Monday, 21 September 2009

Dealing with the Whores of London

International Union of Sex WorkersImage via Wikipedia

It’s the oldest game in the world and plenty of women are on it. From the drug addicted working women of London’s back streets to expensive West End escorts. Most disturbing of all are those unfortunates who have been ensnared by the people trafficking racket of the sex trade. It can be described as the very embodiment of capitalism yet it is regarded as a criminal activity, forcing its workers to operate behind closed doors. A spokesperson from the Poppy project, a North London organisation that provides accommodation and support for trafficked women, elaborates, “It has been said that we are never more than six feet away from a rat in London. Apparently, something similar applies to brothels.”

Despite the brothels themselves being discreet, the filthy underbelly of London’s sordid sex trade can hardly be said to be unseen. A number of popular magazines, newspapers and websites allow prostitutes to advertise their services. But this kind of advertising may disappear with the arrival of newly proposed government legislation.

The proposals being brought before parliament are part of government plans to increase criminalisation of the sex industry in the hope of deterring trafficking and targeting exploitation. The legislation is based on the research of a supposedly feminist organisation, The Poppy Project. However the legislation has divided the feminist community. Whilst some support the new legislation other groups, such as The International Union of Sex Workers, believe the new Bill will drive the industry further underground making it easier to hide trafficked women and get away with violence against prostitutes. In some circumstances the law will overrule a woman’s legal right to consent to sex.

Is feminism a battle for sexual equality, a counter balance to patriarchal hegemony and a defence of women’s human rights and freedom to choose? Or is feminism more conservative? Perhaps based on a fearful resentment of men, depicting them as cruel predators from whom weak and vulnerable women need to be protected.

The research carried out by the Poppy Project is of questionable intellectual value and yet it is on this research that the legislation has been based. The research already fits in with the government’s agenda but they have not consulted the actual workers of the sex industry on what measures should or should not be taken. People trafficking can take place with or without prostitution, the bodies of the cockle pickers of Morecambe bay are testament to this fact. But this year the government are seeking to criminalise the buying of sex from a person who has been trafficked – whether the trick knew it or not.

This ill-advised legislation may have disastrous consequences. The clampdown on newspaper advertising and phone box cards cuts off working women from their clientèle and makes it more likely that they will take to the streets or seek management. In either case they will be more vulnerable to exploitation.

Things will be much worse if the Olympic Games stimulate the sex trade in London. It was recently reported that prostitution boomed during a papal visit to Australia. The influx of lonely/horny tourists and labourers increases the demand for sex workers. But will they be supplied by people trafficking? Data from examinations of major sporting events, including the Athens Olympics and the World Cup in Germany, shows a relatively minor increase in cases of trafficking - 88 in Athens, 5 in Germany.

The abolitionist measures may create more problems than they solve, but the IUSW’s calls to relax the laws relating to prostitution could be seen as an invitation for people traffickers to step up to the mark. Whether or not a more relaxed approach would ultimately have more positive effects can only be proven by research, but many agree that the government should consult those who are involved in the industry and acquire reliable and impartial research before forcing through ill-conceived and questionable legislation.

No government in any part of the world has ever been successful in eliminating prostitution. The most we can hope for is that the whores working London’s brothels are doing so by choice and that legislation is not enforced to criminalise them but to protect them from the real criminals.

Published: State of Play, 2009

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Wednesday, 9 September 2009


Free MP3:Tonstartssbandht - Black Country

A week ago, I received a message from my ex girlfriend advising that I investigate another lo-fi psychedelic rock band from Brooklyn. What followed was a week of obsessive, repetitive listening that alienated both friends and family. I played them while I worked, I sang my own made up version of the indecipherable lyrics to the awesome ‘Black Country’ while in the shower and I even demanded that a bewildered young woman play their new album 'An When' during sex.

Some musicians may be disturbed to learn their music was inducing such behaviour. But Floridian brothers Edwin and Andy White feel such stories better represent their musical intentions than overused genre definitions. “What I’m interested in is the personal experiences individuals have with our songs and live shows,” says Andy, "Stuff like ‘every time I come see you guys play, I get so excited I have to pee.’ Or ‘your music harkens back to a pre-bicameral mind, when memories and ideas were ghosts and gods."

Their childhood in Orlando provides a wealth of shared personal experiences that the brothers draw on for inspiration, “we grew up listening to almost the exact same sounds for 20 years” Edwin reveals. But the brothers White don’t just share blood and musical tastes. They also have a fascination with the soundtracks and alien landscapes of science fiction cinema. Bladerunner is a favourite for both of them, largely due to Vangelis’ score, who Edwin maintains they are both big fans of. The visual elements have been equally inspiring, as Andy elaborates, “The visions of Tokyo in Akira are present in a lot of the work we do. I think Ed dreams as often as I do of living in an enormous ocean of contiguous human settlement and awe-inspiring infrastructure with a familiar and foreign culture, to give us that ungrounded, fresh high that contributes so much to creative visions.”

Some of these awe-inspiring landscapes may be less foreign to us than they are to Andy. He recalls semi-conscious visions of a trip to the UK he made in his youth as a member of The Orlando Deanery Boy Choir, “all those unreal, ornate houses of worship, ancient fortresses, crumbling cemeteries, and the wholly un-Floridian landscape have been a fantastic influence on every creative work I’ve ever realised.” Edwin attributes his brother’s membership of the choir to their ability to construct intensely stirring vocal harmonies on songs like Preston “great ass” imfat.

Tonstartssbandht recognise the need to balance the anthemic choruses, catchy melodies and vocal harmonies of conventional rock music with psychedelic elements to create a multi-textured and unpredictable aural landscape. Edwin knows that people appreciate this dynamic approach, “the audience has always been open to both sides, which is awesome. Thanks guys.”

Published: P.i.X magazine: issue # 37, October 2009

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Real Estate

FREE MP3: Real Estate - Suburban Beverage

Nothing ever happens in New Jersey, wrote author Henry Miller. A sprawling suburban tumour sprouting from New York’s rectum, it exists on the cusp of everything and yet it is nothing. From behind white picket fences the frustration of youth’s creativity burns eagerly with a passion to break free. These are the typical circumstances that force young people together and lay the foundations for musical innovation. With the exception of drummer, Etienne Dugay who lives in a hotel in Brooklyn, Real Estate are very much a product of this environment. Guitarist Martin Courtney and bassist Alex Bleeker have played in bands together since they were 13 years old. “A lot of the chemistry of our band comes from the fact we’ve known each other for a long time,” Martin explains.

The band cut their teeth playing at home grown shows which Martin describes as, “Not so much DIY as just playing in your parents’ living room with all your friends, having a good time.” They’ve been involved in music for a decade in some form or other. Martin is a former member of Titus Andronicus, Etienne is in Predator vision and guitarist Matt Mondanile’s side project, Ducktails, produces quality psychedelic pop to rival the warm fuzzy suburban drone of Real Estate.

It’s no secret that lo-fi production is somewhat in vogue on both sides of the pond at present, but what is it that attracts these Jersey boys to Stone Age recording techniques? “It sounds better,” Bleeker explains. “There’s a lot of digital music, and it’s like, where does it go? It’s not real. You can’t feel it the same way you do with tape.” Perhaps the analogue sound is the logical and most financially viable choice for the band, given their intimate approach to the recording process. “We record most of our stuff ourselves,” Martin reveals. “We work with our friends but we don’t go to studios, it’s all about home recording.”

The ‘Fake Blues ep’ was released in the UK, 20th July on half machine records. Real Estate hope it will be followed by a UK tour. These Grateful Dead obsessed stoners live for the road and Britain is their dream destination. “Why else would you play music except to spend your time on the road?” Etienne asks. He stresses his vision of changing the global perception of psychedelic rock. “We’re trying to make it so jam-band is no longer a dirty word.” May the power of Jerry Garcia guide them to us.

Published: The Stool Pigeon, Autumn 2009

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Offset 2009 - The Best Review of Them All

There are too many festivals. Most of them are too expensive and are full of idiots. Offset is at present a remarkable exception. It is affordable, has the finest selection of new and classic bands on offer and you can stroll around the beautiful Essex woodlands and fields without a single person offering you a free hug or shouting bollocks until their throat bleeds and fills their adolescent lungs with blood.

All weekend the heavy sun beat down steadily on swarms of beautiful young people, many of whom travelled only a few stops along the central line from East London to attend. As well as the Shoreditch socialites, a number of seasoned old punks and rockers attended, some even bringing young children with them, such is the relaxed and pleasant atmosphere of Offset.

The offstage antics are what truly make a festival memorable. Saturday bore witness to a bizarre kind of sports day involving drunken teenagers frolicking through the grass like beasts in heat. The comedy tent was dominated by a rotund ex jockey by the name of Bob Slayer, whose border line paedophilic brand of comedy involved lewd remarks being launched at a 14 year old girl wearing a sailor costume, while her Father looked on in dismay. Mr Slayer was rewarded for his comic exploits by being repeatedly punched in the bollocks by an attention seeking, stage invading young lady who was covered in sick.

Despite the compulsory shake down from the over zealous security each time you re-enter the festival, I, along with most other people, was able to accumulate enough intoxicants to see me through the weekend, and remain contentedly twisted throughout all the following performances.


KASMS – Fiery haired singer Rachel boasted of her Essex roots as she shook her supple body vigorously to the eerie goth-punk rhythms. At one point she started to climb the rigging in an attempt to shake the audience from their complacency, but after climbing 3 feet, she gave up and got down again.

Teen Sheikhs – Sounding punker than ever, the Brighton lads tore the tent to shreds with their awesome fun time tunes.

Male Bonding – The audience, already psyched up from Teen Sheikhs, went ballistic to this lo-fi bro-core trio. Much of the set was performed with half the audience cavorting about the stage, picking up instruments and moshing like they were 14.

Damo Suzuki – The legendary Damo was but a whirl of swinging raven locks as his band knocked out mesmerising psychedelic electro-rock.

Factory Floor – A band who have yet to perform a bad set, Factory Floor’s pounding rhythms and captivating electronic noise was made unbearably intense by the relentless onslaught of powerful strobe lighting.

The Slits – I think there was some confusion, Notting Hill Carnival was last weekend, who booked this mediocre white reggae band? The tacky dub was punctuated by awesome performances of classics such as ‘Typical Girls’ and ‘Shoplifting’. During the performance of the latter every man in the audience wished he was a girl so he could join the exclusively female stage invasion that Ari-Up instigated. Still, this was not enough to excuse Ari pouring water on her cunt and shouting “ARI PUM PUM, FRESH AND NEW!” between each song. Embarrassing.

Metronomy – I was hoping they would provide the party atmosphere they did last year. Alas, it was pretty boring; despite the novel entrance of three people playing one keyboard for the first song.


Ulterior – Some people compare this band to Suicide. Those people are idiots. Pretty much a wank rock group with an Axl Rose look-alike on the mic.

S.C.U.M. – This band were big news last year. Singer Tom had a fine smoking jacket on. Besides this, their performance was less than captivating.

The Ruling Class – Decided to sound like the stone roses, and why not?

Hatcham Social – One of the highlights of the weekend. Everything admirable about pop music and the balance of the catchy and the experimental can be heard in the music of Hatcham Social.

The Horrors – Wisely focused on the excellent material from this year’s exceptional kraut rock influenced ‘Primary colours’. I had to leave while lanky singer Farris clumsily waltzed about his mic stand, the last train was about to leave.

Goodbye Offset.

Published: P.i.X magazine: issue # 36, September 2009

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