alan vega is playing at camden’s roundhouse in london for free this saturday 16 june. doors 8pm.
our little lupe pipas was working her big head of hair on national (us) television the other night, as a backing singer and clapper for canadian singer feist. quick, head to youtube.com and type in “feist conan o’brien” to see the silly shenanigans…
jane fryers is a london-based chapeau architect with lots and lots of style and glamour. she is also one of the four girl DJs in the shellac sisters, a group of retro-styling ladies who all wear jane’s ace creations every time they pull out their crackly old 78s and beautiful old gramophones. I take photographs of the shellac sisters and part of the reason they are a joy to photograph is that they all have stunning headwear. we asked jane a few questions, and figure we need a new hat wearing goddess in london during the week of isabella blow’s funeral, don’t we?
chickfactor: what is your favourite hat that you’ve seen in a film or photograph — or if you can’t choose, tell us three.
jane fryers: I can’t choose one or even three, although I did see a fabulous hat in the film the maltese falcon the other day. I was so busy trying to work out how it was made that I missed half the plot of the film.
cf: are there any designers from the modern day or the past that have inspired you? or perhaps not designers but someone else?
jane: stephen jones is the most inspiring modern day milliner. his designs are glamorous and humorous, and he is such a nice man.
cf: what happens to your hats when the shellac sisters wear them for a night out?
jane: they get lots of compliments, thanks to my beautiful sisters, who are always ready to tell anyone who asks that I made them.
cf: can you explain how you became a shellac sister and what it takes to be one?
jane: I’d just bought a wind-up gramophone from portobello market and I took it to the park for virginia’s birthday picnic. she loved it and wanted one, and we joked that once we had two we could dj with them. then we met theo and jenny, two gorgeous girls with gramophones and the shellac sisters were born.
cf: how did you get into millinery yourself?
jane: I wanted to do something creative and had always wanted to go the the london college of fashion. I thought I’d try millinery, beadwork and silver jewelry making … a term of each … but I never got to try the others. one lesson of millinery and I was hooked.
cf: do you feel underdressed without a chapeaux?
jane: no, but I always feel better dressed with one and a hat is a great conversation starter.
cf: where would you like to see your hats on sale?
jane: I would like to see my hats on sale in beautiful surroundings with lots of mirrors.
cf: and who would you like to see wearing them?
jane: I don’t mind who wears my hats as long as they feel fabulous in them.
cf: what else does jane do while not shellacking or hat-making?
jane: I work on commercials for TV/film, dance salsa and hang out with unsuitable boys.
cf: what hat will you put on for summer?
jane: I’m working on a 1960s inspired creation for ascot.
cf: thanks jane.
photographs (except dorchester one): gail o’hara
stephen duffy has been jet-setting around the world with his boss (robbie williams) for the past couple of years (or was he robbie’s boss?) and we have missed him. hopefully we won’t have to go to the green man festival and sleep in a muddy field to see him this year (stephen, please play at our chickfactor party!). it has been like four years since his wonderful keep going LP was released and I still listen to it a ton. here are some lyrics from one of its top tunes and if you haven’t heard it, you should go and listen to it now. it is the perfect accompaniment to what is a typical summer bank holiday monday in london: torrential rains, freezing cold weather, ahhh, I love it:
Bank Holiday Monday
Bank Holiday Monday
You don’t have a lot to say
You’re waiting for payday
You can’t wait to get away
This boring town gets you down
There’s no one to come around
Why wait in for someone
Who is not as good as you?
Train on the eastbound track
Girls without make up
Keeping me coming back
When you’re old you can’t be told
That anywhere is paved with gold
Why wait in for something
That’s not as good as you?
You must take heart
You’re heading for the sky
You don’t have to ask why
Wystan Hugh Auden
John Winston Ono Lennon
Left middle England
Where they suffocate everything
They got away and so could you
What else is there to do?
Why wait in for something
That’s not as good as you?
I have been thinking about grant mclennan a lot lately and then I realised it was may of 2006 when he died. I miss him. I could not find much about it on their website, but beggars banquet is about to release a best-of-solo-record of mclennan’s work and also of forster’s. as usual, my idea of what is their best work is different from their own (and apparently they each chose the songs, so what do I know). of course, none of it will ever be the same as watching the two of them together, with robert vickers if at all possible, playing those old songs, and I feel spoiled silly that I got to see so many of their latter-day shows. does anyone know where the girl go-betweens are?
film critic and indie nerd sukhdev sandhu makes a top five list straight from the trenches
1) grumpy italian critics.
old men (and women) with their trousers hitched up to their armpits and their hippo cheeks covered with three weeks of stubble. they talk and masticate all the way through the films, grumble if anyone presumes to ask if they’ll remove their shopping bags from the seat next to them, and shush violently if another person, even twenty rows away, commits the cardinal sin of coughing. they’ve been here forever, and – gloriously, cheerlessly – will be here forever.
2) soap actors, provenance unknown.
cannes is a place where the stars effulge, hollywood reveals its dazzle-halo, and a thousand bold-face names set ten thousand cameras into clicking, flashing overload. and then there’s the english pavilion, where a bunch of public-school chancers talk up their latest projects (always, always about black kids keeping it real and doing dodgy deals with triads and gypsies in east london), and you find someone trying to cadge a fag off you, someone quite sad and desperate-looking and wearing last year’s designer white jeans and they’re talking about their new production company and the blacks-and-gypsies thriller they’re working on and their their face seems a bit familiar and then you remember – it’s what’s-his-name off what’s-that-soap that used to be on was-it-channel-5?
3) ‘c’mon, ref!’
every so often, you’re in a bar with some friends talking about great actors today and why there aren’t any, and then someone mentions malcolm mcdowell. where has he gone? is he alive? or has he gone to that place in the sky where the people are so nice they won’t mention his roles in mummy: tomb of the pharaoh, dinotopia: quest for the ruby sunstone or the neogenic nightmare: chapter 10 episode of the tv version of spider-man? where is malcolm? what does he do?
I had an insight the other evening when I went to the american pavilion to watch the milan v man united game screened live. yes, the american pavilion; not the english one – because clearly it belongs to such a cinephile nation brimming with world-class auteurs that it couldn’t spare any time to show a game that so many people were desperate to see. there, two yards from me, was the great malcolm mcdowell, still blessed with cheekbones so sharp they could cut through titanium, and with a menace that would make you think twice before approaching him for directions on a dark night. men and women were coming up to him to say hello, grab a kiss, tell him how much they liked his films. mainly, and with great courtesy, he waved them away; they were getting in the way of the scream.
throughout the evening, he was up on his feet, shouting ‘c’mon ref!’, ‘no, fucking way!’, ‘shoot it, gerrard!’ his disappointment at the end was overwhelming. so maybe that’s what malcolm mcdowell has been doing the last few years: not jacking up, not becoming an la-real-estate mogul, but just watching the telly, and, sometimes, shouting at it when his team’s not doing well.
everything in cannes is priced up. a thimbleful of water will set you back a bundle of euros. all the stores seem to sell are sweaty, overpriced baguette stores and cosmetics. unless, of course, they’re the designer-clothes boutiques where you sell out hundreds of quid for a piece of crumpled fabric bearing a print so loud and so hideous you’d rather attach yourself to a pile of bricks and jump into the ocean rather than be seen dead wearing them. and, unless, they’ve been taken over by packs of americans trust-fund chancers and students getting some ‘industry experience’, but who mainly sit around updating their facebook entries on their wi-fi laptops, and admiring each others tattoos.
and then there’s monoprix: it’s like woolworth’s, but better. great juices, cheap staples, a food hall whose prawn-heavy offerings easily rivals marks and spencer, fancy floral prints at bargain prices. now that lidl’s finally taking over in england, breaking up the high street monopoly of asda and tesco’s, it’d be great if monoprix would go international too. even if its name sounds like a saint etienne album title.
goes down well with everything, I’ve discovered.
it’s one of those weird things, when a member of the tribe hits the big time (see beck, elliott smith, ghost world). beth ditto is huge over here in the uk. the gossip is blaring out of all the high street shops. I don’t know, but I don’t think this has happened on the same scale in the us (anyone? is anyone there?). first the nme proclaimed that she was the coolest woman in rock, then the guardian weekend magazine slapped her on the cover with something about how “she’s fat, she’s gay, she’s cool.” and now she has her own advice column in the guardian. and she’s clearly been influenced by ronnie spector, at least where eye makeup is concerned…
this new york post article about ronnie and phil spector featured some fascinating insight into the wall of sound producer’s relationship with his own hair, not to mention his ex:
[[“He was so upset over his hair!” says Ronnie. “When we had dinner, everything was really dim, because he had bad hair. Toupees.” She pauses. “Boy oh boy – it got so hard to do anything because of his hair. If he couldn’t get his hair right, he’d say, ‘I don’t feel good.'” Hair issues gave way to darker concerns. Ronnie wasn’t permitted to leave the house alone, ever. According to her, she would be summoned to Phil’s side while he was recording with other artists – just to sit on the stool next to him, not moving. “He would say, ‘You’re my inspiration,'” she recalls. She would be punished like a little girl, often sent to bed hungry. “It was a sick love,” she says. “He even said, ‘I have a glass casket in the basement, for Ronnie. So I can look at her anytime I want.’ But I was in love with the guy, so I didn’t think that was too bad.”]]
nothing really surprises me anymore about phil, ronnie and their relationship, though. it’s sad. he was/is a total freak, and that’s never going to change. ronnie, on the other hand, may be as crazy as phil was (if only for falling for him, but we all have foggy goggles on when we fall in love, don’t we?), but she continues to be historically relevant as singer of the ronettes, the voice behind “be my baby” (one of my all-time favorite karaoke tunes and one of the greatest pop hits ever), and just a total style icon. that’s right, youngsters (are there any youngsters reading this site?), where do you suppose amy winehouse got the idea for her big hair/big eyeliner look anyway? all kinds of girls in camden and kentish town and south london have been featuring that look for a while now, and ms. ronnie deserves her due.
I was reading somewhere yesterday, god knows where, that waxing nostalgic about previous eras in new york history is all the rage. I can understand that. I feel like I left new york when maybe it needed me, or maybe I couldn’t have changed a thing. I’ve been living in london since 2003, and I really miss those old new york venues where we used to have chickfactor parties. in the early days it was under acme, a nice chilled-out room with blue xmas lights and a party vibe, where we had our little things. I think we had to pay a $150 deposit, and in the end we had a falling out with a certain soundman who thought he would ruin one of our parties by “losing” our special party music and putting on tori amos instead. later the venues of choice were mostly fez under time café and tonic, two very different rooms. we always had shows at fez because they let us have all ages shows there, but the gold lamé/red velvet vibe was parfait for our events. it was easy having events there, despite the bossy hosts and hostesses, the two-drink minimum (pretty funny when you realize that your waiter is never coming back to take a second drink order) and the strict, giuliani-era no-dancing laws. still, what could be better than a venue that serves chocolate cake until midnight? tonic came later, and had none of the velvet-rope baloney that fez occasionally had (time café was a very busy venue on weekends, so we can understand its need to herd its clientele), good sound and good vibes. our shows were usually on sunday night, because tonic usually only had jazz, klezmer and other non-pop music on the menu. the loss of these two places is a real shame. I walked by the chinese something or other café that now occupies the old time/fez space a few weeks ago and all the well-heeled yuppies brunching outside made me feel melancholy. where was brian? where was ellen? the nice bookers I used to be able to call and book a weekend from without even knowing who was playing. that would never happen in london (where I need £700 deposit for a weekend cf event at my venue of choice). I was so distracted that I even forgot to look at acme to see if it even still exists (does it?).
ps. did you know that the cover of get lost was photographed inside the time café?