Category Archives: GUEST EDITOR

From The Desk Of The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan: Underscores

It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.

Undescore

O’Hagan: For the past seven years, I have been writing film scores with Tim Gane, my old friend from Stereolab. We were lucky enough to form a working relationship with the French film director Marc Fitoussi. Marc makes wonderful movies, contemporary stories of French urban and rural life, more comic than dramatic and very French.

What Tim and I have learned is how to create a small number of themes but recast the musicality of these themes to create a musical narative. Too many themes in a movie can interfere with the continuity of the story, but the trick is to reinterpret the theme so that the viewer initially responds to a fresh sound and then finds the familiarity in the cue. This technique becomes almost second nature, and I find myself drawn to this compositional style when I write outside film. I’m not sure whether this is a weakness or a strength?

When I wrote the music to Here Come The Rattling Trees, the underscore writing between the songs, the music which accompanied the narrative, was by far the most rewarding part of the process. It was as if I was settling in, but also hoping the underscores would ready the following song.

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From The Desk Of The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan: Musicals

It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.

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O’Hagan: Let’s face it, most people’s reaction to the idea of a musical isn’t too positive. We must concede that there has been rash of questionable musical stage shows which paying homage to a clutch success stories which already had plenty of exposure over the last 40 years: Abba, Queen, the Kinks, the Beatles. Before this, we had the runaway successes of Rice/Webber-like stuff, Phantom, Chess, Butterfly, Evita … ya ya ya. But way before all of this, there was, in New York, a few great decades where some considerable chances were taken and great music was made. Stephen Sondheim was a name chucked around on high-brow arts radio and TV docos. I knew Send In The Clowns and bits of Sweeney Todd. But like most of my cool mates, I knew better and paid little attention to Sondheim’s work.

How I corrected this, I can not remember, but about 15 years ago, I started to casually work my way through Sondheim’s considerable repertoire, and now I count his work as essential listening. In fact, it’s an example of how to push your craft (horrible word) into unknown territory, both words and music, and toy with accepted traditions, driving them into areas of discomfort.

If you want to dip into Sondheim’s work, why not start with Company?  It’s a 1969 show about Bobby, a New York socialite, and a special birthday. The title track is spectacular. Try to catch the 2011 stage production with New York Philharmonic. You could encounter an embarrassed silence when you think…… this is not for me. But, go on. Give it a go.

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From The Desk Of The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan: A Case For Khan’s (Peckham, South London)

It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.

Khans

O’Hagan: I suppose we should be grateful that the gentrification of Peckham that we witness at an accelerating pace is at the moment balanced and at an exciting point. The West African community are very much still present in Rye Lane. The halaal butchers and Afghani fruit and veg traders are enjoying custom from multiple communities. About six hipster bars have bedded into the surrounding streets over the past five years and maybe seven cafs or coffee shops, as we are getting use to calling them. So the art-school kids, no money but lots of ideas, rub shoulders with the new German and American financiers, loads of money, no idea.

But there is one institution that expresses the beautiful idiosyncratic nature of Rye Lane. It’s a large shop that resembles an eastern bazaar. Anything can be found in the unending ails from motor accessories to industrial catering tools. We find giant wholesale bags of rice and chickpeas and, of course, rugs and carpets. Khan’s occupies a yellow, 1930s art-deco building that use to house Holdron’s department store. Holdron’s was a genuine gem in the golden shopping mile—as Rye Lane was known in the 1930s. We can wander through Khans and glimpse the odd feature of past glories, in the ceiling currently being revealed and restored, or the amazing mosaic floor hidden by years of 60s lino.

Mr. Khan arrived from Afghanistan 14 years ago, starting out his retail business from a street stall. What he achieved is valued and adds to the incredible buzz of Rye Lane. However, he realises that the site has a significant history and wants to participate in on going efforts to restore the building’s former charm. Mr Khan gets the old Peckham and the new Peckham. He is the balance. Lets hope he keeps it.

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From The Desk Of The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan: Lyrics

It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.

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O’Hagan: I’m not a natural lyricist. I struggle. There are and have been many wonderful words written to song over thousands of years. When its right, it’s a as wondrous as the coming together of film and music. But we all know that there is also a closed formulaic lyric, an industry lyric, which just kills any wonder that may have been there when the writer was just humming that original tune. I understand the notion of reaching instinctively for something unique, close to your experience. But that seems to manifest itself in so many cases as personal personal, if you get my meaning. I have also noted over the years that critics seem to gravitate towards the personal personal, perhaps hoping that they are being told the untellable. I wonder is this a rights-of-passage thing. How many times have I read “never lose your anger.”

I spent 10 years in a band called Microdisney. My co-writer was Cathal Coughlan. He wrote and still writes words of such impact and originality that they could almost be biblical, though they most certainly are not. After Cathal, I still love Will Oldham’s writing, and recently I can not stop listening to Nina Simone’s brilliant celebrational style.

I once wrote a lyric that went: “Take my hand and run it through the sand.” It sounded OK, and it was in an attempt to capture a moment of true happiness as I sat on an Welsh beach when my daughter was nine years old. We were sharing a sunny moment, and I realised that I could never be happier than this moment. OK. I wrote about it, but it was not sentimental or revealing. “Take my hand and run it through the sand.” Said it all. A critic (online in the U.S., I think ), who I think liked the music, said it was a pitty that the lyrics were a nonentity. “Take my hand and run it through the sand.” She said. That’s it over and over. (There were plenty of others words, BTW.) I thought I got it right. True happiness expressed without the personal personal. Maybe its something that comes to you with age.

BTW, my daughter insists she wrote the lyric.

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From The Desk Of The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan: Bikes (Here Come The Rattling Trees, Part 2)

It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.

Bike

O’Hagan: Driven by something other than what you know.

There is no denying that approaching what you practise in a different way, as a novice, freshens the eventual product or outcome. So it was that I was on a bicycle—in Peckham—when I chanced upon a corner conversation between an elderly woman in a wheelchair, and a younger one standing. The subject of discussion was a recent visit from the gas man (the meter reader from the utility company for those who may not know). There had been some kind of doorstep misunderstanding, an altercation. As the women spoke, the tale achieved epic proportions. Claim to counter claim, punctuated by, pointing fingers. “He said … and I said back and he said so I said again … ” and over and over. I can not believe that this encounter was any more than a polite-but-tense exchange. “If I can not gain access today, Madam, when can I? Or can you supply a meter reading yourself?” End of story. No drama. How dull, it won’t do.

However, the joy of turning the everyday, the mundane, these tiny parcels of narrative, into chronicles, well, it’s irresistible. It’s what we do. We all invent something from nothing. So from passing comment, to storytelling, to theatre, and then maybe to cinema, the momentary becomes monumental, the transient becomes tremendous.

As I rode off on the bike, I knew that a clutch of stories that had been entertaining me for years would be the beginning of the next High Llamas project. It would start as narrative and then there would be music, then performance, and maybe then, a record.

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From The Desk Of The High Llamas’ Sean O’Hagan: Peckham (Here Come The Rattling Trees, Part 1)

It might seem unusual, at first: British folk/pop auteur Sean O’Hagan padding Here Come The Rattling Trees—his latest outing as bandleader of the High Llamas—with several breezy musical snippets that work as either introductions or codas to delicate, fully realized songs. But in fact, the project first coalesced as a narrative the singer scripted about his South London neighborhood of Peckham, where a local working-class recreation center was being threatened by snooty gentrification. But it quickly morphed into a full-scale production that he staged at a Covent Garden theater—hence the inclusion of rising and descending motifs. O’Hagan will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new High Llamas feature.

PeckhamPulse

O’Hagan: So how does one create a platform for the telling of six stories? When the stories cover a variety of themes, you need one common factor to bring them together, the umbrella under which we gather. These stories were, in hindsight, a timeline for my time in Peckham, which I’ve called home now for 28 years.The area has undergone incredible change in that time, mainly over the last eight years. I remember the pub I lived next door to in 1989 as a south London haunt with older West Indian guys slamming dominoes onto red formica tables in the public bar, and Bermondsey boys dishing out Friday bonuses in the lounge. I knew I needed a protagonist, a sympathetic listener, a willing audience for the Peckham tales. At first I thought of a door man on a night club, but I just could not reconcile this chatty chap with the characters waiting to talk to him.

One day while standing in Peckham Square, a public space created to form a community hub between Peckham Library and the Peckham Pulse, I created Amy. She was to be a dreamy 28-year-old woman on a temp working contract handing out leaflets in the square. Quite simply, she would engage passing clients in conversation in the course of her days work. And so Amy would somehow be this empathetic soul, create connections and conversations and offer our new friends an opportunity to tell their story. Well, it convinced me and I did not have to resort to creating a mild-mannered gent in a rocking chair reading by candlelight.

That will be in the next show …

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From The Desk Of The Foxymorons: Joe T Garcia’s, Fort Worth, Texas

David Dewese and Jerry James, the friends that make records as the Foxymorons, met at church camp when they were in high school. They discovered they had an affinity for noisy, primitive rock bands. Since they both played rudimentary guitar, they thought about starting a band. Eventually, the duo honed its chops and began writing and recording. Although they’d never played live, their debut album, Calcutta, got stellar reviews in Pitchfork and Paste. As soon as it was out, Dewese moved to Nashville to play in an alt-country band. James stayed in Texas. They’ve maintained a long-distance collaboration ever since. New LP Fake Yoga has elements drawn from country and pop music, including Beach Boys-flavored harmonies, but the album is dominated by their distorted, almost metallic guitar work. James and Dewese will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

JoeTGarcia

James: Mexican food is sacred in Texas, and there are plenty of great places to get it, especially in my town of Fort Worth. But the most beautiful setting is the outdoor patio at Joe T Garcia’s (est. 1935). Some Fort Worth locals will tell you that the food is just average—although, for the record, I have no complaints—but it’s the stunning patio, or series of connected gardens really, that make it special. It’s the reason people are willing to stand in lines that can extend for most of a city block. Somehow, I always feel like I’m on vacation when I sit outside under beautiful Texas weather in the lush green surroundings, and when I’m lucky, at one of the coveted spots near the outdoor pool. A few tips: The line is long, but you can drink one of their potent margaritas while you wait; they only take cash; and there’s no printed menu and it’s pretty simple anyway: fajitas or enchiladas. So there you have it. The next time you’re in Fort Worth, you’ve got your dinner plans all sorted out. Just make sure to run by the ATM beforehand.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Foxymorons: “Teen Wolf” (1985)

David Dewese and Jerry James, the friends that make records as the Foxymorons, met at church camp when they were in high school. They discovered they had an affinity for noisy, primitive rock bands. Since they both played rudimentary guitar, they thought about starting a band. Eventually, the duo honed its chops and began writing and recording. Although they’d never played live, their debut album, Calcutta, got stellar reviews in Pitchfork and Paste. As soon as it was out, Dewese moved to Nashville to play in an alt-country band. James stayed in Texas. They’ve maintained a long-distance collaboration ever since. New LP Fake Yoga has elements drawn from country and pop music, including Beach Boys-flavored harmonies, but the album is dominated by their distorted, almost metallic guitar work. James and Dewese will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

TeenWolf

James: I just re-watched Teen Wolf the other day and, honestly, it wasn’t as great as I remembered. But I still love it. I distinctly remember when I saw Teen Wolf for the first time in the summer after my eighth-grade year. It spoke to me. Here was a kid who was about my height and was playing varsity basketball(!), and he got his dream girl, Pamela Wells. Well, at least for a few days. There was so much about that movie that resonated with my confused, insecure, hormone-addled middle-school brain. Who among us hasn’t felt like an invisible outsider? Michael J. Fox even voices to his best female friend, Boof, that he’s “tired of being so average.” Meanwhile, the jock-turned-werewolf was so preoccupied with the shallow and beautiful Pamela that he didn’t realize that Boof was the right girl for him all along. So I guess the moral of the story is that you should stop comparing and appreciate the people in your life. That, and don’t surf on top of moving vans.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Foxymorons: Southern California

David Dewese and Jerry James, the friends that make records as the Foxymorons, met at church camp when they were in high school. They discovered they had an affinity for noisy, primitive rock bands. Since they both played rudimentary guitar, they thought about starting a band. Eventually, the duo honed its chops and began writing and recording. Although they’d never played live, their debut album, Calcutta, got stellar reviews in Pitchfork and Paste. As soon as it was out, Dewese moved to Nashville to play in an alt-country band. James stayed in Texas. They’ve maintained a long-distance collaboration ever since. New LP Fake Yoga has elements drawn from country and pop music, including Beach Boys-flavored harmonies, but the album is dominated by their distorted, almost metallic guitar work. James and Dewese will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

SouthernCalifornia

Dewese: I had an idyllic childhood growing up in the suburbs outside Dallas, Texas. Besides the gridular, concrete-laden tract home-neighborhoods, we still had trees to climb, fields to destroy and creeks to splash around in. Folksy and charming qualities for sure, but it didn’t take me long to realize that my favorite sports (BMX Bikes, skateboarding and volleyball) and TV shows (CHiPs, The Fall Guy and Simon & Simon) all had one thing in common: Southern California. The endless beaches, seemingly perfect weather, punkish, bratty teenagers, tanned, pretty girls and Hollywood mystique—was it even real? If so, why didn’t everyone live there?

Those Dorito-fueled ’80s childhood memories would be the best explanation for my California migration as an adult. Sure, it can be expensive at times, and traffic sucks at rush hour (where doesn’t it?), but the state is truly paradise. Aside from birthing my favorite sports and media, it’s a natural playground that can be enjoyed year-round. Perfect beaches, snow-capped mountains, deep canyons, fertile farmland and arid deserts. Heck, in one day you can surf in the morning and snowboard in the afternoon. No joke! Psychiatrists say that childhood experiences greatly effect our actions as adults, and I would to agree. I am no exception to that rule. Deep down I’ll always be a Texas boy, but I love Southern California.

Video after the jump.

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From The Desk Of The Foxymorons: Laura Wilson At The Amon Carter

David Dewese and Jerry James, the friends that make records as the Foxymorons, met at church camp when they were in high school. They discovered they had an affinity for noisy, primitive rock bands. Since they both played rudimentary guitar, they thought about starting a band. Eventually, the duo honed its chops and began writing and recording. Although they’d never played live, their debut album, Calcutta, got stellar reviews in Pitchfork and Paste. As soon as it was out, Dewese moved to Nashville to play in an alt-country band. James stayed in Texas. They’ve maintained a long-distance collaboration ever since. New LP Fake Yoga has elements drawn from country and pop music, including Beach Boys-flavored harmonies, but the album is dominated by their distorted, almost metallic guitar work. James and Dewese will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our new feature on them.

LauraWilson

James: Laura Wilson is a Dallas resident and an acclaimed photographer who has spent a career documenting various aspects of the American West, including its high school football teams, artists, cowboys, ranchers, immigrants, border agents and dogfighters. (Incidentally, she also happens to be mother to sons who work in Hollywood.) It’s a strange world she captures, far outside the margins of the cultural mainstream. There is a new exhibition of her work at The Amon Carter Museum Of American Art in Fort Worth, which also happens to be just walking distance from my house. Her work is observant and curious and meditative and wonderful. You should see it. The exhibition is called That Day and runs through Feb. 14, 2016.

Video after the jump.

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