Mimicking the machines: the first Industrial music

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

By chance I saw a few minutes of a tv programme on dance and found out that some types of English clog dancing was invented by the women working the mechanised looms to relieve the tedium of the job. Many steps mimicked the sounds and movement of the machines. I’ve watched programmes on clog dancing before – and seen it executed wonderfully, most notably by Rachel and Becky Unthank – but had not heard how the steps came about. The original Industrial Music then, I thought – pre-dating by around a century (if my social history is right) the term coined by Peter Christopherson, then of Throbbing Gristle, to describe the sounds/noise of TG. I’ve read many interviews with him and other members of the group but have found no reference to clog dance steps so perhaps he was not aware of it but it certainly seems to reflect his own ideas about how to use sound and noise. When I was researching whether anyone in the 1970s/80s Industrial ‘scene’ had talked about mill workers in Northern England I found no reference to it, either, although contemporary sound artist Sarah Angliss had made the connection several years ago, and had written about it in 2009, even mentioning Kraftwerk and Coil. Of course, between these two eras came industrial music from the Midlands from the likes of Black Sabbath, which was labelled Heavy Metal, since the music reflected the heavy industry of the area and the lives that it dominated, but the later Industrial Music, like the clog dance steps before it, sought to mimic industrial noise more closely.

My forays onto social media are having mixed results. On the plus side, I’ve managed to connect with more writers and have made contact with a few people I’d lost touch with. On the negative side, too many people, I think, consider that clicking the ‘Like’ button on someone’s posts is a decent replacement for emailing friends. It isn’t. It may take time for me to respond to emails sometimes – or write a letter – but that’s because to do so requires the effort that my friends are worth. A few rushed words on social media is not communication. The other main problem is that Facebook feels like being in a room where so many people are shouting that my voice is either not heard or is just ignored. Not having a Smartphone means that taking photos, loading them onto the computer and then posting them anywhere again requires a lot of effort, so my posts on FB have to be considered. So I’m spending less and less time there. Some personal and professional issues of late are also making me consider whether to delete my account completely, along with this website, and retreat into the complete reclusiveness that was necessary when I first left London. A person can only be ripped off, fucked over and taken for granted so many times before they give up and walk away from it all.

On the writing front – I’ve just completed the first draft of Dark Fire. At present it’s just over 6,000 words, which is quite short for me, but is likely to grow a bit when re-drafted. I’m very pleased with it, but I may put it to one side for the time being to press on with another new story.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis

Paths that cross will cross again

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

The trip to Cumbria was long and emotional but also beautiful and inspiring. We stayed in a small house at the foot of Blencathra and watched the mountain turn from green to white in a short-lived but furious snowstorm. From the back were sweeping views over St John’s in the Vale and more mountains than I could count, plus a bat that flitted around the garden one evening. Our visit to Castlerigg stone circle was marred by an arrogant pair of men who had camped inside the stones, and who stared and commented at us as we approached as if we had no right to be there. What was it someone said recently about some people and their sense of absolute entitlement? I nearly spoke to them, as I wanted to explain how disrespectful they were being (and that they were giving wild campers a bad name) but my instinct was to keep away. We returned later in the week and they were gone, replaced by visitors who treated the place – and us – with respect.

It was with great relief that we found the hawthorn tree where Jhonn Balance’s ashes were scattered, and the nearby Church Plantation, the location of his memorial woodland, entirely undamaged from the terrible flooding of December 2015. In the lane approaching St Bega church T found the body of a young deer (as you will see from the new ‘banner’ photo on this site). Ian had a fondness for photographing dead animals, and the deer was one of his favourite creatures, so I photographed it in his honour.

The story I’m currently working on, Dark Fire, finishes at Bassenthwaite Lake, and I took some time, sitting on a boulder on the shore, to note the details of the area. The story is near completion of its first draft and the trip has provided the motivation to finish it sooner rather than later. I also made some notes for what will be my next story (as yet untitled); perhaps it’s impossible to be in such a landscape and not stumble upon new story ideas.

 

The title of this piece is from a lyric by Patti Smith. All other images and text ©Julie Travis

Bad moon rising

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

I’m close to completing a first draft of new story Dark Fire. I’ve decided to stick with this title; it’s an alchemical term that describes an intense fire which consumes itself. The title of a painting by Ithell Colquhoun, I thought it perfect for the story. Or, perhaps, for the way I’m feeling at the moment. Either way, it works. David Bowie’s Blackstar and Coil’s Astral Disaster have been played repeatedly while I’ve been writing this story. Both albums have an otherworldly air to them and have induced some profoundly altered states of mind, which will be clear to anyone reading the story! It did at one point become too strange/frightening to continue with, but I want to explore this kind of thing further.

It’s possible I’ll finish the draft before I head off to Cumbria in around ten days – it’d be a good place to leave the work for the time I’m away. The trip is in part a sad pilgrimage in memory of Ian Johnstone, to visit some of the places he loved, including of course, Jhonn Balance’s memorial at Bassenthwaite Lake. There is still a lot of storm damage in the county, but hopefully life is getting back to normal for most of the residents there. For me, the whole world has changed since I was last there eighteen months ago but I still hope to find some beauty there.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.

Several times I heard footsteps behind me, but when I turned around the lane was empty

Frosty Leaves

Photo: Julie Travis

The title of this piece was inspired by a walk I did yesterday, along quiet lanes and bridleways overlooking ancient field systems. It made me think I could be in an M R James story.

New story Dark Fire (working title) is progressing well. I can’t see where it could possibly be placed – any Occult magazines I’ve seen have been very academic, and the story just won’t fit into any other category or genre. Of course ‘slipstream’ is supposed to cover a lot of the uncoverable, but that just doesn’t seem to extend to what I write these days. The one chink of light has been reading Sleep Has His House by Anna Kavan; her utter belief in the power and reality of her dreams makes me feel somewhat vindicated in what I do.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.

Five planets in a rising arc

Photo: T Knight

Photo: T Knight

A beautiful and moving sight in the pre-dawn sky this week: Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter, in an arc from the south-east to the south-west. A week of amazing things, then. The Ithell Colquhoun exhibition has opened in Penlee Gallery. I’ve had a look around, noting how Death of a Vampire in a Magic Mirror resembled in part a dream I’d had the previous night, and will return to take it in more fully.

My thanks to Whollybooks, who published a piece on Surrealist writer Anna Kavan recently, which stirred me to get hold of Sleep Has His House. How is it possible to be so influenced by a writer I’d never heard of until a few months ago? What I’ve read of her work feels like a continuance of the influence of Colquhoun and Dion Fortune on my writing, despite my not having knowledge of them for so much of my life. Kavan’s belief in dream-life echoes my own lifelong thoughts and experiences.

I’ve started work on a new, as yet untitled, short story, after finishing all the preliminary work and research on the Rebel Dykes article. Two recent apocalyptic dreams are perfect for this story and will be included.

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.

A ‘God’ grave

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

2016 begins in interesting fashion – Penlee Gallery in Penzance is about to host a new exhibition – Ithell Colquhoun: Image and Imagination, the first in a public gallery since the Occultist/Surrealist’s death in 1988. Colquhoun lived locally, in Lamorna Valley, but little seems to be spoken about her. Having read one of her books (The Goose of Hermogenes) and seen some of her art, I’m extremely keen to see the exhibition. The café’s a friendly place, too!

Andy Martin has accepted A Fairy Ring for his (as yet untitled) anthology with much enthusiasm, which is some relief. And I’ve begun work on a feature about a forthcoming film, Rebel Dykes, (about the lesbian punk/activist squat scene in London in the 1980s) which will hopefully appear in print somewhat later in the year. As usual, these things can never be guaranteed, but I had a very inspiring phone conversation with one of the producers yesterday and I’m hopeful about it all working out.

The title of this piece is something which appeared in a recent dream. It’ll be worked into a story, no doubt, and describes an ancient burial ground in the side of a huge mountain, possibly the Himalayas.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis unless otherwise stated.