At least, I will try.
"There is no "good" or "bad" anymore: only "fun" or "boring"" -- that's a quote from the film "Hackers" which I watched last night in an effort to become computer-literate. Gonna bear that in mind.
The nice people at the Huffington Post have asked me to write something for them that is loosely based around this year's SXSW festival. (Can I call it an "essay" instead of a "blog" please? I dislike words that end with a "g" -- "gig" & "lig" are other prime offenders - can't believe that I just typed them, actually.)
The main reason that I'm in Austin, TX this year is because Florian Habicht's film Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets is having its premiere here. Can't tell you about that though cos it would be "advertorial" -- & also a bit tacky.
No -- don't want to be tacky.
I will also be playing records with a view to making people dance at the Hype Hotel, along with my partner-in-crime Mr Steve Mackey, in a frankly quite terrifying revival of the Desperate Sound System: our "dance project" -- but, as we never decide what records we're going to play in advance, that would be pointless.
No -- don't want to go down that pointless route either.
How about I go into detail about the PowerPoint presentation I gave on Wednesday in room18ABC at the Austin Convention Centre?
Now you're talking!
Indeed -- because you probably weren't there to see it & I don't like the idea of you being left out & stuff so I'll try to explain it the best I can even though I can't show you all the pictures that went along with it. But you're smart so you'll get the gist...
Ok: well this talk started to take shape a couple of years ago when I went back to my old secondary school in Sheffield, England just after a collection of my lyrics (Mother,Brother,Lover -- not an advert, honest) had come out. I read from the book & then the floor was opened up for questions &, after much coughing & avoidance of eye contact, I was asked: "Have you ever met Simon Cowell?"
But whether or not I have ever met The Cowell is not the issue here -- what I came to understand from this & the other questions I was asked that day was: what the kids really wanted from me was some kind of blueprint or formula to enable them to become rich, successful, famous, etc.
Yes, so here is the "J Factor" (joke); I can't guarantee you fame & fortune, of course -- but I can help you locate your own, particular, unique artistic sensibility: which is often the first step down that road ,if you like that sort of thing. (& is also, incidentally, a hell of a lot of fun in its own right -- which is maybe more important).
Get on with it.
Loads of people want to be artists -- but seem to be mystified as to how to achieve this aim. My contention is: you are an artist already -- you just haven't realized it yet. You haven't realised it because you are looking for information on how to be an artist in the wrong places. Maybe you are reading biographies of artists of yesteryear. Maybe you are hoping to find a "mentor" somewhere. You are trying to be unique -- just like everybody else. But I am here to tell you that you already ARE unique & you are overlooking that fact in your very quest for "unique-ness"! The answer is right under your nose -- that's what makes it so easy to miss. You are straining your eyes, waiting to catch a glimpse of inspiration as it gallops over the horizon but would do much better to turn your eyes to the ground & actually take note of the ordinary, everyday reality that you are actually living in. That stuff that you discount because it's just scenery, it's just where you happen to be at that moment, it's not important -- just mundane, everyday life shit; NO! STOP! THAT IS YOU!
No need to shout.
Here's how it works: take an ordinary object, anything really...
How about a traffic cone?
Excellent choice -- an absolutely typical orange plastic traffic cone with a reflective white strip around it -- you know the type. Now picture it in your mind.
I see it.
As you see it you will become aware of associations connected with it. If you work on the roads you may think of traffic. If you are at college you may think of student pranks -- people wearing them as hats, that kind of thing. If you are big on downloading & playing video content of dubious legality from the Internet then you may think of VLC, an application that enables you to do just that. Its desktop icon is an orange cone ... If you are a Krautrock freak you may be plunged into a rememberance of Kraftwek's first album. The one that's never been officially re-issued. You know -- it's got four tracks on it, two per side -- the one with the drawing of the luminous orange traffic cone on it...
I'm beginning to get the picture.
We all see the same world -- but the stuff we do everyday, the things we're into, things friends or brothers & sisters show us, the places we inhabit -- make us reconstruct that world inside our own heads in different ways. & that web of influences & experiences is so complex & random that none of us does that reconstructing in exactly the same way. Just like none of us has exactly the same face as someone else. That's the way life works: the Extraordinary comes from the Extra Ordinary. So: you are an artist. You always have been.
Is that it?
What more do you want? Accept your uniqueness -- learn to capture those personal associations when they bubble up from your consciousness. Some might not be pleasant but you have to accept those too because in the end it's all you & there's no point pretending that a part of you doesn't exist -- like trying to deny your foot or something -- & when you've collected enough of them someone might say something like "a truly original new voice" -- & then the trouble really begins ... Ah, but that's another story...
Ok -- but now can we do the "rich & famous" bit, please?
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and SXSW, in conjunction with their annual festival (March 7-16, 2014, in Austin, TX.). To see all the posts in the series, click here; for more information on SXSW Music, Film and Interactive, click here.