble and space to develop the show, it could be even better.
Finally, a brief respite over a drink in the Summerhall bar before heading to Underbelly to catch 'Captain Ko and the Planet of Rice'. I had very high expectations knowing of the company’s (Dancing Brick) previous work, especially Pebble and Heap. Regrettably, I was sorely disappointed. A show in 3 acts that seemed disjointed and unconnected, an entire act of mime with sound effects that left audience members confused and no real hook to keep you intrigued or entertained. The leaflet given out gave brief summaries of each act but didn’t justify the piece-who was it for and what was it saying? I believe it was trying to deal with memory, but I think fell short.
Then, a quick run to a takeaway place for a burger (you learn to love fast food up here-only way you can eat in a busy schedule!), a quick drink and then off to C Nova to catch Belt Up Theatre’s 'The Boy James'. This company are regulars at the Fringe and have toured internationally with pretty much blanket 5 star reviews so again, expectations were high. Based loosely on the creator of Peter Pan (JM Barrie), it showed the loss of innocence of children over the years and simultaneously showed Barrie giving himself up to adulthood, leaving his imagination behind. A very clever premise and delivered well. Some audience interaction felt inserted for interaction’s sake, and overall, I wasn’t wowed by the piece-sitting on the floor for an hour after being up for nearly 20hrs was tough-but I would recommend catching it as this company play with ideas and stories interestingly and do offer intriguing concepts.
Finally, it was time for bed, and a slow walk back saw me hit the hay at 1am. I’ve had a little sleep and am now up and ready for Day 2!
I have 8 events back to back today and kick off with The Golden Cowpat in 10mins, a fun family show! Until the next installment, know I’m catching DugOut Theatre, Little Angel's newest show, The Lonely One, and Joe Black-a man you’ll all get to know over the coming months!!!
'Art is Dead. Long Live Culture' Teatowel
By Sarah Blythe
Prior to his new tour, I caught up with Hardeep Singh Kohli (aka The Nearly Naked Chef) for a quick fire round of questions about food, hygiene and comedy.
What is your new show about?
Nearly Naked is all about my love of food from growing up in Glasgow to cooking in Michelin star restaurants. It’s about family, food and fun.
Should we expect to see cookery with comedy, or comedy with cookery? Which of the two has the capital ‘C’?
Chat and cooking go hand in hand. For me Cooking will always just shade it. But then again, when you have made the cooking cock-ups I’ve made, comedy is never far away!
You were runner up in the first series of Celebrity masterchef. Will the audience be able to taste any of your creations during the show?
Interestingly I chose NOT to cook any Indian food on Masterchef, so the answer is no. But I am writing a new cookery book and am asking people to pledge for me to come and cook for them. Details at www.unbound.co.uk
If you had to sum the show up with just 3 words, what would they be?
We love curry
Have you always loved comedy? If so, who has inspired you along the way?
Growing up in Glasgow comedy and banter were ever present. Billy Connolly, Chick Murray, the Two Ronnies, Morcambe and Wise…we were blessed to grow up in the halcyon days of comedy. My little brother is hilarious, as is my mum.
Are you actually naked during the show? Is that hygienic?!
I am not naked. I’m terribly hygenic.
So we know you are a comedian, and you are a good cook, but what else are you passionate about?
Music means a lot to me, as the arts do in general. I’m passionate about my friends and my family. And Adidas.
Do you identify yourself as a stand up comedian, or are you first and foremost a journalist/writer?
Honestly? I’m a story teller. However I choose to tell stories, be it food, journalisim, broadcasting, whatever the mode, I share stories. And I’m blessed to be allowed to.
What is your least favourite cuisine and why?
Gosh. I don’t think I could damn an entire cuisine! Every type of food has some good and some bad. I’m not mad about Innuit food; whale blubber and raw seal aren’t really my thing!
Many thanks to Hardeep for the interview.
For more information about Hardeep’s tour, click here.
When I was young I used to go to places full of trees
And dance in nature’s loveliness, sweet dreams were made of these,
One day I ventured out too far and ‘found’ a hidden place
A path that led to Fantasy, to Ecstasy and Grace,
And so I called it Willowy, because the Willow trees
Looked sad and lonely just like me, Sweet dreams were made of these,
Willowy, Willowy, the winding path that leads
…………………….To fairy land and the Meads
Willowy, Willowy, I went there long ago
Willowy, Willowy, and the sweetest place I know,
Willowy Willowy, the path that led the way
To childhood dreams and adult joy, that‘s with me everyday
Willowy, Willowy, forbidding strange and grand,
Willowy, Willowy, the way to Fairy Land.
Willowy, Willowy, the winding path that leads
…………………….To fairy land and the Meads
Rhizomatic Writing Project.
Inspired by Marx’s notion of the general Intellect, advancements in online technology and access, as well as the example of the collaborative imagined worlds of online sci-fi platforms; we are currently contemplating what possibilities exist for an online collaboration in literature.
Since the emergence of the internet, attempts have been made to collaboratively ‘pen’ a novel, many of these can now be found in the murky depths of any given search engine.
Penguin books famously attempted an open collaborative project in the early days of Wiki’s. Entitled ‘A million Penguins’ , the project became infamous for being ’too big’ and ‘too fast’ to manage.
Due to the very nature of collaborative wiki’s, contributors were free to edit the story as they saw fit, this was usually done to ‘shoehorn’ in their subsequent contribution.As wiki’s can be ammended in real-time, this created a massive headache for the editorial team, as well as fellow contributors, who found the narrative increasingly difficult to follow or ammend themselves. The appearance of online trolls, interested in sabotage for ’the lulz’, also helped to bury the project.
While open collaborative stories have prooven difficult to draw together in any meaningful way, online fantasy universes, where an individual can contribute to the creation of a shared imagined space, seem interesting examples of a functioning collective imaginary.
Perhaps collectively creating the ‘setting’ for a novel first;to come together to agree its geography, politics, economy and history, can aid the process for contributors to develop a shared ’character’ driven narrative?
Would this ‘prep work’ also allow contributors a collective sense of ownership over the project but limit the direction a story could develop?
Despite these reservations, an arguement exists for the possibility of creating a sucessful online multi-authored novel.
So is anyone up for a playing an online game of exquisite corpse, one that keeps open the creative possibility of chance, whilst developing a coherent collective narrative?
As stated above, would we need to collectively address the setting of the novel first? If a story is situated in the ‘real world’ , how do we then agree a shared understanding of the world we all inhabit?
How is the subjective to be made objective?
If we accept the nessesity of parameters, in terms of maintaining a stories continuity and coherence, what guidelines would be nessesary for us to deploy in advance, that could kill the need for editorial control?
Also how would a contributor be rewarded? What publishing platforms/formats could we deploy for our end result?
Answers on a postcard plzzzz…..
By Lydia Hughes
Lady Leshurr, who has been previously dubbed as the UK’s female version of Busta Rhymes, performed at SB.TV’s first live event at Koko in London this week. Other contributors included Labrinth, Tinchy Stryder, Meesha B., Ms. Dynamite and Cher Lloyd. Whilst the event was about promoting young entrepreneur Jamal Edwards’s SB.TV, it was also a chance for up-and-coming artists as well as those who’ve already made their mark in the industry to use the event as a platform for their music in 2012. Lady Leshurr talks about SB.TV, what she’s been up to so far and where she’s going.
How on earth do you manage to breathe? You rap so fast.
I think I was born with three lungs, seriously. You know what, I don’t even know. When I hear my lyrics back I breathe in unusual places, so I don’t even realize I’m doing it myself.
When did you start rapping?
I started pretending to rap when I was 6 years old to Bam Bam by Sister Nancy — a reggae track my mum used to play around the house. I started doing the voicemails on my mum’s house phone saying ‘pick up the phone, leave a message after the tone.’ When I was about 12 that’s when Eminem came out, and when I first heard him I thought ‘oh my god, I want to rap,’ so I just started rapping. I knew it wasn’t just a hobby, it’s what I wanted to do.
And you started touring around the UK from about 12. How did your mum feel about that?
To be honest, I didn’t really tell my mum that I was doing music. I just did it. I felt a little embarrassed because I didn’t want her to think that I wasn’t going to have any money, or not going to have a job. I don’t think she would have understood it. But now she understands, because things are actually happening for me. She’s proud of me.
So did you miss school to go touring?
Ooh, I never missed school, I was a good girl in school. But what I did do in my Maths lessons — because I was terrible at Maths — I just used to sit at the back of the class and start to write my lyrics in the back of my book. That was my lyric lesson.
Tell me what your debut single “Lego” is all about?
[Laughs] People think it’s about Lego, the bricks. But, no, basically I got Lego from when I did the cover “Look At Me Now” by Chris Brown. He says it before the start of the track. I initially thought it would be great for him to do a whole track on it, but then I thought, “Do you know what? I want to do it.” But it was never meant to be my first single. I got in the studio with Wizzy Wow, he played me about three beats and then I knew: “That’s the one.” I got in the booth and recorded it. It’s about letting go and having fun with life, basically.
So how long does a track take to write and learn for you?
I’m terrible. My brain is terrible. I cannot even remember any of my lyrics, so I’ve always got them in my phone. It doesn’t take me long to write, depending on what the beat is and what the concept is. If I’m really feeling the beat it’ll take me less that 10 minutes.
And how do you remember everything?
Unless the track is recorded it’s really hard to remember. I know with SB.TV, when I first went on there, I kept forgetting the lyrics — one: because I was frightened, two: because I was thinking about the verse too much instead of just letting it flow, so it depends, it depends on whether I’m confident with it or not.
You’ve worked with quite a few big names in the industry, and featured on quite a few of their tracks, right?
Lethal B (Lethal Bizzle), Ms. Dynamite, Tinie Tempah … yeah, back in the day I worked with him and I’ll be working with him again soon.
Do you get to have a lot of input?
Basically, If I’m featured on the track they’ll just send me the track and ask me to do a verse on it based on the concept, but other than that I haven’t really sat down in a studio and worked with an artist yet, and that’s what I want to do. And that’s what’s going to happen on my album (to be released Spring 2012).
And who do you want to work with you on your album?
I want Tinie Tempah again. I listened to him when I was younger and he’s different to all the other MCs that were out there back then. Everyone else was all about guns and stuff, but he started doing wifey tunes — that’s what gets the girls — and that’s what I liked. I’ve always respected him, so it was a privilege working with him.
So are you 23 now, right?
Ahhh, I don’t like to say my age [laughs].
The point I’m trying to make is that you’re still so young and have done so much. You have your own record label and have produced too, haven’t you?
Yeah, that’s right. I always said when I was younger that I wanted to be my own boss, and I wanted to have my own record label. I’ve got that now; it’s called Gutterstrut, so I’m happy about that.
What can we expect from you in 2012?
I’m going to do a school tour next year and write songs specifically about violence, guns, abuse and their consequences. I can tell the kids to stay in school through my music. I’m also going to start up some short films as well. I’ve got so many things planned. I’ve also got a clothing line called ‘Friggin L.’
Named after one of your tracks?
Yeah, I had a mixtape called ‘Friggin L,’ but the clothing line was bigger that I thought it would ever be. It got flown over to the states to meet with a label because of it. It was amazing. All the t-shirts sold out within a week.
So did you ever choose to be a rapper with the intention of making it big?
No, I never knew I was going to make it big, I just did it because I loved music. I just want to change at least one person’s life with my lyrics. And if I can aim to do that then I feel like I’m needed, I’m relevant in the scene. I’ve always wanted to do that.
By Lydia Hughes
At the SBTV Xmas party I caught up with Ms.Dynamite. She’s been on the down-low for some time, a lot of us wondering what she’s been up to, but now she’s ready to make a comeback.
An event host to top names in the current urban music scene such as Labrinth, Tinchy Stryder, Wretch 32 and Chipmunk, Ms. Dynamite performed several times throughout the night. She made a joint appearance, too, with Yasmin, but not with her MOBO Award-winning brother, Akala (Kingslee Daley), who also performed that evening. When I asked her whether there were any plans to work with her brother in the future she said:
"Yeah, but it’s not something that we want to do right now… he’s doing his thing, which I respect, and I’m doing my thing, which he respects, and we’ll come together naturally when the time is right. I don’t want to do it, and he doesn’t want to do it, just because it’s an expectation."
Since a considerable break between her last album Judgment Days back in 2005 for the sake of family time, Ms. Dynamite has been making a steady return to the music scene. Since 2010 she’s featured on Katy B’s second single ‘Lights On,’ — her first top-ten hit since ‘Dy-na-mi-tee’ back in 2002 — Magnetic Man’s ‘Fire,’ and in August released her newest track ‘Neva Soft.’ In terms of what’s next, Ms. Dynamite confirms that she has lots planned for the coming year; “singles, albums, loads of shows, a tour… just as much as possible, really.” Whilst a date hasn’t been set for a tour, she says it is sure to take place during 2012, and that she’ll be performing songs from the newest album she’s been working on (produced by Labrinth). Ms. Dynamite seemed reserved about revealing when the album is to be released, saying, “I don’t have a specific date yet, but it’s there, it’s ready. We’ll just see when the time feels right.”
Ms. Dynamite won the Mercury Prize back in 2002 for her debut A Little Deeper, but what can be expected from the new album?
"[There’s] loads of energy, loads of different concepts, different sounds. It’s very eclectic, lots of different stuff fused together."
Her inspiration for the new album: life. Whatever happens to her day-to-day inspires her: “whatever I see, whatever I hear or whatever I go through, and whatever I see other people go through.” Her son, Shavaar, is also one of her other obvious inspirations.
A comeback that she seems quite relaxed about, Ms. Dynamite gives the impression that she’s happy to just roll with it and see what happens.