Music Matters

Editors’ Note: Pray our eternal thanks to Paul Graham Raven for this thoughtful epic which he wrote as his DP swansong, instead of working on an actual Book-For-Publication. Pretty foolish of him, but we love him to bits anyway. Also it’s rather brilliant. Godspeed, you mad lugubrious bastard (nb: lugubrious means ‘wordy’ okay?).

ARE YOU FEELING BEYONCE'S PEPSI AD CAMPAIGN?

ARE YOU FEELING BEYONCE’S PEPSI AD CAMPAIGN?

Over the last five years or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that music doesn’t matter like it used to, and that it doesn’t matter that it doesn’t matter.

The image that drove it home was a poster for some student shin-dig, an “iPod disco”—a night out where everyone goes to da club with their own music player, and dances to their own beat as heard on their headphones. How utterly neoliberal is that? You couldn’t make a better metaphor for individualist consumerism if you tried. Music as wallpaper, a domesticated and utterly internal experience, rather than the communal channel of experience and story that even two hours of cheesy hard house in a backstreet Sheffield flea-pit manages to convey… despite seeming to privilege how much music matters to the attendee, the iPod disco does exactly the opposite: it privileges how much the attendee matters to themselves. And I consider this to be emblematic of a more general (if less extreme) decline in the importance of music as a central plank of youth cultural identity, at least in the UK.

On one level, that sounds ridiculous: “You’re saying music doesn’t matter anymore? Now, with music more ubiquitous, accessible and diverse than it ever has been before in the history of humankind? How could it not matter?!”

And sure, music still matters; it’s a crucial layer of cultural topography. But it’s not the dominant channel of subcultural ideas any more; it’s just one channel among many, all of which are busily being subsumed into the metachannel, otherwise known as these here internets upon which I am writing to you.

But before the internet, music was the internet.

Allow me to explain.

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First of all, you need to think of “the recording industry” as a system, as a medium; step back from the actual components of the machine—the radio stations, record companies, recording studios and record stores—and think purely in terms of function. Alongside magazines, pop records were the first medium explicitly marketed at the then newly-minted demographic of The Teenager; recordings had been sold before then, of course, but they were a less ephemeral sort of cultural product; albums that curated serious art by serious artists were marketed to collectors and connoisseurs. The 7-inch single was a way to make a fast buck out of the fleeting tastes of these strange new Teenaged creatures.

As history shows, this market expanded incredibly fast, and sideband channels of marketing and publicity sprung up around it; the business learned how to shape the tastes of its audience by carefully curating the novelty to which it was exposed. At the same time, the business became increasingly infrastructural as it expanded. This is unavoidable, because it is functionally similar to a telecoms company; it’s in the business of delivering messages to paying subscribers, and once the volume of messages becomes significant, it’s all you can do to keep on top of the logistics. Worrying about exactly which messages the subscribers want becomes mere detail; so long as the demand is there, you’re happily making bank, but you’ve gotta keep those pipes flowing. A corporation is an economic entity, remember; it doesn’t have (or need) the capacity to care what it’s selling, so long as it’s selling it and making money.

But the machine doesn’t run without that demand, so the infrastructure had to be fed with novelty by the “creative” side of the business, the managers and A&R people, promoters and pluggers and hustlers of every stripe. Meanwhile, the first generations of pop listeners reached an age where they’d started their own bands; these are the first bands to have grown up believing that there could be music aimed specifically at them, at young people in their world. No surprise, then, that when they picked up their instruments they found they had things they wanted to say—things that no one would let them say anywhere else, on the radio, on television, in the newspapers. It was a generational backchannel, if you like; a peer-to-peer medium where youth could speak to youth.

At no time in your life are you ever more hungry for new stories and new ideas than when you’re a teenager; outside of books and magazines (the latter of which were increasingly aligned with the music business anyway), music was the most likely place you’d hear the shibboleths of your generation spoken aloud. Rebellion, lust, desire, frustration, and the sheer shattering thrill and terror of being young and alive—to know someone else felt the same must have been an incredible liberation after the bland suits’n’boots orgman conformity of the post-war years. And while there was some money to be made from peddling saccharine conformity, the market turned out to be hungry for the forbidden topics—which was just fine for the recording industry: The forbidden could flow just as smoothly through the pipes as the wholesome. Hell, sometimes the forbidden flowed better, especially when someone outside the system tried to impede it; then as now, nothing heightens demand like a banning.

So maybe you can see what I mean now if I say that the early pop recording industry was like a very asymmetrical internet for contemporary youths, where a limited few (by the good graces of the infrastructural side of the business, who could make a buck from it) got the chance to publish new ideas and stories, and the majority could access and (to a limited extent) share those messages around. This is the era of the newly electrified Dylan, the early Beatles and Stones, ‘the British invasion’, all that stuff.

The system is biased against certain sorts of message, of course, and in some cases very strongly; it’s far from an ideologically flat marketplace. But nonetheless, there’s more levity here than elsewhere, and the very narrowness of this much-desired channel makes it very lucrative indeed, especially as the wider world of business begins to recognise the power of the Teenaged pound, and the utility of an established hot-line to its most active and willing consumers. However, with a firm hold over access to the means of (re)production, the industry could maintain a broadly conservative control over the general tone: when the pipes are flowing fast, you want to avoid riling the regulators excessively. Only trouble being, the more successful your artists become, the more likely they seem to be to start cocking a snook at the establishment… and you don’t want to entirely stamp that out, because it’s so bloody lucrative, eh wot?

Around this time, the capabilities of recording equipment and studios were also expanding rapidly, and the costs of getting records out into the market were falling, lowering the barriers to new contenders for the still-small but ever-expanding roster of artists with access to the medium, plus new, smaller players among the record companies, piggybacking on the now predominantly-infrastructural distribution side of the business. Music mutated its way through myriad forms, but the real Cambrian explosions came with the arrival, from the late 70s onwards, of affordable electronic instruments and home recording equipment, and the arrival of consumer-grade home duplication systems—the miniMoog and the cassette recorder, in other words—which had a significant part to play in the emergence of (post-)punk and electronica, and paved the way for the synthesiser-drenched 80s, the rave explosion, 90s grunge and alt-rock and everything else.

michael-jackson-bad-25-pepsi_0

Pepsi today announced an exclusive global partnership with the Estate of Michael Jackson as part of its new “Live for Now” campaign/

But it’s the ability to record and duplicate at home that’s important if we’re thinking about music as a medium, because this is the point where the traditionally-asymmetrical access to the industry starts to trend toward the symmetrical; all of a sudden, true peer-to-peer transmission is possible (albeit slowly, with considerable loss of quality, and at not insignificant opportunity cost), as is cheaply obtaining and sharing the messages of “official” artists without recourse to the official channels.

I reckon this technological shift has as much to do with the expansion of forms and styles of the late 70s and beyond as the sociopolitics of the time; it’s not just that there was so much more experimentation going on, it’s also that the experimenters could create their works and disseminate them cheaply, as well as becoming able to bypass the gatekeepers of the industry and connect directly with audiences.

(Does that rhetoric sound familiar, at all?)

So the industry lost some of its control, but ultimately gained from yet more growth in the overall market; so what if there were more bad messages in the pipe, so long as there were more messages? And while it got cheaper and easier for consumers to record and duplicate, the business still had the lion’s share of the power when it came to high bandwidth distribution, which allowed it to co-opt and absorb the smaller channels, once they reached a point where they need to scale their business up and onto the established infrastructures to keep their margins viable.

Sure, there’s mail-order 7-inch-single clubs from marginal labels run out of someone’s shed, pirate radio stations, but that’s all little-league shit; if you want the big reach, you need the big pipes, and if you wanna use their pipes, you gotta deal with the big boys… and when you do, they’ll take up your niche and commercialise it quicker than you can say “UK grime was once a viable and genuinely interesting music scene”. It happened to punk, to synth-pop, New Romo, C90 indie, to every successive sub-wave of the rave explosion, to grunge, Britpop, everything; as soon as a new message or idea hits the infrastructure, it’s everywhere, it’s ubiquitous, it’s over. This is why we talk about “selling out”, but it happens at a much higher level than individual artists, and it’s a two-way process. The infrastructural core of the business has to suck in novelty from the outer edges in order to fuel the machine and keep the pipes flowing; it’s like a black hole, in a way. Or maybe a sarlacc pit.

For fuck's sake, George.

For fuck’s sake, George.

But the bigger the black hole, the greater the surface area of its event horizon, meaning the marginal ecosystem of independent artists clinging onto the edges of the infrastructure; so many voices out there, so many new stories! I remember being a teenager in the early 90s, with music being the only way I could gain access to any view of the world that wasn’t seen from what I now recognise as a white British middle-class perspective; it was the only place I could hear about the sort of politics that mattered to me, the only place I heard the truths that elsewhere went unspoken, the only place where lives that felt like my own were narrated. (Well, there were novels, too, but who reads those anymore, amiritez?) It was a crazy time—though I suppose the period during which you become an adult always looks like that, whenever you’re born.

The 90s also threw up the internet, the metamedium which would go on to subsume all other mediums, but it would be a long time before enough people had it that anyone could guess what it’d be good for. So it kinda bubbled along as a rather obscure channel-of-subcultural-backchannels until bandwidth and baud rates and processor speeds got to the point where Napster could happen. 

At which point all bets were off.

lars mate thats not how u hold drumsticks bud let me show u fam

lars mate thats not how u hold drumsticks bud let me show u fam

As we now know, thanks to the 2002 invention of hindsight, the recording industry either hadn’t seen this coming or had chosen to ignore it; indeed, there are big sections of the industry only now, 15 years later, slipping out of the denial stage and adapting to the new landscape. But everything changed, again, once the opportunity cost for finding and duplicating a song and sharing it with someone became effectively zero; suddenly those messages were multiplying like Gremlins in a swimming pool, pouring through a whole new set of pipes, under a whole new set of rules, beyond reach or control. Owning the recording industry’s manufacturing and distribution infrastructure was suddenly an expensive liability… and the nature of the new distro channels was that it made your product laughably easy to duplicate infinitely, with no significant loss in quality.

I think this is where our relationship with music really began to pivot, because suddenly access to the music you wanted needn’t be a matter of expense: you could just have it, whether streamed or torrented or ripped or whatever. Music – not just contemporary music, mind, but as time passed, the entire corpus of recorded music—everything that’s still capable of playback and redigitisation—became a resource, a commodity, an ocean of sound that our access to the internet allowed us to draw from effortlessly, without friction, and over a wider selection than was even conceivable beforehand. Yes, you still choose your music—but you choose it lightly, spoiled by choice. It’s not a hoarded pocket-money purchase, a long-anticipated mail-order CD of some obscure album that your local HMV didn’t even have on its database, or some long-forgotten b-side that you’ve scoured an endless string of backstreet record shops to find; it’s a coat plucked on a whim from an infinite coat-rack. What do you want to wear today?

And hey, why not—this is not a bad thing. It’s just the way things are… and as many bad things as there are about the world and about the internet, I don’t think this is one of them. Nor is this one of those “OMFG music is DEAD these modern bands SUCK and you should all get the hell off my LAWN” sorta essays, either; music’s definitely not dead, it’s alive and crawling like kudzu, soundtracking our workdays as much as our playdays, thanks to teeny-tiny technology and better batteries. Music and musicians aren’t disappearing anytime soon; sure, it may be harder to secure the sort of mid-list careers that album bands could have in the 70s, 80s and 90s, but that’s because the labels can’t play the old “throw shit at the wall and see what sticks” approach to A&R any more; they don’t have the monopoly over distribution or promotional channels any more, so they can’t stack the deck so easily in their own favour. They were gamblers in the golden age, taking a chance on dozens of bands in the hope that one would be the new Beatles, Led Zep, whoever; it was a poor method, but it was the best one they had. (And if the rock biographies are to be believed, it could be quite a fun process, provided you didn’t let it kill you.)

mm.. deliciouse papso -- simen cowl

“mm.. deliciouse papso……” — simen cowl

But don’t believe the hype about the music industry being in decline. Far from it; it’s just abandoned the old infrastructural business model and merged with the TV and Hollywood conglomerates, getting into the “content” game, which is a game of stories within stories within stories, of which music is only one type among many. But selling music itself is a dead scene for anyone operating outside the Long Tail; as soon as something’s in sufficient demand, piracy takes care of the supply problem for you, and leaves you out of pocket. You only avoid this by being obscure… and if you’re obscure, you’re not expecting to make any money from selling records, anyway, except as exactly the sort of connoisseur’s collection-piece that recorded music first got sold as: high-weight vinyl albums of obscure Williamsburg drone-pop quartets. These are artefacts, treasures; their value does not lie purely in the music that they encode. This is the last bastion of music really mattering to people like it used to: obsession, the expense of time and money. Try rewatching High Fidelity; it was always a little satirical, but now it looks like a send-up of the doomed relics of a by-gone era, twisted man-children angsting over their grown-up Pokémon collections. Defining yourself by the physical albums you own – how limited an idea that seems now! (If only because, well, shit – who can afford a spare room for their vinyl now the bedroom tax is in, eh?)

You want the proof that music doesn’t matter? Look at the charts. Sure, they were always topped-off with obvious pop puppets, but now even they are carefully groomed and manufactured—in public, and at great length, as part and parcel of the whole spectacle—long before they ever release any actual tunes one can buy. And when they are released, they’re a sideshow, a vestigial legacy-mechanism by which you get the act to chart, and thus to be talked about more. The money in pop music nowadays is all in using it as the honey coating on bigger and more easily-monetised media spectacles like television or cinema, or as a demographic shorthand in advertising material. Simon Cowell’s exploitative franchises have made him many fortunes, but hardly any of that came from record sales; it comes from the ad slots that appear around his programs, from the licenses to reuse his formulae in other territories; he’s not selling music, he’s selling the idea of selling… Music’s just the scent of fresh-baked bread piped out from the front door of his underground-railway-themed sandwich shop, so to speak; its job is to get you in through the door.

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“Cheer up, Simon. You’re going to be even richer.” — Pete Waterman

(This, in fact, is not that far away from the old Tin Pan Alley model of the early 60s, or Pete Waterman’s “hit factory” model of the 80s; the only difference is that now it’s easier to monetise the artist selection and development process than the resulting musical product.)

However, there’s masses of other stuff going on, little sub-sub-genres and scenes of all sorts popping up all over, outside the dominant channels of promotion; how can I say music doesn’t matter when more people are making it or going to listen to it than ever before? Yet at the same time, there’s a sense that everything’s been done before, everything’s been said already. Caught in the atemporality of postmodernism’s end-game, all that’s left to us is quotation, pastiche, mash-ups and covers and remixes. The possibility of newness is nowhere to be seen.

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To repeat: music still matters, but it matters in the abstract, as one aspect of the sensorial tapestry that is our cultural lives. It’s not a lifeline like it once was; there are other channels now where youth can speak to itself, even if they’re increasingly clogged with the detritus of capital and commerce. It doesn’t have to carry all the weight of our hopes and fears any more; nor our politics, our dreams of futurity. There are other ways to make the world hear us, and while they may not be much more effective, they’re surely no less so.

And maybe I’m wrong, and a few miles away there’s some urgent new musical subculture coalescing in some grotty little venue, the first true Next Big Thing of the Internet Era, set to blow people’s minds and give them a star to steer by. I wouldn’t be sad to see it; hell, I’ve spent years watching hungrily for it. Put me out of my misery, y’know?

But ultimately it doesn’t matter that music doesn’t matter so much, because the internet subsumed the recording industry, absorbed that systemic function into itself, perfected it, balanced the asymmetry (a bit). Oh, it’s no utopia, no matter what Silicon Valley and its boosters may claim to the contrary, and there’s a lot of work to be done before we’ve shaped the internet into something that serves all of us, instead of just a few. But even so, the messages are still getting through, whatever the platform, whatever the medium… and it’s never been easier to send your own message back out there and see what happens.

And that’s what always mattered about music in the first place.

To follow Paul’s future exploits, check out his personal blog at www.velcro-city.co.uk.

Interview: Kim Newman

KimNewman

If you are a horror fan of the British persuasion, the chances are you’ll know Kim Newman. Even if you don’t follow him on that there Twitter, or read his Video Dungeon column for Empire Magazine, or read his ever excellent works of fiction, you’re guaranteed to have seen him interviewed for the DVD extras of some classic horror film or whatever and thought to yourself ‘That there is what a horror fan looks like.’

If you do only know him by his hat, tache and waistcoat combo, however, then you are missing a trick, because Mr Newman has produced the best literary horror series this country has seen in a long time in the form of the Anno Dracula novels. Set in an alternate world that supposes that the Count survived Bram Stoker’s tome, this sprawling, magnificently gore drenched series has been entertaining horror fans since 1992, even though it’s still only three novels in length. Now a fourth installment ‘Johnny Alucard‘ is set to invade portable reading devices (and their old fashioned paper counterparts) everywhere. Demon Pigeon sat down (metaphorically) with the Grande Dame of British horror to find out more.

DP: Firstly, it’s been a while since we’ve had a new Kim Newman novel on the shelves, what took you so long, lazybones?

Kim: Last year, the reissues of The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha from Titan included two new novellas which essentially add up to a whole new Anno Dracula book. And I had Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d’Urbervilles out in late 2011. And there were the three Diogenes Club books in the 2000s. Any gaps in my bibliography are down to vagaries of the publishing industry rather than me being lazy – though, to my mind, I am pretty slothful.

annodraculafamily

DP:The new book, Johnny Alucard, is the latest in your Anno Dracula strand, and is set in 1976. What can you tell us about where we find ourselves in the new story?

Kim: It’s set from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, mostly in the US and Romania, and deals with the film industry, drugs, crime, politics, fashion, punk, disco, porn and blood. The surviving characters from the earlier novels show up in new jobs and decades, and Dracula’s cloak still casts a shadow over the whole world.

DP: Like all of your books, the Anno Dracula series melds fact, fiction, myth and legend together. What is it about this approach to storytelling that appeals to you as a writer?

Kim: I find it an interesting way to deal with big issues – I think we all live lives bombarded by momentous and trivial information all the time, and we tend to see what’s going on as refracted through movies, pop music, television, culture, etc. So that’s how I come into the world of these books. I do pay attention to stuff like plot, character and prose, as well – I try to ensure there’s a spine of some sort of reality that would remain even if all the white media noise were removed. It’s fun to do, sort of like collage or mixing, and you do get interesting new things from juxtaposing old or unconsidered trifles.

DP: Although you’ve seemingly taken ages to bring us book four, it’s not as though you’ve not been busy in the meantime. You work tirelessly to watch the dregs of b-movie hell so we don’t have to for Empire, and you are what I consider to be that rare thing on twitter, a celebrity worth following. I especially enjoy your ‘Empire Dungeon Quotes’ of a morning. Do you ever look at your pile of DVD’s to watch and weep?

Kim: The unwatched pile is the size of a 1950s fridge. And that’s just the conventionally packaged DVDs. I also have shoeboxes full of check discs. I have a similar to-be-read pile of books. I even have a backlog of comics to look at. Still,it’s nice to know I’ll never have to flip through cable channels in search of something to watch …

DP: Being an author is often thought of as a solitary pursuit but social media means authors are able (and sometimes forced) to engage with their readers more. Do you enjoy that freedom?

Kim: I’m still in two minds about this. I like the connection with a readership and live about as much of my life in public as I am comfortable with. I do get quite a lot of requests that pile up unanswered to look at films, read books or retweet kickstarter links and that’s a distraction from actual work.

DP:You work across two mediums primarily, film journalism and fiction, which do you consider to be ‘the day job’?

Kim: Neither. I just think of myself as a writer. Some of my fiction is very much an extension of my criticism – Johnny Alucard is all about movies and the cultural issues I am interested in – and I do try to bring the rigour of fiction prose-writing to reviewing and criticism. I do other things too – broadcasting, for instance. Like my novels, I think my life and work are mosaics or tangles where everything relates to everything else. That might not always make me comfortable to be around, especially when I’m wrapped up in a project.

DP: As a lover of cinema, I’m surprised you’ve not been drawn towards writing for the screen. Is there a half-finished screenplay locked away in some dingy corner of your ‘My Documents’ folder gathering electronic dust?

Kim: I’ve sold options on my books and done treatments/scripts … but no feature films, as yet, have been made. I wrote and directed a short film, Missing Girl, which is on my website and there have been a couple of short adaptations of my stories, an episode of The Hunger (‘Week Woman’) and an Australian version of my story Ubermensch. I’d rather be a writer of published novels than unproduced scripts, but I remain cautiously interested in working in film/TV. I have written audio dramas – ‘Sarah Minds the Dog’, which is part of an online horror series called Tales From Beyond the Pale, and a couple of things for the BBC – and last year worked with other writers on a theatre play, The Hallowe’en Sessions, which had a successful run in the West End (albeit in a tiny theatre).

anno drac johnny alucardDP: You’ve won countless awards from the ‘horror’ literary community, but like most genre authors you’ve not been so duly recognised by the wider literary awards world. Does this frustrate you or is it part of the same genre snobbery that means horror and sci-fi films don’t get best director nods?

Kim: Snobbery seems to me to be inherent in most awards systems – even those bestowed by the genre communities. I’m not especially awards-obsessed … I don’t campaign or nag my friends to vote for me or nominate myself for these things … but I have been happy to receive the weird range of awards I have had, from the Bram Stoker Award to the Bram Stroker Award. I don’t have any particular whine about not being taken seriously by mainstream culture, either – I think my work has been reviewed sensibly by the general press and I get invited to literary fests as much as genre conventions.

DP: The Anno Dracula series is creeping up towards the modern day, but lives nicely in its own little timeline, so do you have any plans for how far you can take it? Will we be seeing Anno Dracula novels set on a distant future space station?

Kim: Part of the set-up for the books and stories is that each takes place in a different place at a different time, at the moment from 1888 to 1991 … and the settings are chosen to have a certain mythic/pulp/literary resonance, whether it be gaslit Victorian London, the front in World War One, Rome at the time of La Dolce Vita, swinging sixties London, disco era New York, cocaine-and-big-deals 80s Hollywood. This means there has to be a certain distance, a time to build up the legends around the truth and to transform even a horrid reality (vile Victorian slums) with an overlay of almost-appealing mythology. I don’t have that on the last 20 years yet. I have toyed with a science fiction one, but probably not space-based … I might do a 1980s Japanese cyberpunk Anno Dracula, or go back and do a Western. I’m not settled on where to go next, though there will be another book eventually.

DP: I understand you got into the Dracula mythology through the film versions. When you got to the source novel, were you disappointed? I recently reread it and was dismayed by how little I enjoyed it. Do you find yourself going back to it for inspiration?

Kim: I read the Stoker very soon after seeing the 1931 film, and I’ve been back to it over and over, and kept up with all the other adaptations. It’s not as good a novel as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, She, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Picture of Dorian Gray (all roughly contemporary with it) but it is a great work … I keep finding things in it that send me off down new paths. With Johnny Alucard, I was struck by the Count’s relation to money … when we meet him, he’s looking for buried treasure and there’s a terrific moment (which isn’t in any of the films) when he’s stabbed and bleeds gold coins.

DP: Lastly, do you listen to music when you write. If so, what gets your literary muscles working? I always pictured you being a fan of Viking Metal. Please tell me this is the case…

Kim: I usually have the music collection on random … but when writing about a specific time/place, I do listen to appropriate music. My tastes are eclectic, but include Hollywood/Broadway musicals, 1950s and 1960s pop, early music, folk rock, jazz, novelty records, doo-wop, psychedelia and symphonic classical.

Johnny Alucard is available now in all good bookshops, shit bookshops, some supermarkets and the usual despotic internet sites. Visit http://www.johnnyalucard.com

#NaNoWriMoOpeners

Chapter One

Amstrad Arkady adjusted the fit of his Sennheisers and hyped the amplitude of the twitchy glitchcore that spasmed in his ear canals. He’d been listening to progressive chipstep earlier, but the defining moment of his day was nearly on him and he couldn’t afford to drop brain cycles on digesting those chewy morsels of 8-bit goodness. Shit was about to go crunch time and Amstrad knew he had to be ready. He felt like Neo at the decision point, confronted with an OR gate marked redpill/bluepill. Blue was not an option. He wasn’t interested in finding the princess in another castle. There was only one castle he cared about. It was his World 1-1.

Oinku.jp. The sickest private torrent tracker ever to ride the series of tubes. The go to site for rippers, crackers, hackers, scanners, zero-dayers, zero-payers and netizens-to-know. The internet elite. And it wasn’t just about the content, either. With an Oinku account came a forums membership. Not even 404chan could outmatch the pace and ruthlessness of the Oinku forum meme cycle. Acceptance there meant you’d made it. After that, there was nowhere else worth visiting. You’d won the internet, for serial.

There were people trading sexual favours via Craigslist for invites, Amstrad had read. He thought about that a lot. He was prepared to take that step, but circumstances complicated things. That was why he was sweating, pearly droplets clouded with the reflected glow of his widescreen Lacey, as he idled in #oinkuinvites. When his handle ticked to the top of the list, he’d get a PM from the admin. Then he’d take a grilling on lossless formats, bitrates, encoders, metadata and ripping techniques. If he didn’t display an epic mastery of all relevant nodes, he’d be done. Perma’d. But if he Tony Hawked his way through – and he prayed to Miyamoto himself that he could – he’d have the golden ticket. And in the future, that meant invites of his own, to bestow at his whim. He’d fapped himself sore thinking about answering some of those Craigslist ads. He’d already emailed a few, speculatively, requesting tits or n00dz, to no avail. He needed something to back it up with.

But that was all froth on the Mt Dew. The real prize was that precious invite. The ping of his homebrew IRC client slotted itself into a gap in the glitchscape, indicating a new PM.

It was showtime.

Excerpt from BAD RIP, an imaginary novel not currently being written by Noel Oxford.

Big Sean – Dance (A$$) remix ft. Nicki Minaj (NSFW)

Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass, ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass, ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. Ass ass ass ass ass ass; ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass.

Nicki Minaj has got a filthy mouth on her.

Ass ass ass ass ass ass.

Also the line ‘wobble-de-wobble-de-wop-wobble-wobble’ is a joy, and should make you think of wobbling buttocks. That’s a thing we all appreciate.

Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass. (Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass.) Ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass,  ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass ass.

Hammertime

10/10

Asstlevania- Confessions of a man mad enough to sit in his fucking pants and play videogames.

It’s a quiet day in Pigeon Towers, so I’m at a bit of a loose end as to what to do with myself. Noel is out hunting elk, Andi is in a self induced coma until Duke Nukem Forever comes out, new boy Jimmy is schmoozing with Seth Putnam and Paul is accepting numerous backhanders from the Dillinger Escape Plan (dirty bastard) for decent reviews. So what’s dear old Defence Minister Mishkin going to do eh? Eh?

I’ll tell you what he’s going to do. He’s going to sit and play numerous Castlevania games back to back in his fucking pants.

There are a few reasons why I’m doing this. Andi did the very same thing many moons ago with the Megaman series. The mad bastard. Part of me always thought that’d be quite an excellent way to waste what little time we have on this plane of existence. Why go out and climb mountains and swim in the sea when you can beat the shit out of fictional beasties eh? Siiigh. The other more notable reason though is to commemorate the release of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, the best Castlevania game in aaaaaaages. Rather than do another Metroidvania (that’d sell about 8 copies), they’ve upped the budget, got Hideo Kojima on board (expect lots of Medieval Codec conversations) and drafted in some hefty voice talent in the shape of Captain Jean Luc Picard and Begbie from Trainspotting.

Naturally, it’s the perfect excuse for me to plonk myself in front of a TV, use my Wii for something other than Dragon’s Den (god, the things I would do to Meaden) on the iPlayer, and forego any human contact for the day as I direct a little fictional man around a little fictional castle. Dear God I hate myself.

I’m going to try blundering my way through Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Super Castlevania IV, Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood and maaaaybe Castlevania 64. I won’t go through any of the post Symphony Of The Night stuff, because that would take 8 years to do, and we’ll all be dead by then. Probably. Also rather than be a new games journalist fanny I’m just going to write it all down in some diary form. Think Bridget Jones if she liked hardcore Japanese computer games instead of obsessing over the size of her pants.

So without further ado, let the eh, madness, begin.

CASTLEVANIA

4.03pm: Try to turn on Wii. Realise Wii isn’t plugged in. Say a cuss word.

4.04pm: Plug Wii in. Weep as I see the effects of it’s fried GPU. Green pixels are everywhere. It’s like the Matrix for overgrown manchildren. So yeah, it’s basically like the Matrix.

4.05pm: Boot up the first Castlevania which I bought on the virtual console ages ago one rainy day in Scotland after a relentlessly miserable day working at Primark. I’ve no idea why I piddled my hard earned money on it. I didn’t have any clue about emulators in those days. I was an idiot. I still am really.

4:06pm: Right, here we go. My little man Simon Belmont is storming the castle. I’m beating the crap out of zombies left right and centre. Christ this is easy. At this rate I’ll have finished… wait. I just got messed up by this little jumping wanker. Uuuuurgh.

4:12pm: Still stuck on the first level. Lost all my lives and have had to start again. How the piss did people tolerate this kind of stuff in the mid 80s? My little man is walking through the castle like he has a massive dump in his trousers at about 3mph, and he can’t use his whip diagonally, which is no good when you’ve got shit flying at you from all angles. Stupid bloody game.

4:14pm: Hooray! Finally at the boss. It’s a big bat. That I can’t hit because I can’t whip diagonally and I’ve only got stupid knives to chuck at him. Ffffffffffrg. I still beat him though. Hahaha stupid bat.

4:17pm: The second level is even more of a ballache than the first. I have skeletons to deal with now. And little flying bats that are basically impossible to hit. One of the little buggers took 3/4s of my health. What is a boy to do eh.

4:21pm: Aaaaarghstupidfuckinggameaaaaarghaaaarghfuckingbatsaaaaaaaaargh

4:23pm: Tried to jump over a platform and got knocked off by a bat. Normally I wouldn’t complain about getting knocked off (haha lol etc etc) but this has happened 4 times. I cannot be scuttered with the original Castlevania anymore.

4.24pm: I get a cup of tea, a scotch egg, and I move away from the mic to breathe in.

CASTLEVANIA II: Simon’s Quest

4.27pm: I’m 3 minutes into Simon’s Quest and I’m already bamboozled. Rather than follow the linear progression of the first game, it’s an open ended rpg platformer. This would be all well and good if Simon could whip back and forth with the grace and speed of Alucard in Symphony Of The Night, but alas, he still moves with the dexterity and poise of an ennui stricken diabetic. This will be a long night.

4.29pm: Speaking of long nights, Castlevania II has a bloody dreadful day night mechanism. Every time it becomes night you get a bigass intrusive text block pop up which tells you ‘WHAT A HORRIBLE NIGHT TO HAVE A CURSE.’ It takes about 10 seconds to go through this. And it happens a lot. Hellish. Not only that, but the already annoying monsters you have to fight become even harder to kill. Game designers in the 80s were rubbish.

4.34pm: The monsters are nothing compared to the villagers you have to speak to though. Normally I find Japanese to English translation pretty funny, but not when you need to listen to the dumbell yokels to actually progress. Some of the villagers are helpful, some are outright liars, and some are just plain fucking stupid.

4.50pm: I battle my way through a castle to find one of Dracula’s body parts. That’s the plot of the game you see. Transylvania’s going through some kind of curse and you need to bring Dracula back to kill him again or something, and to do that you need to get his body parts which include his fingernail, his rib bone, his wig, his monocle and…wait for it…snigger … his left bollock (hahaha lol I made a joke about genitalia I am wild). To get said body part though, you need to buy an oak stake in order to penetrate the glowing orb (even in the 80s game designers were putting sexual metaphor and artistic allusion over actual, y’know, fun) that protects it. You need to buy the oak stake from some manny in the castle though, because the game is awkward as all out shit. So I get to the bit with the orb, chuck the stake…

And miss. Meaning I need to traipse back to the wanker in the castle, but I don’t have the money required to buy the stake so I need to kill more beasties again.

I decide I’m not willing to get an aneurysm for the sake of an old child’s computer game, and guess there and then that I’ve probably seen enough of Simon’s Quest. I hate Simon.

CASTLEVANIA III: DRACULA’S CURSE

4.52pm: I boot up Castlevania III and stare at the title screen. I then wonder if it’s all worth it. The Castlevania marathon I mean. Not life in general.

4.53pm: Then I do actually wonder if life in general is worth it. Have a cry.

4.55pm: Castlevania III is more like the original Castlevania again. It means I know where I’m going, but it’s basically fucking impossible to get there anyway. Natural order is resumed.

4.56pm: The little man I control in this one is called Trevor Belmont by the way. I like that. You never get anyone called Trevor in games these days. It’s all Dante, Leon, Garrus or Clive. Stupid modern game developers.

4.57pm: Some skeleton chucks a bone at me and I drop down dead. Again. Stupid Trevor.

4.58pm: I really can’t be arsed anymore. With the Castlevania marathon I mean. Not life in general.

4.59pm: Then I do actually decide I can’t be arsed with life in general. Have a cry.

5.00pm: Turn off Wii.

5.02pm: Lie back on bed to think about what I’ve become.

11.37pm: I wake up and rub the sleep and remnant tears from my eyes. Contemplate maybe making a start on Super Castlevania IV, but opt to watch Down Periscope instead, with Kelsey Grammer, star of TV’s Cheers and Frasier. Also when I say with, I mean he’s in it, not that I watched it with him. Although that would be so excellent. Imagine drinking sherry and watching a terrible comedy with Kelsey Grammer. You could die happy then.

11.38pm: Realise the chances of me dying happy are slim to none. Decide that I want to be immortal.

11.43pm: Get bored of shit 90s navy comedy and fall asleep, ready to get up for work the next day. Please help.

As you can see the proposed Castlevania marathon was a failure. Not only were the games too hard, slow and unplayable, but they rendered me an existential mess. It was less a marathon, and more a light stroll through the Yorkshire Moors, and the Yorkshire Moors were covered in dog shit and syringes.

Excellent music though.