Sunday, 29 January 2012

Name That Doom

"What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet" - William Shakespeare 

I've never had much luck with names. The good thing about "Miles Perhower" is it looks good - PERHOWER - it's a nice looking word, a nice sounding word too, if a bit USA - PER HOW ER.
Names are a pain in the arse, well, they are for a so called "serious artist" like myself anyway. I'm happy with Miles Perhower, MPH, Miles P... I'll just about let you off if you call me Matt, but don't make a habit of it in public. It's a psychological thing. Band names are embarrassing, pretentious and juvenile. I can handle Perhower because it's sort of a new word, sort of my surname and sort of different without being too fucking crazy. It works better than The Racists or Miss Halliwell for obvious reasons, but let's face it, names are a load of old bollocks. It's the content that matters. Let's just say that Perhower is the rate that I create. Sometimes I wish that I could stop pretending to be a human being and simply exist as a living piece of art, but alas, poor Miles, life gets in the way. It is possible to to obtain a high level of uniqueness, though the process is torturous, strenuous and soul-destroying - you will get there in time. I don't recommend that kind of intense struggle for everyone, most of us will find our way soon enough, but only some, possibly very few will be willing to spike out from the mass for the good of the masses. The future desperately needs strong individuals. We can't all be famous for nothing. We can't all be great artists, athletes, scientists... but we think we can be, we think we are, but we're not, well you're not, you're not crazy enough in the right places. But you know what? It's about time people realised that they're not as dumb as governments, schools and big businesses would like them to think they are. There is so much pain and confusion in this world, much of it down to pure chance, that will never be controlled, but it is possible to counteract it. The unfortunate truth of the matter though is that the smart-arses are getting harder to impress / fool and the simpletons are even easier to manipulate. Life is cruel and unfair. Love and intelligence are two of life's most dangerous products, without due care there can be serious fallout. There is a fine-line between knowledge and intelligence, possibly no line at all, and part of me feels like there's more knowledge available than the former. However, I'm going to do my best to try not to get too bogged down in some kind of insanely pessimistic philosophical swamp here, that would be tedious, bland and boring (all at the same time). Instead I'm determined to present to you, my troubled and confused friends, a stark vision of hope, blurred slightly with despair.

So let's get down to it then. What's on the Perhower agenda during the 'suicide' month? Quite a bit actually, there's our 'Jerk Test' rehearsals - a demented lyrical sci-fi-fact / synth experiment with live drums and vocals sounding like Pinky & Perky on LSD. Then there's "Balaban's Birthday", which will no doubt be a physically and mentally damaging underground live music show set in the charred heart of the Black Country. I plan on writing a review of the whole mess, it could get pretty grim, but you never know, it could end up being the finest rock n roll show you've never seen, only read about. However, this apocalyptic year is not just about the sound of music, it's about the sound of politics, the ugly reflection in the mirror, the smell of reform, the taste of victory, and the pulsating, telepathic brains of children. YEAH it's about EVERYTHING and ANYTHING that doesn't bore me to tears. So come on, stay with it, don't worry if you get a little bit lost, these words will grab you by the balls / tits if you persist with them, you will get over the shock eventually and you might learn something... shit, I might learn something, but I doubt it.

Considering how much alcohol, tobacco and marijuana I've consumed over the past couple of months (a fucking lot, take my word for it) you would think that the inevitable prospect of becoming heavily involved in all sorts of debauchery during the infamous "Balaban's Birthday" gig, which is to be held at The Holly Bush pub in Cradley Heath, would fill me with a sense of dread, but for some godforsaken reason I'm still looking forward to it. Why? 
Why the fuck am I still excited about this thing? Actually, at the time of writing my mood is turning pretty rancid. I'm stuck here in the house on my own, forcing myself to keep bashing away on this keyboard and intermittently swigging gulps of what I hope is vitamin C loaded orange juice straight from the carton. The fact is... no, the truth is... no, in my opinion we can't just keep on self-destructing merely to detract attention from our real incompetence. We can't keep on relentlessly getting into twisted states, rising to wild highs during car-crash social / professional situations and then somehow getting lost in downward spirals of self-esteem which then leads to idle provocation, can we?
Yes. Yes we can. It's what makes a good story. Unfortunately though, there is a big old dirty stinking question hanging in the air. How many more of these types of stories can be written? Or if you want to put it another way - How many more of these types of stories can be lived? The answer to that big bastard is a tough one, and only time will tell, for at this moment there is still just enough of the bad stuff inside me to keep on with the wretched, evil thing. But, in all honesty, I'm coming so fucking close to jacking everything in. I'm much crazier than anyone else is ever going to be, more prolific, more controlling, more egotistical, experimental and ambitious than any of my peers... so what's the point in carrying on with this shit? 
The answer?
... the answer sounds like the cheesiest, gayist, lamest thing in the world, but still, the answer is, no doubt about it - CHILDREN.

Is that really THE answer? no, because the adults of the future will be even more distracted, overwhelmed and over-stimulated than the adults of the present. The bit that comes before adulthood is just a period of doe-eyed innocence that serves to ease you into the cynical adult world. A place where mental survival comes secondary to physical survival. That is, unless you're starving to death, or diseased, or dangerously dehydrated, or scorched by the sun, or frozen at night, or kidnapped, or raped, or killed... up until that point, mental survival is pretty damn important I suppose. But when you're reasonably physically safe, what happens to your approach to mental survival? Does your mind revert to a quiet hum? A background noise? A tiny measurement of activity, barely registering on the screen? 
Or do you get crazy? Restless? Thoughtful?
Of course there is no point to this dirge. No point at all. We need to live like ants. Only problem is, what the fuck do ants offer us? Well, actually I ENJOY watching ants, but that's not the point... or maybe it is?

There is a kind of simple yet abstracted logic to the animal world. It is an alternate dimension to some extent, one which we can observe and play a part in alongside them... good, bad or indifferent / ambiguous. In many ways, this is similar to how I perceive my relationship with the human world to be... Jesus Christ, this is a really fucked-up way to start writing a review of a gig...I make an awful music journalist. My articles consist mainly of hate-filled character assassinations, scattered memories of extreme drunken stupidity, bragging about leaving the venue to smoke a huge joint after the headline act have only played one song and then having to completely make up the rest of the article out of entirely fictitious details. My straight-faced / sober reviews would no doubt spiral off into philosophical poems, which on intoxicated / inebriated reflection would no doubt read like a pretentious and painfully embarrassing exposure of inner-sensitivity. But then, not everybody is sick like me and you, and maybe if I can stay on the straight and narrow then I'll be able to deal with writing something heartfelt again. Until then though, my loyal and ugly friends, I shall be working hard, battling for a better balance and feeding my already beyond sick imagination with equal measures of good and evil stimulants.   
I've got peculiar tastes, weird habits, obsessive compulsions, warped perceptions, muddled interests, randomised moods and hyper-sensitivity issues involving ALL of my available senses. My brain power is both massive and minuscule. My identity is both clear and blurred. Basic and hugely complex questions are answered casually and with great concentration everyday. Sound loops play in my mind when my nerves are flaring. Days of rest become marathons of thought. Great inner-tornadoes of white noise, shards cut pictures in my eyes, expel the waste, vent the abuse, empty the bin, organ's playing a theme to repair the sin. 

You're not as dumb as they want you to think you are. That's a strange statement, but there is a certain amount of truth in it. Unfortunately though, many people are content with their own dumbness, they are happy, ignorant, completely unfazed... oh wait, shit, maybe they're the smart ones? Whatever gets you through the day, right? Whether you are comfortable with your own stupidity or not, this world should make more room for sparky human brains and put them to good use instead of turning them into outright instruments of evil.
A crude and sickening example of the terrible consequences of misguided brain-sparks is politics, and I'm starting to get interested in the evil thing myself. I'm bold enough to claim to already be a kind of 'cultural politician' because I really know about that stuff, I CARE about human culture, I'm often shocked at the extreme degradation of it and I'm in a desperate search for some form of truth in a world which pumps out contemporary culture in the form of raw sewage to large numbers of people. I'm talking about the elitist nature of the media, the idle worship of past successes, the condescending vibrations resonating from the music and film industry and the insanely wasteful and pointless nature of mass consumerism. It is a fucked up state of affairs, but I'm not here to bang on in a broad sense about this horrifying reality, no, instead I'm going to assault you, gentle reader, with explosive, filthy examples and experiences of contemporary 'culture' - good and evil (sometimes both).
No matter how thick you think your skin is, I honestly believe that there is no escaping the sickening feeling of embarrassment, to some extent anyway. It is a truly human sensation, a poisonous feeling which morbidly infects you during those quiet moments after the storm has died down. But what if people aren't registering any sense of embarrassment as a result of behaviours which, in this humble observer's perspective, should fill them with shameful grief? OK, shame is slightly different, considering it's supposed to be a feeling reserved for moments of private guilt and unseen mistakes, but if you still blow kisses down the phone to your mother, as 20 year old, in-front of friends, who are too considerate and caring to tear you to shreds for it, then something must be wrong there. I don't think it's anything to do with being 'thick skinned' or 'innocent', I honestly believe that it's a very real sign of ignorance and stupidity. Real bravery has nothing to do with not caring about what people think. If anything, I believe that in order to be truly brave you MUST consider the thoughts and feelings of others first, but then still go ahead with your unconventional behaviour or choice of words. You must be willing to accept the consequences because not everyone is going to tolerate your actions, some people WILL NOT let you get away with it. Others might become very distressed, upset and even aggressive... depending on how you confront them and why. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and a place for tolerance, sometimes it IS better to say nothing, to ignore, to play along, to 'let it wash over you', but sometimes it is better to leave consideration behind and dive in with two feet, or at least plant a seed of doubt occasionally. Sometimes you have a duty to fuck with people's heads, especially when they fuck with yours way too often without even being aware of it. I think I'll call it "Psycho-Education", yeah, that has a nice ring to it.

I just had an idea which employs a small amount of hopefully non-life threatening violence. When I see footage of crowds of people camping outside shopping centres, cuing up all night for some kind of massive new sale or grand opening, I very often feel a huge sense of embarrassment for the human race, a sensation so sickening and toe curling that the only way to conquer it is to fantasise about being an overnight security guard, say a senior manager with access to all the CCTV and lock codes, and carefully erect a trip wire about twenty metres from the entrance inside. I can imagine the rolling news footage of hundreds of crazed consumers running at full pelt towards the wire, the first wave are sent flying, crashing to the hard floor, breaking cheek bones, teeth and noses, while the second and third waves go crashing over the top, stumbling over at high speed, Klinsmann dives, clashing heads, twisted knees and contorted tearful faces. Possibly, by the time the fourth and fifth waves have broken through, there would have been enough embarrassing carnage for the message to hit home. Maybe some of them would have learned something? Maybe it would bring a little bit of joy and hope to those of us who are sick of feeling like embarrassing freaks just because we don't like shopping. Unfortunately though, my mildly psychotic friends, this kind of thing will never happen, not only because it would be practically impossible to pull off without being held to account and punished SEVERELY, but because we are overshadowed by those who feel no compassion whatsoever for human life. No matter how dumb, cruel, unfair and embarrassing some aspects of humanity can be, it's not worth blowing yourselves and hundreds of other innocent (to a certain extent) people up for. Use your imagination, you don't need explosives and you don't need Selfridges, but if you must blow something up then why not accumulate some carefully stolen expensive tat over a period of time, take it to a secluded field, rent a digital camera and film the lot being blown to smithereens. Come on you thick, lazy bastards, at least do it in your heads, you're lucky to be alive and well. Don't be embarrassed. 

My own life seems to be permanently, predominantly propelled by music, and not in the sense that say... commuters, or teenagers, or students are propelled by music...not at all, the propulsion is more of an unbreakable attachment, a recurring affliction which for good or ill gives me a kick up the arse in order to GET THINGS DONE. These THINGS can range from painting a perverse picture of Donny Osmond with a warped miniature version of himself poking out of his mouth, to making a valiant attempt at becoming a writer. Sometimes pure logic takes over and silences the music. It whispers at me, "Stop typing directly into your email account, you will lose vital paragraphs!", and pure logic would be right...
What makes me different from the rest of you music suckers is the simple fact that the music which blasts me out of bed most days is going on inside my own head, my own 'music', and all the madness that goes with it. Last night I was in an ultra-reflective mood. You know something is up when you're reading the Wikipedia pages for Phil Hartman and Billy West. The birthday gig is over now. It was a success. It certainly was a definitive Black Country rock show at a diabolical (in a good way) Black Country pub. American tourists would love it. I was saying to Rose of Bearwood when we were on our way there, hauling heavy bags of equipment for the gig, cymbals, guitar, pedals, leads, mics... etc by hand, on foot, my shoulders feeling torn to shreds, that you can imagine the future romanticised vision of these two great icons of the post-record industry era, lugging all of their awkwardly weighted gear around the industrial, amber street-light lit back roads of Cradley Heath, heading to play another show, still doing it, still surviving.

Let's fast-forward now, past wrestling with the god-awful in-house drum kit, past several pints of cheap cider, a couple of fags, a couple of spliffs and a lot of early-in-the-night slurring at old friends. The three-piece version of Perhower took to the stage. Being the return of a certain MPH on lead guitar, there was a high level of anticipation and nervousness in the room, the hyped up crowd began to huddle together near the stage, the place went dark as the thrilling noises started to ring out of my amp. It was pretty exciting, if a little nostalgic, to see Rose of Bearwood behind the drums, with Fiboard transforming into Fibass next to her, the opening riff of "Rein in the Chaos" blasting out towards the horny audience. It was fun. The crowd seemed to love it. I found it strange more than anything really. I liked the stripped down elements, my guitar taking centre-stage, backed by two strong yet cute female utility musicians. I'm a lucky man to have those ladies behind me. It's good to know that we can pull some great old tunes out of the bag whenever we feel like doing a three-piece gig, it's there at our disposal.

Next up were "And Fate Was Foolish", one of the finest, most humorous, and technically gifted Black Country 'Metal' groups you will ever see. One of the best things about them, other than their highly enjoyable solid sound, is the distinctive look of the group. Lead guitarist / vocalist "Mo" and Bass player "Ade" calmly dominate the stage, looking like tough, bald, sweaty monsters wearing spectacles, while the unassuming, very normal and vaguely handsome looking drummer "Dan" seems to effortlessly pound out extreme metallic drums laced with insane foot-pedal work. Don't get me wrong, they are a serious band, but they get the balance spot on between genuinely dark riff-age and lyrical piss taking. They finished off their set with an encore of crowd favourite "S.T.D", a seriously heavy song which mocks religion hilariously and viscously. Sounds good to me, and I hate Metal.

Then along came The Gruber, my very own Black Country rock n roll troops. It was time for the birthday boy to perform his songs to his adoring audience. As usual the lads took a fucking age to get set up, I had to drag my drunken-drugged brain from the opposite bar area all the way back over to the stage because people were getting restless and we still had to get another two excellent bands on before it got way too late and way too messy. Once again the lights went down and they were off on another rock rampage. Despite me having to frantically get the levels right during the first tune, The Gruber held their set together and the crowd were pumped up to the highest level. Crazed women stood on chairs, screaming their beautiful tits off, along with grown men who seemed to be proclaiming a perverse form of love for the ever impressive, if a little dazed and confused Roscoe Balaban. His family and friends seemed suitably impressed and I continued to tweak things here and there. Solid bass from Murdoch, violently exhausting drums from D. Robotnik and a genuinely together performance from the group as a whole.

By this point my brain was pretty scrambled, but I knew that we could straighten ourselves out if we could just witness the fantastic Birmingham band Bombers. They are one of my favourite bands and we were lucky to have them at the show. Not only did their drummer, Dave Owen, make a massive effort to sort the dog shit drum skins out, which he did with amazing results, but they still managed to perform a superbly balanced, engaging set of original tunes, even though they were on late and had been recording in the studio all day. They are fucking pro, surprisingly young and capable of hooks, beats and structures which are so up my street I never feel lost with them. They always manage to conduct themselves like some sort of twisted military band, abstracted and pulled by invisible wires. I'm actually starting to realise that the tunes and the arrangements for each instrument are so good it makes me feel sick, in a nice way, like being totally fucked, you know, just near the edge enough without actually puking. Miles P is in love with somebody else for a change and I don't think he can stay away. Lads, you might need to get a restraining order. Bombers are: Matty Warke (obscenely cool guitar), Daz Mullen (slinky dinky rolling bass), Dave Owen (sexually intricate drums), and Dave Duell ("THE MAN", vocals, guitar). OK. Enough said... for now.

Somehow we had survived this intense, arduous affair, but then came 11pm (or probably even later), eyes were glazed over, mouths were moving at the wrong time for the words coming out, bad shit was happening, but then bad shit turned to bat-shit once the legendary whore-beast "Bearshark: Unrelenting Predator" infected the stage, infected the room and killed the doom. I don't give a fuck what anyone else thinks about this band, I don't give a fuck what the people in this band think of me, all I know is that it always feels right, right at the end of the night. Jett Fyter is a (literally) unstoppable front-man. At this point I was in a state, somehow still appearing to function normally, I can't honestly remember who was playing drums for Bearshark but I know it was pretty good. Guitarist Ryan and bassist Adam held the thing together as usual, begrudgingly enduring, yet still seemingly enjoying my random interference on stage. I don't think I can stop getting involved with those bastards, on some level anyway...

Many strange days and nights have passed since that Black Country whirlwind sent us all flying. I have since managed to significantly 'straighten' myself out. I feel ten years younger, which unfortunately means that my sex drive has gone up ten-fold, my moods are swinging like the fucking sixties, and when I finally force myself to sleep at night I have totally insane dreams, often laden with surreal jokes and frighteningly clear renditions of songs. That's what you get if you manage to clean up your act after consuming a massive crate of free wine, an assortment of beers, three or four bottles of whiskey and a few bags of extremely psychoactive skunk, all accumulated during the 'festive' period. 
Well done to any brave readers who have managed to ride this massive bitch of an article from start to finish. The next thing is St. Eel: the show in the mirror, a feast of independent noise, pictures and experiments in self-employment. We're taking our organised madness to the heart of the second city on Friday 9th March 2012, keeping it fresh and stimulating at the Sticky Toffee Dance Studio in Digbeth.
Until then, my dazed and confused friends, keep your chins up, bare with me and I'm sure we can make this work... and if not, well, I'm fucking off to Tenerife, a filthy, scorching place where you can get your head hacked off in a Chinese supermarket. 


UPDATE - Rose of Bearwood noticed that Internet Explorer was displaying this bugger in a way which rendered the text pretty much invisible. That's why I've reverted to the 'classic' yellow text on dark grey background. I've also sacked my editor for not noticing a few silly errors, they have now been amended. Unfortunately, I've had to immediately re-hire that same editor, after all, he is Miles Perhower. He would like to apologise wholeheartedly for any distress this may have caused. As some form of compensation, Miles has decided to attach a falsely dichotomouse monkey to the end of this piece...