Don’t be fooled by Infinite’s pristine setting, the flying city of Columbia. Its beauty soon crumbles to reveal a world propelled by religious zeal and racism, dividing its inhabitants into the glitzy upper class and the suffering poor. Infinite rewards you for taking time to interact with them and their home.
A scruffy child hums a mournful tune in a dirty alleyway and you’ll no doubt smile after hearing a barbershop quartet cheerily cover the Beach Boys’ ‘God Only Knows’. These are only minor details for a much bigger portrait though. The relationship between protagonist Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth, who you’re tasked with retrieving, blossoms throughout and their moments shared are masterclasses in storytelling and characterisation.
One point sees Booker swap the cold steel of his pistol for the warm oak of an acoustic guitar, gently strumming whilst Elizabeth hands an orange to a starving child hiding beneath a rickety staircase. It’s an essential moment of calm before you return to the violence awaiting you.
Like Bioshocks before it, Infinite is a narrative masterpiece raising the standard for future games.
Come 8pm, and Sheffield’s Queens Social Club, easily mistaken for a shooting location for ‘The Full Monty’, is already brimming with people eagerly awaiting Palma Violets. Expectations are high enough already: the band’s debut album ‘180’ received a positive reaction for its sheer energy and charisma ignited by its grubby mix of The Clash-meets-Bunnymen punk.
The band’s raucous enthusiasm has transferred well live in previous gigs, and tonight’s shenanigans certainly offer nothing different. ‘Best Of Friends’ is a highlight: an eruption of volatile punk vitriol that sends the crowd in to a hysterical frenzy. The chemistry between guitarist Sam Fryer and bassist Chilli Jesson reaches its height during the song; these are BFFs whose close relationship only enhances the intimacy of tonight’s gig.
Elsewhere they’re just as charming. ‘14’ and ‘We Found Love’ are bona fide punk gospel, all blistering organs and savage screaming. They show no sign of tiring, especially when a stage invasion during ‘Brand New Song’ threatens to end the night early. Pushing technical failures aside, the band break in to improvised drum bashing, and dance the glitches away. Keyboardist Jeffrey Mayhew then triggers an electronic riff, briefly shifting the band from fresh-faced punk obsessives to a group infatuated by the acid-house allure of New Order.
If proclamations of Palma Violets as the latest saviours of a genre that’s needed ‘saving’ many times has put you off - their live shows will certainly change your mind. Not only are they a rollicking, great live act, but one of the most exciting too, a group showing no sign of tiring just yet
Not many can claim a musical lineage as prestigious as the Wainwrights but they bicker just like any other family do. Angry daughters might not speak to their fathers for days and if you’re Martha Wainwright, you pen angry songs like she did after arguing with her father, Louden. The title of it alone is enough to make anyone think before trying raise her temper: would you want to get on the bad side of someone who’s most well known track is called ‘Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole?’ And she believes she was just as cruel to her mother, Kate McGarrigle, for pushing her away to gain her own independence. But devastating news in 2006 would strengthen the bond between the mother and daughter. Kate was diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare cancer that affects connective tissue, and Martha spent as much time as she could with her mother. 2009 was both joyous and tragic for Martha. In November she went into life threatening labour and gave birth to son Archangelo. At the same time her mother was losing her battle with the cancer destroying her body. Three months later she died.
Martha never let this tragedy overcome her life and carried on making music because, at the back of her mind, she knew her mother desperately wanted her to push on. “I know for a lot of women this kind of thing can stall their career. It was a while before I’d pick up a guitar after my mother died. When I did I’d just break down on the floor in tears but I knew my mother just wanted me to get back out there,” she said.”
And get back out there with renewed determination she did. Martha hired a babysitter to look after Archangelo when he was just over one-year-old and she returned to the studio in July 2011 to continue what she loved. “I didn’t want to wait long to make a record,” she said. “Once my son had grown more I returned to what I wanted to be which was a songwriter.”
Her acclaimed fourth album, ‘Come Home to Mama,’ is the result and her most revealing piece of work yet. ‘All Your Clothes’ sets the unsettling backdrop for Martha’s conversation with Kate at her graveside whilst she expresses how happy her son makes her on ‘Everything Wrong.’ According to Martha, these songs allow her to keep in check with those she loves. “I do feel bad about being so open sometimes but these songs represent a moment in time and they help me depict and show things to other people,” she said. These feelings are expressed more visually through the record’s album sleeve where Martha is curled up stark naked. She said: “The nudity symbolises the rawness of the album’s material. The music is revealing and an extension of myself.”
Martha’s emotions lie most poignantly in album centerpiece ‘Proserpina,’ a song originally penned by Kate and “snatched up quite quickly” by Martha. The track retells the Roman myth of the goddess Ceres who, after protesting her daughter’s abduction from Pluto, King of the Underworld, withholds the World’s bounty and forges the seasons. Martha said: “The song encapsulates the concept of what you want in a very beautiful way. I feel like the song is a gift from my mother given to me and my brother Rufus. It’s interesting it was a gift and it continues to be.”
Wainwright had always wanted to work with someone who was both a female producer and artist in the studio. After a suggestion from her husband Brad Alberta, Cibbo Matto’s Yuka C Honda was brought on board to produce the album and gave it, according to Martha, a much more “feminine touch.”
“There are a lot of male producers but not a lot of female ones,” Martha said. “It was more feminine and she was very different to work with. She gave me a lot of freedom in how I wanted to sing and perform and we did a lot of the recording on our own.”
There is one market that Martha feels has always eluded her as she has always focused on the UK where she’s been more successful. Her next aim is to use the website Pledge Music to help conquer smaller cities in the US where her label wouldn’t normally pay the funds to tour in. Martha can engage directly with fans on the site, ask for their help in the funding and offer exclusive content and bonuses such as private concerts or meals with her in return. She said: “I’ll aim for the bigger cities like New York but also smaller places where people want to see me. I just never had to opportunity to see if there’s anyone who wants to see me over there.”
Martha’s musical upbringing meant that she often accompanied Kate on her many tours and sang backing vocals in her mother’s band from an early age. It seems like a fitting repeat of history then, that husband Brad and little Archangelo will be accompanying her on the next tour.
Ben used to wake up, not only piecing together the hazy events of last night’s party in his hungover mind, but also often with £150. Typical students working part-time earn cash serving booze to thirsty students or by being serenaded by the bleeps of a Tesco checkout. But Ben wasn’t a typical student; he was a student drug dealer.
He used to be one of thousands embroiled in the seedy world of drugs who, because of low conviction rates, thought it was worth the risk. Current laws mean that anyone caught with thousands of pounds of class A drugs including cocaine and heroine can have potential jail sentences reduced to a community sentence. Stats released by MPs in 2010 show that 11,069 people were convicted of possessing with intent to supply. Only 56 per cent of them were jailed and, according to figures released in 2011 by the Ministry of Justice, four in 10 were cautioned. Now, only three quarters are jailed for dealing class A drugs, which include ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.
Ben’s narcotic journey began in 2009 as a naïve fresher at university and when MCAT was a legal high. “I saw a gap in the market,” he said. “MCAT was quite popular at the time because it was legal. I’d get a hold of it quite easily and I’d sell it early on. It was great because I’d get to go to parties all the time and make money from it.”
You don’t need a maths degree to figure out the massive return. Ben’s friends would supply him and he’d make three times as much selling the drug. “An ounce of MCAT would cost me about £150 and I’d make at least £350 by the end of the week if I sold it all.” He’d splash out too. Once in a single day, he brought a Braun electric razor, a dapper, £600 Hugo Boss suit (because drug dealer’s can’t look too shifty, right?) and six grams of cocaine.
Those closest to Ben were being effected. “There were plenty of times my girlfriend asked me about the drugs but I kept trying to avoid the subject.” All it took was an argument between them to make him realise the extremity of what of what was happening. He said: “I felt guilty lying to my girlfriend and she was already getting sick of it.”
Drugs are a dangerous game and any players joining in face grave consequences. University students Louis Wainwright and Nicholas Smith tragically lost their lives in 2010 after overdosing on MCAT. Ben began to feel guilt and recognise the danger when certain people took it too far. “A few of my girlfriend’s mates were buying three or four grams at a time. I had to stop selling to them because that was quite bad, even for my standards.”
No one ever died from Ben’s hand but his customers were transformed from clean human beings into desperate souls damaged by drug use. Ben said: “One of my friends took some and had a freak-out at his parent’s house. He was shouting in his sleep and having a meltdown. He survived but it was frightening.” According to Jon Gleek, Student Welfare Officer at Sheffield University, it is important to consider the mitigating circumstances and knock on effects. He said: “It could be the drugs exacerbating mental health problems or the other way around but it doesn’t matter because the student is being effected nonetheless.”
Ben himself turned into an insecure wreck, paranoid with every corner he turned. He’d take MCAT four times a week and it distorted him into those skinny wrecks you normally associate with drugs. He said: “I dropped nine stones in a couple of months. It absolutely ruined my nose.” The situations were far more dangerous for him. He recalls a harrowing moment in Leeds: “I went to the toilet to sniff cocaine but was caught by a bouncer,” he said. “He took all the drugs from me, all the money in my wallet and the card I was cutting the cocaine with. I’m lucky he didn’t call the police.” This close call was enough for him and he knew he had to stop as he lured himself out of his false sense of security. “I felt like the police couldn’t touch me as a student because they didn’t raid student houses much. The more I heard of what was happening in the news, the more I realised how dangerous it was.”
Ben stopped dealing in October 2010 and it took him two years of hard work before graduating. In those two years, he saw his income drop by at least 200 pounds. “I can’t chuck money about anymore but it’s made become more careful with it as I didn’t save a penny when I was dealing. I miss it but it’s just not worth the risk anymore.” Now Ben works in graphic design and would never go back to his former lifestyle. “I was quite cocky as a dealer and I should have quit whilst I was ahead. I urge anyone wishing to become a dealer not to. The negatives end up outweighing the positives.”
An obituary I wrote for Michael Fassbender. It’s hypothetical, he’s not really dead…
Marlon Brando has died again. Not the real Brando but Michael Fassbender, perhaps the only actor who was able to match Brando’s onscreen presence over an equally short amount of films. Director Steve McQueen, who worked with Michael on ‘Hunger,’ ‘Shame,’ and ‘Twelve Years a Slave,’ said: “There is no one like Fassbender right now. And there hasn’t been, for me, since Marlon Brando.”
Youthful and edgy actors are most adored by film fans and Fassbender shared these traits with Brando whose roles swapped the poignant and uncomfortable and stirred beauty and ugliness together as part of the same palette. McQueen said: “He’s a once-in-a-generation actor. Michael’s a man’s man but he has femininity too. A lot of actors today are very masculine. His openness is key to him being a great actor.” In ‘Hunger,’ Fassbender played IRA member Bobby Sands whose brutish bursts of rage were later juxtaposed by distressing shots of him in a weakened state, his sore covered body emaciated from the hunger strike he was on. Just as disturbing was his role in ‘Shame’, which ironically mirrored the Godfather’s own sex life. In it Fassbender played successful executive Brandon who could not hold a proper relationship because he was only satisfied by discarding women as meaningless objects used for his own sexual satisfaction. It was a hugely successful role that, not only bagged Fassbender 18 awards for Best Actor, but also set him on the pathway from independent actor to Hollywood heartthrob.
Like Brando, Fassbender lived his life to the fullest, to the point where he often abused his body. A 40-a-day smoker, countless forum posts often commented on the effect smoking had on his age and the yellowing of his teeth. But he never took the dangers of smoking too seriously. Fans will remember that iconic scene in ‘Hunger’ where he smoked 11 cigarettes in 30 minutes, the ‘Michael Fassbender Smoking’ GIFs on the web, or the time he thrown out of his own after party for lighting up indoors.
Even at his highest point, Fassbender was never tainted by his success. Unlike other stars living in London, he strayed away from sipping colourful Cosmopolitans in Soho and preferred refreshing pints in Hackney’s Sebright Arms, the grotty local round the corner from where he lived. And whereas other celebs might splash out on expensive supercars and sun kissed holidays in Monaco, Fassbender saved his cash rather than spend lavishly. He once said: “Greed. You have to keep an eye on those things. I keep my lifestyle simple and my possessions are pretty simple. I don’t have a very complicated bank balance.” Life was his high, much to the annoyance of director David Cronenburg who, whilst working with him on ‘A Dangerous Method,’ said: “He’s so perky it drives you crazy. One day, I found him out in the sun in his costume and make-up with this big smile. I said, ‘Michael, why are you smiling like that?’ He said,’ I don’t know…life.’ I said, ‘It’s so irritating that you’re happy all the time.”
Fassbender was born in Heidelberg, Germany to Josef and Adele Fassbender, both restaurateurs. His dedicated work ethic is directly attributable to his strict Roman Catholic upbringing in Larne, Northern Ireland. Michael, once the head choir boy at his local church, reflected about his father Josef’s firmness: “If I came home with 85 per cent in a test, he’d ask, “Where’s the other 15?”
Fassbender came from a poor family, which nourished his creative side. “I’d ask for trainers or fashionable clothes and be told we couldn’t afford them,” Michael once said. “It teaches you a lot. It surprises me the people of my age who turn around and say, ‘It’s not fair!’ I learnt that very young.” So whilst other kids in the neighbourhood had televisions to watch and toys to play with, Michael only had his vivid imagination influenced by his mother’s love of films. He would often reimagine Star Wars and the dusty terrains of Tatooine in his mind, or fly around pretending to be the Man of Steel. Later on as a teen, Michael had dreams of becoming a heavy metal star, much to annoyance of pub goers who had the misfortune of witnessing his first gig and eventually got him kicked out for playing an ear-deafening Metallica cover.
Fassbender’s first acting experience came when he was a student at St Brendan’s college. He said: “There was no drama classes or anything like that in our school and this guy, Doni Cortney, set up the workshop classes.” After the workshop classes, Michael began training with the acting company Bricriu and his love of acting soon ballooned from there: “I remember saying to my parents that I wanted to do acting. They told me to get a degree first but I insisted that I had to do it.”
So enroll at university he did. It was at London’s Drama School where a penniless Fassbender would slave away endlessly just to see himself through college: “Yes, it was 3.29 pound an hour. I’d do an 11-hour shift on a Saturday and 11 to four on a Sunday and by the end of it I was knackered.” Friends at the time would be amazing by his commitment, as would future directors who would be astonished by his dedication to get into each role. During ‘Hunger,’ he ate a strict 800-calorie diet of mainly berries and nuts, he researched and spoke to real-life sex addicts during ‘Shame’ and he was well-known for obsessively reading through scripts 300 times a day. He even worked on six films (‘A Dangerous Method,’ ‘Shame,’ ‘Pitch Black Heist,’ ‘Haywire’ and ‘Prometheus’) back to back in two tiring years.
Swooning girls dreaming of becoming Mrs Fassbender might have a wait a while then. Relationships come second in his life, with acting being his first love. He said: “I’m quite a romantic person and I love the idea of having a family. But I’d have to step back out of acting. I find it difficult to do both and give that other person the right amount of time.” However, that hasn’t stopped him from attracting gorgeous actresses like Charlize Theron who admitted that she “was absolutely blown away by him,” when they worked together on ‘Prometheus.’ More recently he was seen dating Shame co-star Nicole Beharie.
Fassbender’s commitment helped him survive his most difficult moments. Despite touring with the Oxford Stage Company and being cast as Burton ‘Pat’ Christenson in Spielberg’s war drama ‘Band of Brothers,’ he would struggle to find roles for three long years. He starred in adverts, music videos and soaps before being cast in muscle-porn epic ‘300’. ‘Hunger’ set him up for stardom and roles in many great films including ‘Inglorious Basterds,’ ‘Fish Tank’ and ‘X Men: First Class.”
Fassbender died of lung cancer whilst lying in his hospital bed at the age of 60. He passed away as a bachelor and his filmography leading to his death still remains impressive, a testament to how dedicated he was to his craft. Fans will weep a dedicated tear for the man and even years from now, there may be no other actor like him. Not since Michael Fassbender anyway…
The R word - one mutter of it strikes panic to many in the UK and thousands cannot escape its terrifying grasp. It’s a harsh reality that many worldwide have faced over the last few years. Things are getting better in 2013 though…or so it seems. The Office for National Statistics’ figures show that 30 million in the UK were employed at 2012’s end, a 154,000 increase on the quarter to September. Yet recent events tell a much different story. At the time of writing, HMV continues to close stores whilst in administration, John Lewis culled 325 managers and 164 Blockbuster stores were shut down along with 800 potential job losses.
But it’s not only major retailers that continue to suffer. Independent retailers struggle too: a fact I faced when I was made redundant from my job at a clothing store in the New Year. The way I found out was painfully blunt. Three large words, illuminated by spotlights, simply read: “CLOSING DOWN SALE!” I was now part of the statistic everyone fears of becoming. Partly due to my own blind optimism - I never thought I’d become redundant - and partly due to the job being my main source of income through uni, the idea of unemployment was excruciating. It was through sheer determination in the following weeks that helped me overcome such worrying times and land new employment. These were the ways I survived those horrible weeks and hopefully you’ll find them useful too if you’re in a similar situation…
Redundancy is frightening and I’m not suggesting you throw a huge party the moment it happens. But your life will become much harder the more you think of the negatives. My co-workers and I never frowned even though we knew what was coming. Just keep smiling, everything will become less daunting and life will seem less dreadful.
Work, work and work:
“Don’t burn your bridges,” my manager often stressed to me in our final weeks.
Be proactive and just continue working. The worst thing at this point is to sit around twiddling your thumbs and do nothing else. The more I carried on working, the less I thought about the redundancy. Keeping yourself busy will ease your mind and occupy it with other thoughts.
Don’t take any comment too seriously:
In retail especially, customers become much nosier if they know you’re being made redundant. Their list of seemingly endless questions includes: “When are you closing down? Have you found another job or are you permanently unemployed? Are you really closing down or is this some sort of scam? Will you punch me in the face for asking so many questions?” It goes on. Over-inquisitive customers can make the situation more stressful but don’t take them too seriously. Angering someone can only make things worse, for both you and them.
Never lose hope:
The simplest pieces of advice are often the best. In the weeks leading up to my redundancy, I probably contributed to global warming by printing and handing dozens of CVs to every single store in my local shopping centre. If you’ve been at your old job long enough, you’ve probably earned valuable skills that set you apart from your competitors. Skills employers love, skills that will persuade employers to hire you.
It could be worse…
You could be this guy.
Over the course of four records, Eugene McGuinness has enjoyed a steady rise that has seen him to tour with Miles Kane, allowed his solo career to blossom and, most recently, become extremely popular in ultra trendy France.
It’s unsurprising. His music and dapper image – think fitted suits and slicked back hair – is heavily influenced by the 60s, emanating the same class and charm that Serge Gainsbourg and Michel Polnareff both had in their heydays. The French take the idea of the singer very seriously and I ask Eugene if this is why he’s so appealing over there. “They don’t have a traditional idea of a singer,” he says. “They see the whole idea of a singer as a classic one and it’s been great to see them really getting into shows and singing along.”
Lyrically, he echoes France’s sexual views strongly. According to musician Sèbastian Tellier, the French view sex very liberally and, on Eugene’s most recent album ‘Invitation to the Voyage,’ there are several references to self-pleasure (see ‘Harlequinade’). He doesn’t take his own words too seriously though. “Sometimes my lyrics are serious and sometimes they’re not,” Eugene says. “In ‘Shotgun’ for example I was really just filling gaps that weren’t particularly serious.’
France has quickly latched onto Eugene whose popularity over there has boomed in the last month and it’s been a mind-blowing experience for the singer songwriter. The crowds have been very direct, quite different from the British ones Eugene is so used to. He says: “People in the UK are far too preoccupied with making comparisons like a mathematical equation. The French just take things at face value and it’s been immediate and great.”
It’s been a flattering yet unpredictable ride for Eugene who hasn’t thought too much about his popularity over there. “You get lucky if you hit it off with certain crowds. If you’re on their side it’s a good thing. If you’re not you’re in a lot of trouble,” he says. I ask Eugene if he’s noticed his popularity growing elsewhere around the world. “You do get inklings when you’re asked to do press and TV shows. I don’t pay too much attention to it. It’s all about playing the songs,” he says modestly. Beneath it all, he sees this popularity is just cultural thing and not about location. “Regardless of whatever culture you’re in, all that matters is who you’ve grown up with,” he says. “It’s all very new to me and there’s more work I need to do and more places I need to go.”
Eugene has discovered more about himself at this point in time. ‘An Invitation to the Voyage’ is his first album in three years and the gap allowed him to gain some clarity in his own life. “I haven’t discovered everything I wanted to do yet,” he explains. “Looking at my early CDs and posters, I wasn’t quite sure of what they presented because they could have meant anything. I don’t want to wait that long to record again but that gap helped me be proud of my honesty. I’m not a band but I’m not an eccentric pop beast with an industry juggernaut behind me either. I’m broke but I’m happy with all the freedom. It’s simple and I’ve learnt to enjoy it.”
More recently, Eugene has returned to the UK and has a short home tour to look forward to, the first to include many headline shows outside London. “I’m not as nervous as I am excited,” he giddily says. “I’m nervous and confident and I’m looking forward to playing with a band. It’s nervousness in a good way, as in it makes you feel alive.”
POOR ticket sales have forced the cancellation of a Rotherham blues festival which was to have featured a host of top names.
The Yorkshire Blues Festival—set for Magna later this month—was due to feature a host of household names including former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor.
He was due to appear alongside renowned Californian axe man Stephen Dale Petit—who has worked with Jack Bruce and Bob Dylan—at the three day event.
Petit has been a top ten blues best seller and his music was named in the top 50 albums of the year by Classic Rock magazine.
Other artists due to appear included The Animals and Friends, Sandi Thom, Wishbone Ash, Andy Fairweather Low, Nine Below Zero and many others.
But the event, due to be staged by Magna Trust and Brave New Arts Ltd— has been scrapped because of poor advance ticket sales and lack of sponsorship.
A statement said: “The first year of the festival had received great PR and interest in the international line-up but advance ticket sales were, unfortunately, too slow and the organisers had to make the difficult decision to cancel the event.
“We had to make the decision as the financial implications of running the event without the support of advance ticket sales were too great.
“The festival’s core aim was to raise money for really deserving local and national charities so this decision was certainly not taken lightly.”
“People who have purchased advance tickets to the event will be contacted and ticket money will be reimbursed in full.”
This is not so much “news” (at least not in the sense that it’s a glorified gig listing or some release information), more a few things Phil Selway from Radiohead told DiS this in a spare 5 minutes at Liverpool SoundCity this weekend…
“It’s been a very steep learning curve being a solo artist. Whilst recording Familial, it was quite a difficult process having to make all the decisions by myself. The song writing was very long. That didn’t involve writing the music as it all came very quickly to me, but in a lyrical sense, it took a long time. Finding your own identity and going from zero to actually having a voice without taking drugs is a difficult process. I’ve found that with Familial, it’s a starting point for a much bigger place. Whether I’ll carry on still remains to be seen but I am releasing an EP soon and I’ve enjoyed the whole process.
When I started writing songs, it all sounded very un-Radiohead to me and that’s why I needed to have this outside of Radiohead. There’s no meeting place between my solo material and material with the band, but being in Radiohead has always been the right role for me and I don’t know where I’d be without them. But for now, I feel that recording and performing solo has been appropriate. I’m lucky that I had a network of experienced musicians to work with throughout my own music and we’ve tapped through each other’s experiences, helping each other throughout the way.
I thought Thom’s dance in the ‘Lotus Flower’ video was good and he was amazing in the video. If it were me, I’d do the birdy dance and I’d imagine I would enjoy it. With King of Limbs, we all knew that it wasn’t going to be an immediate record but a lot of great records have been 38 minutes long. It’s that old chestnut of a grower. Every record that we’ve done has been a reaction to the last one and King of Limbs carried on that tradition for us.”