It reminded me of exams and how bad I was at sight-reading. Entire worlds of adventure were to be discovered through the keys laid out before me, their infinite combinations the gateway to characters and places, to love and tragedy. Fast forward several years of falling in and out of love with studying music to where I play support for Robyn Hitchcock at the Unitarian Church, Brighton. I see a grand piano to the side of stage and something makes me ask the caretaker, Peter, if I can come back and practice on it during the day.
There began a ritual of unravelling. I reckon that sums it up. Hello from the window of our local coffee shop! Listen on Spotify! I guess it stands to reason that the length of a musical phrase would dictate at what point you took a breath, and that if everyone is breathing together in time, that their heartrates would then be affected. Then what would that do to blood pressure? Could you treat a room full of people with high blood pressure by getting them to sing along with a load of people with low blood pressure?!
Could this save the NHS money?! Sound-check on my recent tour. Awkward stop-starts and fretful exchanges eventually give way to head-bobs and smiles. We run behind schedule, then in they come. Someone straight from work, trying not to feel like a trespasser, looking for any familiar faces other than my preoccupied mug. The choir arrive. This will be the first time the band and I have sung with them. The scores I wrote and sent to the choir leader all those months ago are now living, breathing. We all assemble, in new positions, standing tentatively.
Our soundperson is ready and we begin. My next show will be at historic Butley Priory, Suffolk. Details of that and other concerts coming soon…. This is how I was told the Maori creation myth, while living in New Zealand, by Bushka band founding member, dear friend and drumming bad-ass, Jean Pompey. They were having a good time and kept producing more and more children. The children did however and, as conditions got more and more cramped and uncomfortable, they set about devising a way to separate their parents. One of the children, Tu, god of war, suggests killing them but the other siblings agree this is a step too far.
Tane, god of the trees, suggests that instead, they push them apart. Nevertheless, Tane goes ahead and with all his might pushes and pushes, his whole body become taut.. With an almighty crash of light, Rangi and Papa are separated and the earth is created! Ranginui, the father, becomes the sky, Papatuanuku, the mother, becomes the earth.
Rangi and Papa are heartbroken to be separated and according to this Maori myth, each night Rangi weeps for Papa, leaving dew drops on her skin, and Papa consoles him by sending rising mist up from the ground to the skies. A bizarre series of events have perpetuated in Hannah and her London choir performing with me next year as part of my album release tour. Over the noise of the squall we talk logistics, four part harmonies, and the power of music- ever more poignant in these present times, in bringing Londoners from all walks of life, together to sing. And now jump in the sea for a morning swim as the rain pours.
Drawing a song…Illustrator Becky Lu is drawing my songs. The best little coffee shop in Brighton… Recording, mixing, mastering, pressing, rendering, printing, scoring, confirming, parking… and everything in between. On these admin days, Stoney Point, the cafe downstairs, provide consistently excellent coffee and company. From a sea of budgets, and to-do lists, I bob up and talk to owner Jesse about Banjos, Existentialism and Banana bread. This is barista Hannah and an enormous dog.
L’Economie Sociale et Solidaire en mouvement
South West show announced… To Totnes! Having just sung with Willy Mason at Roundhouse, force-to-be-reckoned-with choir leader Helen Yeomans and her choir will be joining me and the band. More UK dates to be announced soon! In which we send two producers to Moscow, two tracks to London, and eat the finest Arancini this side of Palermo. But anyone who knows Chris and Ben knows these songs are in seriously safe hands.
We finish our first stint of recording, where drummer Chris plays the banjo for the first time! Weather in Moscow- a balmy 24C. Lucky, Ben lost his shorts in India. He wants to know the stories behind the songs, the colours, where you were. We meet in London at my Green Note show and talk about baby names and vintage tape delays. Brighton to Sicily and back. Sussex to miles shy of Africa. I was never going to say no. We emerge from car doors and foreign apartment foyers with arms open.
Toothless men send us down lanes clinging to hills and beautiful women give us wine. We drink it. A cave-like movie theatre of hidden treasures. It was nearly turned into a Chinese Supermarket had it not been for proprietor Jacco. The Chinese supermarket moved in next door instead. As the rain poured, darkness fell, and drivers casually drifted across the road at 90mph, I reminded myself how beautiful the wine and aubergine was last night. I can forgive anything of the land that brought forth that aubergine. Of course we do it anyway and arrive into the arms of the Ferlaino family.
We all shout and kiss in excess. Sweet Baby James is playing in the kitchen downstairs. Chef to the band, the venues many staff and a small film crew, most of whom seem to be related. Clad in exquisite red suede, silk ruffled blouse, and stilettos, she feeds an army and sips on margaritas. That no man is an island here. Aranchinos in one hand, espresso in the other. The Southern most point of the tour awaits us. TL: I am interested in most mythology. Celtic or Christian no more than anything else. I will admit to a pleasure and sense of hope in what I see as the basic teachings of Christ, stripped of the nonsense that has sometimes been accumulated about them and the embarrassing misunderstanding.
TR: A specific mythology, Vampirism, plays a major part in your work. The question we'd like to ask is, what do you like about vampires? TL: What I like about vampires is what I like about everything I want to write about, the depths and heights, the pain and joy. TR: A change of pace was the well-regarded short story Three Days. Was this simply something refreshing, or was it linked to your other themes and interests? TL: Three Days comes from my interest in reincarnation which I explored in a number of works. What had struck me was the desire of certain people to undermine any form of pure self-expression.
In whatever form, or by whatever means, everyone has the right to develop or transform -- providing this hurts no one else in any life-threatening way. The axis of the story is just such a flight, motivated by a belief in reincarnation, stifled by a constipated evil the like of which even I have seldom written of.
The curiosity of the case is quite usual, in circles where reincarnation is credited. What is your opinion on genre categories, such as these? TL: Genre categories are irrelevant.
- Blood by Moonlight;
- How Do I Get a Silencer | Silencer | Suppressor | Gun.
- Recritiquing William Shakespeare.
- See a Problem?.
- Get A Copy.
- See a Problem?!
- When White Turns Blue: Erotic Paranormal Romance;
I dislike them, but I do not have the casting vote. Writing is writing and stories are stories. Perhaps the only true genres are fiction and non-fiction. And even there, who can be sure? TR: Genre not withstanding, you have written a number of what are generally referred to as children's books. What do you find is the difference between child and adult audiences, where does this demarcation lie?
TL: Again, no difference. How dare one presume to write in a particular way, for children? They deserve the best of a writer, just as the writer deserves the best of themselves. The only limits are sex, for reasons of censorship, and violence, for reasons of common sense.
On the Lee Side
What was the inspiration behind these? TL: I rather like turning all stories around. As a child, my mother told me lots of fairy stories, many her own invention. She too tended to reverse the norm, as for example her tale where the prince ended up marrying the witch -- this one I stole from her -- with her complete consent, to use in my children's book Princess Hynchatti.
Red as Blood was my first concerted excursion into turning all my personal favourites around. When I am fascinated by something, I like to play with it. TR: And writing for television! What was it like working on Blakes 7? How ever did it come about? TL: Blakes 7 approached me, to write for the series.
I had watched most of it, and already had some ideas about what the characters could be missing out on. I liked doing the two episodes, and had plans for others, I would have liked to concentrate on each personality in turn. But of course the series ended. TR: Have you ever been approached by the movie industry, in your home country or elsewhere? Do you indeed have any interest in this field?
TL: I have been approached several times by the movie industry, who have sometimes taken out options on my work.
See a Problem?
So far nothing has come of any of this. I like films, or some films, and would be intrigued to see my work on screen. TR: One of the most recent books to arrive in the country is Personal Darkness , the second in the Blood Opera series. The books seem to initially set up a conflict between various shades of Gothic, particularly between Rachaela and the Scarabae, and then Ruth in the sequel.
Can you comment on these novels and your use of the contemporary setting? TL: An editor suggested to me I might try contemporary horror. At first this didn't appeal -- then the idea arrived. I had for years had the notion of a huge diaspora of a family, immensely secretively powerful, with roots in past ages. Cool and stifled Rachaela came next, and the old dark house on the cliff. Things grew from there.
The contrast between the ancient and the modern is what I enjoy most about these books. I don't know why, and have no intellectual reason I can give.