17 September 2003

Good to see that I'm not alone in being firmly "anti-London". Still, I'm waiting for someone else to back-up my "Sheffield = Music Mecca" claim. Of course, I would love to make the case that my home town Bristol was the prime mover in all things cultural, but that simply isn't the case. The main problem is that Bristolian artists are far too cool to even admit that there is a scene here. Everytime we come close to taking over the planet (like around '94-'95 with the Portishead/Tricky double-whammy) it all grinds to a halt, as the artists concerned suddenly find that their hipper-than-thou, cult-phenomenon status is in danger of being flattened by the oncoming headlights of worldwide success and fame. In Portishead's case, the sudden huge interest in 'Dummy' could have sent them into the upper stratosphere. But instead they backed away in confusion and embarrassment. Beat-meister Geoff Barrow then retreated to the studio and forced his colleagues to endure a grueling 3 years away from the limelight, as his perfectionism and paranoia raged into almost Brian-Wilson-circa-'Smile' proportions. By the time the follow-up 'Portishead' arrived, the world had stopped listening. Which is a shame, as it was a much better album imho. As for Tricky, christ, words fail me. The man betrayed his talent as thoroughly as Alex Chilton. Sabotaged his own career as ruthlessly as Richard D. James.
Other near-misses would include Smith & Mighty. Riding high on the chart success of their Fresh Four productions, it seemed the world was their oyster in the late-80s. The 'Bristol-sound' was all set to go supernova, so what do they do? Get themselves embroiled in a bad contract that virtually silences them for most of the '90s.
Ronni Size and the Full Cycle crew nearly made Bristol the centre of d'n'b innovation. Not quite sure what happened there. I think we all just got a bit...bored with him and his music. And winning a Mercury prize ain't gonna win you any new friends 'round these parts. That's tantamount to selling out.
The Blue Aeroplanes threatened to spearhead a Bristolian take-over of the indie scene. Yet despite music press adulation, spectacularly failed to consolidate.
The Moonflowers/Pop God label nearly hit the big time with their peculiar brand of psychpop, but then decided to elope to the south of France and were never heard of again.
Who remembers The Seers? They were supposed to be the new Stooges back in about 1988. I didn't like 'em 'cause their roadie used to live in the flat above mine and he was a right fucking prick.
The Pop Group could've been one of the great leaders of the early '80s Brit-funk movement. But internal stuggles put paid to all that. The group disintegrated, leaving us with one-hit-wonders Pigbag and Mark 'zero commercial appeal' Stewart's brilliantly erratic career.
I could go back as far as the Corgi's with this line of thought....
Only Massive Attack have managed to retain something like a consistent career, but are now so established that they no longer represent a 'Bristol-scene'. They've moved on. Outgrown it. They're a separate entity that represents only itself....
Nellie Hooper has carved out a nice career in the producer's chair for Soul 2 Soul, Bjork etc. Perhaps, of all of them, he's the one who has spread that 'Bristol-vibe' most widely, albeit in a very subliminal way.
One final thought: Did anyone actually take Gary Clail seriously?

Incidently:about ten years ago, when Gutterbreakz were known as Neurospasm (trip-hop & jungle pioneers - not that anyone outside our immediate circle of friends would know), my mate Gary handed me a fag packet with a 'phone number on it, saying that his old school friend was looking for people to work with. Of course, I never 'phoned that number. Who's number? Ronni Size's, that's who.