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Punk/Noise Panel 6B

Mythologies’ Interwoven Extremities
Robert Boyle Lecture Theatre

Clive Henry (Independent scholar, Southampton) – ‘Modern HNW is Rubbish’

Harsh Noise Wall (HNW) has a history of being scorned by the wider noise genre, often derided as being lazy, skill-less, and utterly homogeneous. The paper’s title references an album by the pop band Blur, states that HNW is rubbish, and further states that modern HNW is rubbish; these are the paper’s key themes. It will explore HNW’s relationship with a trash/pop music disposability (and broader pop music sensibility), discuss how HNW-ers have seen this relationship, and how HNW has been viewed in terms of ‘high’/‘low’/anti-art. The paper will also address the fundamental evolution of the HNW scene from a small, dedicated, elitist community based around one online forum, to its contemporaneous form as a sprawling, Facebook- and Bandcamp-driven scene where ‘anyone can do it,’ with little sense of shared values or community; this will address ‘anyone can do it’ in terms of musicianship but also the early HNW conception of ‘obsession.’ I would ideally like to include a short ‘challenge’ pitting myself against an non-HNW-er in the construction of walls, hopefully to prove that ‘anyone can do it’ is too simplistic an accusation! The paper will be based on my long involvement in the HNW scene, and research previously carried out for an HNW chapter in Fight Your Own War (Headpress, 2016).

Tom Cardwell (Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL) & Mark Gubb (University of Worcester) – ‘“Hiraeth” – a collaborative project’

This paper will present the ideas behind ‘Hiraeth’, a collaborative artwork currently in development by S. Mark Gubb and Tom Cardwell, which proposes an album and performance for an invented Black Metal band. ‘Hiraeth’ is an untranslatable Welsh word that describes a sense of longing for home.

The album will comprise of songs based on a series of Welsh, pre-Christian, tales called ‘The Mabinogion’. First compiled in the C12th-13th, they are the source of much Welsh folklore and, for many years, were never written down, being passed on through the oral tradition of the bards. For the artists, this relates to the fiercely underground early Black Metal scene – a scene remarkable for its conscious adoption of noise and lo-fi recordings – and how it was developed through word-of-mouth and fan-to-fan exchanges. It also places this Celtic mythology in a relationship with the Norse mythology so often referenced in the lyrics and ideologies of early exponents of Black Metal.

It is envisaged that the completed project will centre around a live performance of the album, complete with stage costumes and sets, as well as further visual outcomes including record sleeves, patches, etc. which will subsequently be shown in an exhibition context.

In specific relation to the conference theme, we also draw influence from Hugh Lupton’s historical fiction ‘The Assembly of the Severed Head’; a fictitious account of the first transcription of the tales by monks and their transgression of the, by then, dominant Christian moral position.

Both Gubb and Cardwell share a research interest in art practice that responds to metal and punk subcultures. Previous projects include ‘Metal Militia’ a live music performance at Berwick Visual Arts (Gubb) and ‘Still Life and Death Metal’ a battle jacket research project (Cardwell).


Published by Gustav Thomas

Claws & Tongues was started in order to provide a visible yet fluid platform with which to try out ideas for writings by Gustav Thomas that may or may not lead elsewhere, as in articles, chapters, essays, papers zines or books. Gustav Thomas is my real name in so far as it comprises the two middle names included on my birth certificate, which, as a bona fide part of my ‘real’ name makes it only a half-alias. I’m not ashamed, especially, of what one would normally consider my ‘real name,’ but I don’t intend to use it on this blog or announce it here, in this ‘about’ text, or anywhere else on this blog. That’s not because I wish to keep it somehow hidden or secret – to find out what my framing monikers are would be very easy since I’ve never sought to keep them separate from Gustav Thomas. Rather it’s because that ‘real’ name is the one that teachers, headmasters, employers, medical receptionists, the Inland Revenue, medical staff, authorities of any kind, and so on, and on, has been so thoroughly used by, and thus inextricably tied to, such institutional protocols, that it leaves me, as an individual who, like any individual has the capacity to access their own agency, very little space or scope for developing the potential power and effectiveness of that agency. Gustav Thomas happens to also be my facebook name and as a musician I also chose it (actually the first time I used it) as the pseudonym I use whenever I produced 8-bit Techno on a Gameboy (I haven’t ruled out extending that use to any beat-based project should I pursue any in the future, in preference to either Virginia Pipe or Copydex, the latter being, for obvious reasons, a strictly plunderphonic collage vehicle, anyway). Gustav Thomas also conveniently encapsulates my two ethnic provenances as half Slovene and half Welsh; they are also the first names of both my grandfathers, one a fairly well known (in his time) Slovene writer, novelist and educationalist, the other a WW2 colonel among officers who led the Normandy landings, for whatever significance that, or any other part of their own rich histories, can have, here, or in anything else that I do. Above all, I have started this blog because in my professional life, which is academic, I have made the decision, officially, to have my research assessed (by the various state bodies that do that, through the RAE, REF etc.) as much through my thinking and writing as through my art practice, which it has been exclusively so far. The kind of writing I intend to do is the kind of writing I’ve always done, over the past 15 years mostly on internal departmental blogs meant as teaching support, and will almost completely draw on things I’ve been thinking and saying within an academic context during that time. My first extended pieces, then (those that are 10,000 words or more), are being extracted from my brain as a matter of almost pathological necessity, freeing up space before I can move on and at least learn new ideas, if not make them and articulate them formally. Given the context, and my stage in life (a 50-year-old whose two kids have left home), I fully intend not to start teaching myself to write in a recognizably formal-academic style; nor do I intend for my writing to be considered as such, albeit there are inevitable traces of academia in what I’m writing due to my having earned my living as an academic for – already - too long. Instead my intention is to improve, develop and extend the style I already have which will have probably begun somewhere in early childhood when I first scrawled some short stories with the vague idea that I wanted to be a ‘writer’ and, above all which has evolved through at least three decades of learning, loving to know about, talking about, and teaching about music, art and the ideas, impulses and inherent discourses that inhabit and surround them. I am aware that I have a propensity to criticize certain other artists and commentators harshly, often with extreme formulations, in a manner easily identifiable as arrogance or some such self-interested tendency. I’m not sure exactly where that emerged from; it could be the years of being fully committed (because I knew it was right) to a mode of expressive practice that operates very consciously, and critically, beyond the reductive ring-fencing of ordained culture, what most people think of as Music and Art - Culture; it may well be, though, that I learned such an approach from certain writers I’ve read over the years – it’s in Dostoyevsky, Bukowski and DeLillo in ways I can see in my own mannerisms, but also in someone like Ben Watson/Out To Lunch, whose writing on music and ideas not only had a big impact on me but certainly also encouraged me to be bold and direct about what I knew needed saying, not least because – and this is central to everything – the way in which music, popular music, popular arts and cultures are dealt with on the day-to-day ordinary level, as in what people consume, accept and ingest, how/why they do it, manages to circumscribe completely the immeasurable seriousness regarding how politically and ideologically penetrating all art is (and was always meant to be), but especially (and this is embarrassingly tautological in a way that’s generally ignored) that which is thrust upon a people at great expense by its state and the (almost entirely) corporate (read: oligarchal) interests the State serves. I’ve been accused by colleagues of being too polemical and by Ben Watson as not being a polemicist at all, in both cases meant as identifying a weakness; I would say that to consider anything I write as polemical would be to negate any capacity it may have to say something useful – too much is being said and done by modern humanity that is unfathomably (self-)destructive. My drive in all this comes from a need not necessarily to oppose and take up the position on any opposite pole; rather I just feel that someone (as many someones as possible, starting anywhere at all, including just ‘me’) needs to be engaging in a tendency to question, starting with the very simple interruption, ‘Hang on a second… that can’t be right.’ There are tens of thousands of writers and artists already doing that very well, of course. This blog is merely a workshop from which to start making my own contribution more discernible and, just possibly, useful.

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