PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER: SHAUN CARLYLE ROGAN

 

shawn 2

TELEVISION

I love television but recently I seem to watch less and less of it.

When I was a kid, I obsessed over The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan. I thought it was the greatest tv series ever made. And I was right. I love old black and white tv – The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, Edgar Lustgarden’s Scotland Yard, The Human Jungle – all that stuff that Channel 4 UK reshowed when it first started. 1970’s tv too – The Sweeney, The New Avengers, Tales of the Unexpected, Thriller, The Survivors. There was a lot of great tv then, the quality of the writing was loads better.

I watch tv documentaries a lot – Adam Curtis makes amazing documentaries for the BBC. His latest work ‘Hypernormalisation’ should be mandatory viewing for everyone. I remember being floored by Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ tv show when I was a kid. I bought it on DVD ages ago and must get around to watching it again. The UK used to make brilliant tv documentaries like ‘World in Action’ but they seem to have had their balls cut off. Shame.

Comedy on tv is essential but we seem to have peaked a long time ago. ‘The Young Ones’ is probably the greatest comedy programme of my generation.  It still cracks me up. Rik Mayall was an exceptionally funny man. British situation comedy is the cream – ‘Steptoe and Son’, ‘Dads Army’, ‘Reggie Perrin’, ‘Fawlty Towers’ and ‘Rising Damp’. All brilliant. My daughter has got me watching BBC’s ‘Horrible Histories’ series. It is the smartest and funniest thing I have seen on tv this century. It’s fucking amazing.

BOOKS

I was a prodigious reader as a kid. I would read anything I could get my hands on, including my mums shopping receipts from Hinton’s supermarket. As I entered my teens, I can still remember the thrill of obtaining a copy of the ultimate rite of passage book for kids of my generation, James Herbert’s ‘The Rats’ from the local library.  A truly amazing book. James Herbert was so underrated. Usually by the type of snob dickhead people who slag off Black Sabbath for being ‘crude and unmusical’. I still love to read but mainly non-fiction these days. I have always possessed a healthy interest in reading books about international terrorism and just finished am reading Mike Davis’s ‘Buda’s Wagon: A brief history of the car bomb’.  I am currently a few pages into ‘Shock and Awe’, Simon Reynolds history of ‘Glam Rock’. Reynolds can usually be relied upon to be a decent read.

Do I have favourite books? Yeah, they are the ones I have read repeatedly. This would probably include ‘War of the Worlds’ by HG Wells, ‘Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72’ by Hunter S Thompson, ‘England’s Dreaming’ by Jon Savage, ‘The Autobiography of Malcolm X’ ‘Give the Anarchist a Cigarette’ by Mick Farren, ‘Random Precision: Recording the music of Syd Barrett’ by David Parker, ‘Hollywood Babylon’ by Kenneth Anger and ‘Despatches’ by Michael Herr. I should re-read all the Graham Greene books sometime – proper writer. I tried reading Sartre once. Never again. Especially as I quit smoking about 4 years ago.

I will write a book one day.

FILMS

When I first moved to London in 1987, I was introduced to the wonderful world of arthouse/exploitation cinema through regular visits to the Scala Cinema in Kings Cross. The place was amazing you could smoke in the cinema and buy cans of cider from the foyer. Saw loads of great films there – Herschel Gordon Lewis, Russ Meyer, Herzog, John Cassavettes. I went to the UK premiere of ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ there which is one fucked up film. The Scala was basically shut down by The Man at the end of the 1980’s for putting on great films and letting people get loaded watching them. The Man has a problem with people having too much fun.

I love documentary film and whole-heartedly recommend the documentaries of Frederick Wiseman who is the Godfather of American documentary film making. Start with ‘Titicut Follies’ and take it from there. Also have to recommend ‘Hearts and Minds’ the amazing Peter Davis documentary about Vietnam and no documentary collection can ever be truly complete without a place for Julian Temple’s staggeringly brilliant film about the Pistols, “The Filth and the Fury”.

Any list of my favourite films would have to include ‘Get Carter’, ‘Head’, ‘Five Easy Pieces’, ‘The Parallax View’, ‘The Killers’, ‘Death Line’, ‘Frenzy’, ‘The Offence’, ‘Performance’, ‘The Swimmer’, ‘I Am A Fugitive from a Chain Gang’, ‘Psychomania’, ‘The Apartment’, ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’, ’10 Rillington Place’, ‘Peeping Tom’, ‘Withnail’, ‘Lebowski’, ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’, ‘Dig!’. No big surprises. I wish there could be a proper release for ‘MC5: A True Testimonial’ as I think it’s the greatest film about a band ever made.

MUSIC

Music is the pivot on which my whole life has been balanced, the radio or the stereo were pretty much always on in our house when I was growing up. My dad is a big rock n roll fan and pretty much point-blank refuses to listen to anything other than ‘classic’ rock n roll. He hates The Beatles and The Stones. I think he would rather listen to The Pistols or Napalm Death than either of them. He has pretty much loathed every record I have ever made (not that many really but enough for him to give a consistent view), which I totally respect him for.

My own musical tastes are wide and driven by a fear of boredom and a thirst for a thrill. I spent my early years teaching myself guitar in my bedroom in the early-mid 1980’s, wanting to be Jimi Hendrix or Marc Bolan or Brian Jones or Arthur Lee or Syd Barrett or Jimmy Page or Mick Ronson. I love guitar players. Hank Marvin is hugely underrated, his tone and technique are pretty flawless. Grant Green’s ‘Idle Moments’ is a masterclass in how to play jazz guitar. I have always played by ear. It’s a far better to learn the instrument yourself rather than submit to formal training or tutorage. Do it yourself.

I’m always on the lookout for new music and spend far too much money buying it. Bandcamp is great for mooching around and so democratic, I stumble on loads of stuff there – mainly psychedelic and electronica stuff. Currently I am listening to a great Japanese band called Kikagaku Moyo and always check out new releases on labels like Ghost Box, Castles in Space, Cardinal Fuzz, Gurugurubrain and Polytechnic Youth. I got a bit obsessed with Leyland Kirby’s ‘The Caretaker’ project recently. He’s spent the past few years putting out a series of records that imagine someone’s slow descent into dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s unbearably beautiful, poignant and exhausting. It’s the musical equivalent of watching a film like ‘The Shining’ on an old television set that is slowly going out of tune. My latest favourite find is called ‘Jobcentre Rejects’; it’s a compilation of rare 45’s from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It’s a total joy.

I have thousands of records and CDs in the house. Picking some of the best would be a ridiculously futile exercise. All I would say is every home should have a copy of ‘The Feeding of the 5,000’ by Crass, ‘Don’t You Cry, Beautiful Edith’ by Rahsaan Roland Kirk and ‘The Visit’ by Bob Smith.

My own 3-piece band, The Engine Room, will hopefully be putting out some music this year. We have hours of stuff mixed and ready to go. All the band members were in my first proper band called GOD which is the closest I would ever come to having music as a ‘job’. I call our music ‘intuitive psychedelia’ – mainly because it’s all one-take improvisations and we rely on our chops and deep love for each other to make stuff that I think is worthy of others to hear. I did ‘proper rehearsals’ for 30 years on and off with various bands. Where’s the fun in that? You can check out some of our mixes on Facebook: theengineroomband@facebook.com .

TRAVEL

Travel for pleasure is something I wish I could do more of but I make the most of the chances I get. Some places are just great to hang out with friends and drink in – Barcelona, Gothenburg, Sydney, Seattle, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City are all great places to get ruined in and soak up the ambience. The Vesuvio Cafe in San Francisco is probably the best bar I’ve spent time in – beautiful place. Kerouac used to drink there, the beer is awesome (‘Anchor Steam’) and the City Lights bookstore is a stone’s throw away. You just can’t get better than that, can you? I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the amazing Lisa Fancher, owner of Frontier Records in the US, for helping me have a far more entertaining life than I ever could have dared to imagine. Her knowledge of great places to drink is probably unrivalled. Thanks Lisa!

FOOD

Cooking is therapy, eating is pleasure. I really enjoy dining on food that I can’t cook properly like curry and take great comfort in making a decent fist of a Sunday Roast, family heritage ham shank/leek/swede/carrot soup with suet dumplings or even panacalty. I eat too much meat and not enough fibre. The best meals I ever had were at the long-gone Yak and Yeti on South Ealing Road in London. Curry houses are still my dining out experience of choice; with water not beer and definitely not wine. It’s vulgar to drink beer with your curry. And disrespectful to the chef.

DRINK

I used to drink far too much. I tend not to now. I was probably killing myself. I almost died because of it in New York City about 15 years ago – bad head injury could have been loads worse. Some of my friends haven’t been so fortunate and kept the hammer down all the way to Valhalla. Que sera.  I do love drinking heavily though, every now and then, but it rarely involves spirits. Irish Stout, English Ale or decent European Lager – that’s me. These new micro-brews with daft names that have sprouted up all over the shop in recent years are uniformly unimpressive and unimaginative ‘Trustafarian’ funded nonsense. Most of them taste like piss and give you bad guts.

London used to be great for pubs but now too many of them serve food to all hours, stinking the place out with beef fat and too many let kids in. They are all like Aberdeen Steak Houses now or Berni Inns. Gastropubs they call them. Shocking I call them. A few decent pubs survive like Bradleys Spanish Bar on Hanway Street, The Ship on Wardour Street, The Dove at Hammersmith, MacGlynn’s in Kings Cross, The Old Kings Head in London Bridge and The Lamb in Russell Square. I miss going on pub crawls.

I drink loads of tea. Ringtons Tea Bags are part of my survival kit. Life without them would be a lot shitter than it is.

ART

I love painters but feel utterly unqualified to talk about it. I mean I can tell you that I love Goya, Turner, Magritte, Bacon, Hopper, Chris Ofili, Bridget Riley and a load of others but I can’t intellectualise why. And I can’t draw. It’s probably why I identify more with Tony Hancock in ‘The Rebel’ than Kirk Douglas in ‘Lust for Life’. I collect artwork by illustrator Frances Castle. Her stuff is great. She has a record label called Clay Pipe Music; you should check it out.

I also have a lot of prints by Northumberland artist, Rebecca Vincent. I met her once at her studios near Newcastle upon Tyne. I explained why I liked her art so much (she does landscape monoprints and etchings) and how it related psychologically to so many things from my childhood in the 1970’s. She looked at me like I was insane.

The artwork of Marvel Comics in the 1960’s and 1970’s by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and others blew my mind as a kid. It still does now. All the Marvel films are shit by comparison. I wish they hadn’t bothered. Really.

OTHER

I believe that if you can do a bit of good for others you should get on and do it.

BIO: Shaun Carlyle Rogan was born in Hartlepool in January 1969. He taught himself guitar before he left home for London in 1987 where has lived ever since. In a stop-start and resolutely uncommercial musical ‘career’ he co-founded the industrial noise innovators GOD and currently leads the improvised psychedelic hauntology trio, The Engine Room. Their debut release should be surfacing later in 2019. He is a former associate of the author known as Paul D. Brazill.